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Hot Take: “Parks and Recreation” is Better Than “The Office”

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

**Warning: there will be some spoilers… read at your own risk**

Those who know me well are aware of my immense love for Parks and Recreation. In my opinion, it’s a better, more thought-out show than The Office…and it’s the hill I’m willing to die on. C’mon, the show literally (pronounced “lit-trah-ly”… thank you, Chris Traeger) invented Galentine’s Day! Sometimes I even put new friendships to the test by asking people if they prefer Parks and Recreation over The Office, and it works because my lovely roommate agrees with me!

Okay, fine, I accept differences in opinion, so it’s not a friendship deal-breaker for me if I have a friend who likes The Office more, but I’ve still received strong enough reactions to my “hot take” that I figured I should take the time here to list my reasons why Parks and Recreation is a better show than The Office.

  1. Parks and Recreation has more variety in jokes and sense of humor

The Office is an undeniably popular show, mainly due to its sense of humor, but when you look under the surface, you realize it thrives mostly on cringe humor. While it can be very effective at times, considering the cult-following and praise the show has, you would think that the show would have a wider variety of writing styles and jokes.

Parks and Recreation, on the other hand, has a wider variety of jokes. There is definitely some cringe, but there’s also some wit and a lot of downright ridiculousness that only makes you fall in love with the endearing, goofy characters in the show. For example, who can forget Andy’s genuinely happy, yet confused face when he was singing, “Ron and Diane, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I”? (He clearly didn’t understand the assignment… but we love him anyway). How about when April didn’t realize that March 31st was a real date until she accidentally scheduled Ron–the proud libertarian who hates working for the local government–for 93 meetings that day? Finally, how about when all of the main characters except for Donna and Chris got drunk off of Snake Juice and we got to see how each character acts when they’re drunk?

2. The show makes better use of world-building

It’s a fact that some of our favorite stories have the richest, most compelling settings as they draw us in to examine how characters navigate their worlds. Take the worlds of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, or The Handmaid’s Tale. The settings in each of these stories pull us into the context and worlds in which the characters are a part of; as a result, they give us a ton of information as to how the characters impact the world around them and why they would make the choices that they make.

Some may argue that since The Office was just about how all the employees in Dunder Mifflin interact with each other, why should it matter what Scranton, PA is like? Maybe it’s true that it doesn’t matter if we know what the townsfolk in Scranton are like, but how come we never hear much about Dunder Mifflin’s clientele? Why don’t we ever see the manager of a local company burst into the Dunder Mifflin Scranton office to point out a huge flaw with their paper order (like a **very** concerning watermark that was accidentally printed on)? The Office, overall, sells the relationships between the characters, but if you think about it, our views of them are very limited. We don’t get a great, thorough understanding as to how they solve conflicts at work and appease clients, so we don’t fully know what they’re like as these employees at Dunder Mifflin. Honestly, this is a ridiculous concept to think about considering that the entire premise of the show is that there’s a documentary being filmed about American office workers.

Parks and Recreation, on the other hand, makes great use of world-building by letting us into the bizarre, hilarious town of Pawnee, Indiana. Throughout the show, the audience gets to witness the town’s unusual traditions, their unexplainable love for the mini horse Li’l Sebastian (may he rest in peace), and the concerning complaints the townsfolk had during town hall meetings. Like all good TV shows, Parks and Rec. obviously had to demonstrate the relationships among characters and how it affects their interactions with each other, but it still went above and beyond to show the ways in which the characters impact the world around them. This allowed us to have a more complete sense of what the main characters are like and what their jobs are like working at Pawnee City Hall. Because of this, we can get a better understanding of the daily events characters would go through and their patience (or lack thereof) in dealing with townspeople’s concerns, or even what makes the characters decide to break town traditions!

3. Parks and Recreation has a stronger sense of chemistry among characters

On a related note, there is arguably a stronger sense of chemistry among the characters in Parks and Recreation. We can all agree that seasons eight and nine of The Office were just terrible after Michael Scott left. People praise The Office as the ensemble show that it is and may argue that it’s no wonder that the show would be negatively impacted after Steve Carrell left the show. However, if The Office is truly an ensemble comedy, how come the show still fell so flat after Michael Scott left? If the show was truly an ensemble comedy, then it would have eventually regained its footing even after Michael Scott left because we could still continue to invest in the remaining characters. In spite of The Office’s reputation as an ensemble comedy, it is clear that Michael Scott was still treated as the main character of the show–a major rule breaker for ensemble shows. For God’s sake, the writers were clearly at such a loss as to who would become the next main character(s) in the show that they needed to make us think that Jim and Pam’s relationship was in jeopardy to keep people watching!

However, when Ann and Chris had to leave in the later seasons of Parks and Rec., the remaining cast members still maintained their strong chemistry. In fact, they still made good use of it by focusing on Leslie at times as she was no longer able to see her best friend every day, but we still got to see her do other wonderful things. In spite of two of their characters in the ensemble leaving the show, Parks and Rec. still kept its ensemble comedy status by maintaining excellent writing and story development, allowing us to continue witnessing each character’s remarkable growth even into the final season.

4. Leslie and Ben are a better couple than Jim and Pam

Yes, I said it! (Y’all, please don’t start fires over this.) Leslie and Ben are better role models for how people in a romantic relationship should support each other. Throughout their relationship, this dynamic duo has always had each other’s backs as they’re achieving their goals and always manage to balance each other in spite of their ambitions.

You might be asking, “But, Olivia, what about the real dynamic duo, Jim and Pam?” Well, if you ask me, they’re overrated. Too many people swoon over Jim as a romantic partner. Jim is not perfect and should not be held on the high pedestal that he’s on. Take, for example, the time when Jim takes the job in Philadelphia and invests so much of his savings in it without first consulting Pam. Suddenly, everything became about what he wanted and achieving his goals rather than thinking about what was best for them and their family. Don’t forget how Jim kept quietly sabotaging Pam’s relationship with Roy! Pam and Roy didn’t have the best relationship and Pam was clearly unsatisfied, sure, but good guys don’t impulsively reveal that they’re interested in someone who’s already engaged and kiss them. If you ask me, this reveals Jim’s selfishness from the very beginning. Based on his relationship with Leslie, Ben is a much more ideal romantic partner.

In the early days of Ben and Leslie’s relationship, when they were meeting in secret because Ben was still her boss and so their union was forbidden, Ben was willing to quit his job and break up with Leslie so she could continue her campaign for councilwoman without any scandals. Talk about selflessness!

5. Parks and Recreation has aged better overall

The Office has captured so many hearts and encouraged a following from a new generation. However, I don’t think that the show has aged very well. Michael’s humor, most notably, aged so poorly that so much of what he says is just cringey. His jokes were already problematic for the show’s time–which was often a point of contention and discussion–but Michael was, undoubtedly, a bigoted character. Maybe it’s just me, but who needs to experience secondhand embarrassment all the time from a TV show? Life’s too short for that!

Parks and Rec., granted, has its moments that haven’t aged well either. I guess it’s all about understanding the context in which a show is first produced. Still, Parks and Recreation has aged better overall and, arguably, has so many more progressive themes and storylines. For example, the show beautifully reflects the dynamics of female friendships through Leslie and Ann. Not all of their conversations together were about navigating romantic relationships, and the show also examined the ways they have worked together to enact change in Pawnee. Also, lest we forget, the show created Leslie Knope and the confident, ambitious woman that she is. In an age in media that was learning to embrace three-dimensional, main/featured female characters, Parks and Rec. paved the way by reflecting the power and value of women in leadership positions, all while making her extremely lovable and goofy. When The Office was writing for the present moment in which they were produced, Parks and Recreation was looking into and writing for the future.

Let me provide the disclaimer that I, too, also enjoy watching The Office and will gladly quote famous lines from the show. However, for the above reasons I have listed in this article, you are much more likely to find me eating waffles à la Leslie Knope while watching Parks and Recreation and wishing that I was a part of Leslie’s troop of Pawnee Goddesses. Parks and Recreation, overall, is a better written, more well-thought-out show than The Office, and I’m waiting for the day when it gets all the credit it deserves!

Olivia Hynes

Kenyon '24

Olivia Hynes is a sophomore prospective English and Arabic double major with a concentration in Law & Society at Kenyon College. A self-described "word nerd," Olivia enjoys reading novels from various authors from the 20th and 21st centuries and writing short stories whenever inspiration strikes. When she's not writing for Her Campus, Olivia can be seen watching some goofy sitcoms or obsessively listening to a Broadway musical soundtrack.
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