More time at The Office

To say that Parks and Recreation is, in any remote manner, disparate from the delightful machinations of its creative and network predecessor The Office would be completely inaccurate. Parks and Recreation is The Office.

To say that Parks and Recreation is, in any remote manner, disparate from the delightful machinations of its creative and network predecessor The Office would be completely inaccurate. Parks and Recreation is The Office.

Not in a literal sense of course, but the structural elements of plot and character are there. Instead of the intricate office politics of paper-supply company Dunder-Mifflin, Parks has the bureaucratic affairs of local government; instead of corporate seminars in high-rise New York offices, there are community meetings in cramped public school classrooms; instead of Michael Scott, regional manager, Dunder-Mifflin Scranton, there’s Leslie Knope, deputy director, Pawnee, Indiana Parks and Recreation Department.

The hilarious Amy Poehler, who was most visible this past year skewering Hillary Clinton via Saturday Night Live during the Democratic primaries, fills the shoes of Leslie, an awkward and often misguided low-level government employee attempting to get an abandoned construction pit converted into a park.

Leslie is very similar to Steve Carell’s Michael Scott, though not nearly as dense, ignorant or impulsive. That said, she very much embodies these qualities, more so than is comfortable, which makes for plenty of cringe moments.

But, is it reasonable to judge Parks and Recreation so harshly against The Office? Normally I would say no, but Parks not only shares a basic format, network and style as The Office, but a creative team as well.

See, around this time last year, when Parks was still in development, it was being billed as a spin-off of The Office, developed by none other than Greg Daniels, show runner and co-creator of the American version of The Office (remember, it was a British show first).

Whether the network originated this information in an attempt to generate buzz, or the program was legitimately conceived as expanding on the Emmy-winning NBC comedy (conjecture had the show dealing with anything from Vance Refrigeration to a new company begun by Ryan Howard, “the temp”), the show was always in the same hands as The Office.

Even former Office cast member Rashida Jones (Jim’s pre-Pam girlfriend, Karen), is a main player on Parks. And she plays very much the same character as she did on The Office—a woman clearly more invested in her relationship than her boyfriend.

Regardless of whose fingers are in which pies (hmm, that sounds sort of dirty), Parks is set up in the same fashion as The Office. It’s a mockumentary, where a supposed documentary crew follows and interviews Leslie Knope and her co-workers.

Naturally, the archetypes of character are recycled from The Office. Besides the obvious parallel of Carell’s Michael and Poehler’s Leslie, Parks has got a very obvious answer when it comes to reflecting the characters of both Dwight (Rainn Wilson) and Ryan (B.J. Novak), while it would seem other characters assume leftover bits and pieces of other Office cast to create amalgamations.

Aziz Ansari plays Tom Haverford, Leslie’s unusual No. 2. Although not nearly as much as a suck-up, he displays the same sort of apathy and social disconnect as Dwight. Tom publicly hits on Ann Perkins (Jones’ character) at a community meeting, even after she’s mentioned her boyfriend.

Of course, the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department wouldn’t be complete without an intern. Enter college student April Ludgate, played with total disinterest by Aubrey Plaza (and no, that’s not an actual place, at least not according to Google Maps). April accompanies Leslie and Tom on a survey of the aforementioned construction pit, and ends up snapping photos of Leslie face-planting the dirt at the bottom.

As for the other characters, touched on briefly, there’s plenty to go around and here’s hoping they’re as funny as their potential implies.

Leslie’s boss Ron Swanson (played by Nick Offerman) is a mustachioed bureaucrat who is so disdainful of the concept of government that he undermines any attempt to accomplish anything.

Leslie’s one-time lover Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider) has all but forgotten that he and Leslie got down five years prior and has to be reminded by the film crew interviewing him.

Ann’s boyfriend Andy (Chris Pratt) is a musician/total bum who breaks both his legs after falling into the abandoned construction pit. Of his many requests of Ann, my favorite was “if you’re going in the kitchen, can you make me some pancakes real quick?”

Overall, Parks has a lot of potential, but if you’re looking for something entirely different from The Office, keep looking.

But who can blame Greg Daniels and NBC? They just gave us more of what we wanted, or at least what we thought we wanted. The question is, did we the viewers want another Office, or did we just like the idea of another Office harboring latent intentions of scorning an imitator?

I’ll admit, on my first time through, I was irritated by how much the pilot reminded me of The Office. But that was before I realized that another Office is exactly what I, and everybody else who looked forward to Parks and Recreation, wanted.

Listen, I’m not stupid, but I’m absolutely a sucker. I know that when it comes to Parks, we’re just getting The Office with a different look, a new cast (mostly) and a fresh start. Hell, The Office wasn’t even ours to begin with, we just did it better, maybe not smarter, but certainly better.

Fact is, I’ll laugh at the same jokes, watch the same stories and tune in like the rest of America has done every freaking night since the dawn of television to watch the same dreck over and over. It’s how entertainment works.

So let’s give Parks and Recreation a chance, huh? It’s funny, even if it’s not (yet) as funny as The Office, but I believe the potential is there. Stop for a second before you dismiss it as a rehashed Office, and ask yourself, isn’t this exactly what I want?