Parks and Recreation, The Office, NBC, and me

Here’s what I want to see on NBC: A workplace mockumentary featuring a painfully obnoxious, yet earnest, boss with a good heart set in a random podunk town. The boss should be awkward, but constantly playing up to the cameras, and constantly caught in self-inflicted “cringe-inducing” moments. The show should also featuring a diverse group of characters reacting to the boss-- one of whom, a young man, perhaps, who thinks he’s too good for the situation he’s in, should constantly mug to the cameras. I also want to have some serious romantic tension between co-workers, you know a “will-they-or-won’t-they” type of relationship; hopefully they’ll string us along for a season or two before the two inevitably “will.” Oh, and I definitely want the show to feature a sweet, pretty young girl with an obnoxious slob of a boyfriend/fiance, that she will ultimately dump when she realizes she has feelings for some other dude on the show.

Ah, but here’s where I’m torn, NBC: Should it be set in a random podunk Indiana town at city hall with a woman boss, and be called “Parks and Recreation?” Or should it be set in a random podunk Pennsylvania town at a paper company with a dude for a boss, and be called “The Office?” Hey how about you do both! And you could air both shows on the same night, back to back! Wow! If you do that, you’ll be sneaking your way back into third place in no time, NBC!

My wife, in her many careers, worked for a park district, and she enjoys P&R as a depressing recreation of that part of her life. I have worked with brilliant, but inept, salesmen, and have suffered when they, YET AGAIN, demonstrated that they know nothing about management.

A lot of people live in, or can remember living in, podunk towns. In the early 70s much of the CBS schedule was based on that, and their ratings suffered when Top 10 and 20 programs were dumped because Hooterville wasn’t glamorous. On Thursdays, and the rest of the week, you have Manhatten and Los Angeles. Leave Camden, Pawnee, and Scranton to the rest of us.

I’m not dogging the towns. But I am dogging the formula. “P&R” is the exact same thing as “The Office.” This is why NBC is in fourth place. They take a show that’s more than likely now past its prime, and have its creators duplicate it with different actors in a different setting.

What’s next? A comedy set in Joplin, MO about a scuzzy woman, accompanied by her dim-witted younger sister, who enters a 12-step program and is now on a mission to make amends with all the people in her life. She could live in a trailer park, with her ex-husband and his new wife nearby. We would always be hearing her talk about her “higher power.”

Hell, that might be funny, but I’ve already seen that premise on “My Name is Earl.” I understand there are always copycats (Addam’s Family/Munsters, I Dream of Jeanie/Bewitched, Webster/Diff’rent Strokes), and spinoffs, but "P&R and “The Office” are the exact same show, on the same network, on the same night, back-to-back. I’m almost embarrassed for NBC.

Fox has the same thing going on with Family Guy and American Dad. It doesn’t seem so unusual a situation to me.

And even though they are similar shows in a lot of ways, it doesn’t bother me as long as they are funny.

YES! I can’t watch a whole episode of American Dad to this day for that very reason. Whenever I try, I can’t help but think how lazy FOX and Seth McFarlane are. It’s pure laziness.

The Office’s ratings this season have been their highest so far, albeit a modest gain since the previous season. The networks dramas are what are dragging it to #4. I can’t blame NBC for copying one of their few successes, except for seven nights of Howie Mandel a week. That’s just evil.

I was going to argue…

There are definitely many similarities, however the way the OP chooses to describe it seems to be contorted in such a way that makes them seem identical, without bringing up what makes those very situations on each of the two shows different. The styles the same, there’s no doubt about that. There are similar characters, but the story between each of them are different.


I didn’t see tonight’s episode. I will when it’s online tomorrow. So maybe there’s more similarities presenting themselves that I don’t know about yet.

Wow so I guess I’m alone in this. And I LOVE the mockumentary genre, so I had hopes for it. “P&R” just makes me cringe, but not in a good way. The fact that it is being produced feels so desperate and forced. Just rubs me the wrong way

Maybe if they had made it an official spin-off, or companion show to “The Office,” using the same “documentary company,” with Amy’s character being Michael’s cousin or something. It would sort of be a wink from the documentary crew, saying “Hey we know these two shows are alike; that’s the whole point. Leslie and Michael and their situations are both kinda nuts.” Then the two show’s similarities wouldn’t feel so much like lazy writing, rather the similarities would be part of the joke.

I can see disappointment that it’s a mockumentary that is filmed exactly like The Office, and that the two shows could exist in the same TV ‘universe’. I get that; You may have been in to mood for another approach.

But to complain about the storylines being similar seems just weird. I’m sure I could find similarities the way you had between a set of any two like shows.

It’s not the story lines, it’s the characters, the setting, the style, the acting. Obviously, no one’s trying to turn a hole into a park on “The Office.”

Tonight’s episode of P&R was enough to convince me to give the show a chance. Sure it’s derivative, but I want entertainment, and tonight, both The Office and P&R delivered that.

And 30 Rock was fantastic.

ABC did pretty well in the 90s with their TGIF formula, which was:

*30-minute sitcom
*big, middle-class family
*there’s a conflict between at least two of the family members
*conflict gets resolved by the end of the episode with a heart-to-heart
*there’s a “moral” to the story
*wacky and annoying neighbor/cousin/etc.
*inevitable vacation to Disney World

I get the OP’s point, but NBC isn’t the first network to try to use one of its show’s formulas in other shows.

Well the OP seemed like you were focusing a lot on the stories. I agree that those similarities are there. It doesn’t bother me. I can see why an Office-type show in a different setting would be interesting; but I just figure the writers wanted to stick with what, (they felt), they were good at. I wouldn’t put it past them to try and differentiate the two shows next season though; to what extent? I don’t know.

Can’t wait to see the episode… had people over to wath The Office, and they wouldn’t sut-the-hell-up when Parks was on.

This I can agree with.

No, I know. But those TGIF shows were targeted to kids. I feel like NBC’s insulting our intelligence with this show. When “The Office” was first done in the UK, it was smart and original. When it came to the US, it was smart and original (original to American audiences). But when we’re fed the same thing in a different package, it loses some of the smartness that made it so great originally, and all of the originality.

I understand how people like “P&R.” It can be funny. But this concept started out as more than just “being funny.” Its uniqueness was part of its appeal. The uniqueness and originality isn’t there for “P&R,” so it becomes just another formulaic sitcom.

We’re better than this, people. You know how I know? Cuz we all love 30 Rock.

There’s a HUGE difference between The Office and Parks & Recreation.

The Office is good.

I absolutely love The Office, but I wouldn’t say it’s particularly original. Just off the top of my head I can think of two shows that **The Office **really reminds me of- **Newsradio **and Arrested Development. **Newsradio **has the work place where the people are much more focused on non-work things, there’s a constant worry about the company having enough money, there’s a romance between two of the main characters, etc. **Arrested Development **has the mockumentary style and the same style of deadpan humor.

At the same time, some of the most original TV shows can also be really bad. John from Cincinnati had an acclaimed creator and fairly original premise, but wasn’t really that good. The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfieffer had an original idea and is one of those legendarily bad shows.

Overall, I would say originality is overrated. A show doesn’t need to be original in order to be good. It can use a similar premise and set up as other shows, it just depends on where it goes from there and how well.

I think Office fans should give P&R a little bit of time to improve. The Office’s first season wasn’t that good either, but it came together the next year.

That’s what the “situation” in situation comedies is all about.

Level-headed but unlucky at love and slightly neurotic woman producing a TV show with a bunch of wacky co-workers. Is that 30 Rock or Mary Tyler Moore?

Level-headed but unlucky at love and slightly neurotic woman at a magazine with a bunch of wacky co-workers. Suddenly Susan or Just Shoot Me?

Dumb but lovable father with a long-suffering wife and bratty kids. All in the Famly, Home Improvement or The Simpsons?

It’s ALL in the execution, not the concept.

How many years separate 30R from MTM? Sometimes we’re lucky if two minutes separate The Office and P&R. None of those shows you mention ran back-to-back on the same network and night. If I’m watching 30 Rock, it’s highly unlikely I just got done watching MTM two minutes earlier.

I mean really, NBC needs another workplace mockumentary with a Michael Scottesque boss, etc. like they need another night of Howie Mandel.

P&R may be the funniest and most well-written shit to hit the airwaves since the 4077th folded up their tents, but whenever I’m watching it I can’t help but think “Huh, sounds just like Michael Scott…huh, reminds me of Jim…huh, that guy looks and acts like Roy…huh, looks like we got another Jim and Pam…”

So to keep clarifying my beef: It’s not just the rehashed concept and characters and setting, or the rehashed formula, or the fact that television mockumentaries are not original, it’s the fact that NBC is just fucking lazy and has put the same show on back-to-back hoping we wouldn’t notice. “Yay! We finally got a show in the top 10, let’s fill our schedule with clones.”

And to add to my beef: No one apparently cares; it’s this type of apathy toward lazy scheduling that gives us 24-hours a day of reality programming, Howie Mandel, and celebrities making asses of themselves. A show may entertain me, but that doesn’t mean I want to watch a carbon-copy immediately following it. But maybe that’s just me.

You shouldn’t complain that no one seems to care. No one cares that you care. If you don’t like it, don’t watch either of them.