This or That: ‘Parks and Recreation’ v.s. ‘The Office’

Price Wilborn, Commentary writer

I set out on a quest to answer a question asked since the dawn of time (or at least since 2009). Input from WKU students combined with my personal opinion and experience has allowed me to come to an answer about which NBC documentary-style sitcom reigns supreme, “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation”.

“The Office” premiered on March 24, 2005. It was an American adaptation of a British show of the same name. From the start it was met with critical acclaim. Fan favorite characters like Michael Scott (Steve Carrell), Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson), Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) and Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) gave the show hilarious moments. 

Being set in a workplace in Scranton, Pennsylvania related the characters and plotlines to everyday people in a way that hadn’t been done before. It’s still a cultural phenomenon that is loved by many still today.

“Parks and Recreation” premiered on April 9, 2009. It was an original show created by Michael Schur and Greg Daniels, the brains behind the American version of “The Office”. 

It was centered around Leslie Knope (Amy Pohler), deputy director of the parks and recreation department in Pawnee, Indiana, and other members on staff there. Characters like Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt), and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) made the show one to be remembered.

Both shows are loved by millions around the world. It’s for that reason that I like to ask people which they like better.

I asked around WKU’s campus, wondering what kind of results I would get. When interviewing students, I asked them two simple questions. First, I asked them which show was better. Second, I asked them why they thought the way they did. 

After my super-scientific research was completed, I reached a conclusion that, in all honesty, did not surprise me.

Though the shows are different, there were common themes throughout. Those that preferred one over the other all said characters had something to do with their decision. 

When I posed the question to Anna Claire Smith, a sophomore nursing major, she told me that she preferred “The Office” because “I love Michael Scott.” This sentiment was reflected for the “Parks and Recreation” side when Lakin Festervan, a sophomore nursing major, told me that Ron Swanson and Leslie Knope were why she like the show over “The Office”.

Many of those surveyed, however, had not watched “Parks and Recreation” in its entirety. Many felt that they just couldn’t get into it like they did “The Office”. Grant Satterly, a sophomore agriculture business major, felt that “The Office” was “easier to get into, keep watching, and binge.” Many mirrored this feeling, stating that they couldn’t get into “Parks and Recreation.”

80% of those I surveyed believed “The Office” was the better show. Admittedly, I could not survey a large percentage of the student population, but I could tell that these numbers wouldn’t change all that much. 

I’m not going to liethis hurt my heart a little bit. I like “Parks and Recreation” better. I believe Dillon Syra, a sophomore advertising major, said it best when explaining why he agreed with me. He described the show as “warm and fuzzy” and “optimistic,” both sentiments that attract me to it.

Having watched both shows in their entirety thanks to COVID-19, I totally understand why “The Office” wins this matchup here at WKU. It’s a show that consistently makes people laugh. People can talk about it with their friends, and chances are that it would be a relatively educated conversation. 

Memorable episodes like “Office Olympics” and “Dinner Party” make the show what it is. Running storyline like the development of Jim and Pam’s relationship and Dwight’s love for his beet farm keep the show connected and feeling like a whole.

The political incorrectness of the show proves that it’s from a different world, but still is relevant today. Its ability to relate to issues that are important today still astounds me. From Dwight saying that the world needs a new plague or the forever relatable feelings about work that Stanley makes known, people are able to relate to “The Office” in a way that they couldn’t with other television shows.

Both shows are wonderful works, and they never fail to make me smile. If you’ve watched them, I’d love to hear from you about what you think! If you haven’t watched them, I highly recommend them. If you don’t want to watch them, or you’re more of a “Friends” fan, that’s okay too. It’s valid and I respect it. 

Again, I hate to say it, but “The Office” wins this round.    

Commentary writer Price Wilborn can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @pricewilborn.