‘Parks and Rec’ Is Better Than ‘The Office’ And These 15 Reasons Prove Why

Parks and Recreation and The Office are both undeniable comedic masterpieces in their own right. Reigning the TV landscape in the late-2000s to mid-2010s, the two long-running sitcoms are beloved by comedy fans for many of the same reasons. From talented ensemble casts to hilarious running gags, it’s clear that Parks and Recreation and The Office are similar in style and quality.

The similarities between both sitcoms hasn’t exactly stopped fans from debating which of these shows is considered the best. While the case could certainly be made for either series, Parks and Recreation is quickly becoming the clear answer when compared to The Office. There are a number of reasons why Parks and Recreation could easily be considered the best of the two mockumentary series, however, here are 15 of the most convincing reasons why.

1. Understanding The Heart Of The Show

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Understanding why your show connects with an audience isn’t as simple as it sounds. Sometimes, studio execs (and, yes, even showrunners) don’t understand the formula, and a show with plenty of promise dies way too early. The Office had its British counterpart (and Steve Carell) to build hype for the show, but Parks and Recreation didn’t have the same built-in audience and Amy Poehler didn’t have the same name-brand recognition Carell brought to the table.

Parks stumbled out of the gate, largely because the writers didn’t know what to do with Leslie Knope, and she needed to, well, carry the show. Then, they made her less ditzy and more Tracy Flick-esque, and that’s when Parks took off. They kept April aloof and dark, while filling out her love life. Tom lost some of his silly over-the-top materialism. And Ron revealed his heart of gold.

Showrunners Michael Schur and Greg Daniels kept the show relevant and entertaining because they knew what worked and what didn’t.

2. So Many Lovable Characters

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Parks and Recreation added two of its most significant characters, Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe), after dumping the useless Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider). Both Traeger and Wyatt were featured prominently as the love interests of Leslie and Ann, in addition to being a central part of the Parks narratives throughout their tenure on the show. Lowe and Scott left an indelible mark on the Parks legacy, and the show was at its best when they were in the cast. Even Leslie’s City Council nemesis Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser) was nice fresh arm out of the bullpen in the later seasons.

The same cannot be said for The Office. The original cast was already pretty darn strong, but they didn’t add too many worthwhile characters after the first handful of seasons. Outside of Andy Bernard (Ed Helms), no one really left a lasting impression on the offices of Dunder Mifflin. Even Gabe (Zach Woods), Erin (Ellie Kemper), and Holly (Amy Ryan) were largely forgettable.

3. The Character Growth Was Unmatched

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Michael Scott didn’t grow throughout his time on The Office. He was a selfish, awkward, and often sweet dummy from the pilot until he left Dunder Mifflin with a new bride-to-be. Jim, Pam, and Dwight grew plenty, but they also had significantly more screen time than the rest of their co-stars. Many of the supporting cast were one-note jokes at best (looking at you, Kevin), and most of them contributed little or nothing to The Office legacy.

The success of Parks and Recreation relied heavily on the growth of their characters, and so many of them went through significant career and personal evolution over seven seasons compared to The Office‘s nine. Leslie, Ann, Ben, Ron, Tom, Chris, April, Andy, Donna, and, yes, even Jerry/Larry/Garry/Terry were not the same people at the end of their Parks run that they were at the start.

4. Rashida Jones Was In Her Element

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Karen was just awful on The Office. It wasn’t Rashida Jones’s fault – she was saddled with a character whose whole presence on the show was to be “not Pam.” She was basically a pretty person in business clothes, and viewers knew she was never going to end up with Jim. 

On Parks, though, Jones started out as an angry citizen at a zoning meeting and the caretaker of Andy Dwyer. She quickly became best friends with Leslie, and their relationship defined a central part of the whole Parks experience. She had a hilarious love/hate feud with April, and had plenty of great scenes with almost everyone in the cast. Some of her narrative twists and turns made no sense at all (dating Tom?), but she ended up standing out as a strong character on a show with a whole lot of strong characters.

5. Give Ron Swanson Some Love

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One character can’t make an entire series, but Nick Offerman’s performance as the stern, yet loveable Ron Swanson makes a pretty strong case. The intensely-mustachioed department director could have easily become a one-note man’s man but the writing staff turned him into a complicated and complete character and Offerman hit every note perfectly.

Ron is wise and cranky, kind and fair, easily triggered, and has complicated relationships with women named Tammy. He hates Canada. He hates Europe. He leads a double life as sexy jazz saxophonist Duke Silver in the next town over. He uses the Internet to get the addresses of people and places he hates, and then writes them strongly worded letters from his typewriter. Oh, and he marries Xena herself, Lucy Lawless, late in the series.

6. Going Out In Style

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The finale of The Office wasn’t nearly as bad as the egg NBC laid with Seinfeld, but it wasn’t very good, either. The wedding between Angela and Dwight was touching and heartfelt, but everything happening around the big event was pointless and beneath the overall quality of the show.

Parks and Recreation took a big chance and did a series of time leaps to show where each of the characters ended up. While that could’ve easily been a cheap and easy way to neatly wrap up the show, all of it felt organic. It still retained the silly energy that Parks is known for.

7. Top-Tier Guest Appearances

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The Office featured just a handful of guest stars, and the most significant ones (Will Ferrell, Ray Romano, Will Arnett, Jim Carrey) were all in the same episode. Tim Olyphant played sexy salesman Danny Cordray, Idris Elba spent a few episodes playing Michael’s nemesis/boss Charles Miner, and Oscar winner Kathy Bates was shoehorned into a truly silly role as the rich, tough, Southern belle-type CEO Jo Bennett.

Parks and Recreation featured Louis CK, Paul Rudd, Megan Mullally, Lucy Lawless, Parker Posey, and Kristen Bell in some pretty significant roles. Not to mention the D.C. power people who showed up, including Michelle Obama, Barbara Boxer, Madeleine Albright, Newt Gingrich, John McCain, and Joe Biden, who Leslie might leave Ben for. And oh yeah, ’90s R&B star Ginuwine played Donna’s cousin, Questlove played her brother, and director Werner Herzog had a cameo, as well.

8. ‘The Office’ Without Michael Scott

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Michael Scott carried The Office. Even if he wasn’t your favorite character, the show needed him to be the central part of almost every storyline. Dwight and Jim aren’t Dwight and Jim without their interactions with Michael Scott. His dysfunctional relationship with Jan was the most entertaining coupling on the show (“Dinner Party” is one of the best episodes), and his search for love – ending with his proposal to Holly Flax – would have been a nice capper to the whole series.

Instead, fans got two mostly worthless final seasons, and the addition of Fart (Clark Duke), Plop (Jake Lacy), and Nellie (Catherine Tate) made things even worse.

9. ‘Parks and Rec’ Didn’t Let Fans Down

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Parks and Recreation stumbled a tiny bit in Seasons 5 and 6, but came back huge in Season 7 and went out with a bang. The Office lost its momentum after Season 4 (Seasons 2 and 3 are almost perfect, and it would have been nearly impossible to continue at that pace), and was always teetering near collapse after Jim and Pam got hitched.

The highs of Parks and Recreation (“Flu Season,” “The Fight,” “Pawnee Rangers“) match the highs of The Office (“The Injury,” “The Dundies,” “Casino Night“), but the lows of The Office (all of Seasons 8 and 9) were so, so much worse than even the worst Parks episodes.

10. Such An All Around Talented Cast

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Steve Carell (Michael Scott) got plenty of attention when Anchorman came out, but The Office really cemented his star status. John Krasinski (Jim Halpert) has become a Hollywood leading man. But the rest of the cast hasn’t really shown up too often since Dunder Mifflin closed up shop.

Parks and Recreation introduced viewers to Chris Pratt (now one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars), Aziz Ansari (now one of the biggest comedians in the business and a showrunner, to boot), and Aubrey Plaza (currently starring on FX’s Legion). Adam Scott (Big Little Lies) hit his stride on the show, and Rob Lowe basically restarted his career. That’s not to mention how the show finally found a fun character for Rashida Jones, who was underutilized on The Office.

11. Different Kinds Of Comedy Styles

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The Office introduced America to the intense awkwardness that made the British version so great. No one was better at it than Michael Scott, but that just meant everyone around him had to constantly play the straight man. Once Michael left Dunder Mifflin, The Office ended up completely aimless without Steve Carell’s brilliantly intense performance.

Parks and Recreation went for more silly sight gags and slapstick physical comedy than The Office, and that kind of stuff never gets old. Unlike The OfficeParks allowed all of their characters to explore this space, which made the show incredibly likeable and gave it plenty of replay value. No one ever tires of seeing Leslie and Ron “deprogram” Councilman Jamm by slapping the living crap out of him.

12. ‘The Office’ Helped Improve ‘Parks And Rec’

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The Office originated on the BBC with Ricky Gervais at the helm. Executive producer Greg Daniels thought the concept would play well in the States, and after a little adjustment, it found success on its own merit. The early seasons of the U.S. version of The Office looked a lot like its British counterpart – washed out in dull cool tones and too much shaky cam – but it ultimately evolved into a more traditional American sitcom in style and presentation. 

Since many of the creators of The Office are also the creators of Parks and Recreation, they used what they had already learned to make Parks pop. The writers also made a conscious effort to give the shows two distinct sets of characters, even if the format was largely the same. Most of the concepts showrunners Greg Daniels and Michael Schur tested out on The Office were fine tuned with Parks and Recreation.

13. A Not-So-Perfect Couple

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Anyone who believes Jim and Pam are the greatest TV couple ever is wrong. If a guy like Jim was a real person in your office, you’d spend all day secretly texting your friends about how much he sucks. Pam’s entire existence on The Office was to be Jim’s love interest and his prize. The writers flirted with her career as an artist, but quickly settled on her being a worse salesman than Jim, and then a mom. She even started her time on The Office being bullied by a drunken asshole, Roy.

Ultimately, they found “happiness,” but not before Jim lied to the mother of his young children about a significant life-changing decision, and then Pam almost banged the boom mic guy because she resented her selfish husband. They even highlighted the fact that Jim was known for big sweeping romantic gestures in the final episode, and that Pam was just trying to keep up. What a terrible couple.

14. A Star Was Born

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Tom Haverford could have easily just been a cardboard cut-out with swagger, but Aziz Ansari used his larger-than-life charisma to give the notoriously lazy government employee some depth. He turned nothing jokes into memes and sprinkled some uber-douche on classic Kramerisms and made them new again. And those were just the early years. Haverford was a fully-developed character by the end of the series, and still made fans laugh with his swaggy antics right up until the end.

Ansari grew as a comedian, and as a creator, during his time on Parks and Recreation. He is one of the most successful comics working in Hollywood today, with his own comedy specials, books, and a very successful original show on Netflix, Master of None. Brilliant casting by the Parks team helped put a future star on the map.

15. Definitely A Missed Opportunity

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When James Spader showed up as the mysterious and confident Robert California, interviewing for the open position left by the recently departed Michael Scott, he looked like a promising addition in the waning days of The Office.

Too bad he showed up as the creepy, lecherous, functioning alcoholic/drug addict boss whose only narrative is that he’s going through a rough divorce and is maybe bisexual. Spader’s tease in the interview episode ended up being his best work on the show.