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‘Parks & Recreation’: Why it’s not ‘The Office’

In Television on July 6, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Carell vs. Poehler 

parksvstheoffice

I’ve always admired Steve Carell for bringing an authentic personality to ‘The Office’, the mockumentary style comedy that turned many heads, critics and audiences alike. It introduced a new method of filming for television that audiences may have only previously seen from real reality shows as early as ‘Cops’ or MTV’s ‘The Real World’. Unlike these reality-based shows, however, ‘The Office’ is a perceived ‘reality’ where the events are scripted and plot-driven, but made to look like it isn’t – using single-camera shots and the absence of canned laughter – hence the pseudo-genre ‘mockumentary’.

Despite rumors that NBC’s ‘Parks & Recreation’ was a spinoff of Carell’s ‘Office’, the only similarity it shares with the show is the mockumentary aspect. The premise, story, and characters are completely different. Yes, it’s still life in the office, but compared to Carell’s designation as a small private company’s head honcho, ‘Parks & Rec’s’ Leslie Knope (played by SNL’s Amy Poehler) is a government employee and semi-head honcho trying to impress the cameras that ‘follow’ her around in a day-in-a-life manner.

It’s not everyday that local or US television poke fun at government issues, more specifically a comedy sitcom or series. With this I find ‘Parks & Rec’ a welcome addition to redundancies in the pile of television junk we see everyday. Whether you are indifferent, pro or against government, if you look closely, certain truths are hidden inside this little show that goes beyond the purpose of merely cracking up. It does make you think about your own government, and how things differ or are similar to the show. It might even breed sympathy for the very few people left in government who stand by certain ideals and beliefs, despite the tempting benefits of corruption and power.

Humor is the common denominator for the two shows, but one that is on different sides of the coin. While Carell got immediate comedic effect being the manic and insanely insensitive boss that he plays, Amy Poehler, on the other hand, has to play a very serious character who doesn’t even try to be funny – but is. One that probably amounted to a lot of outtakes and bloopers during filming. Anyone who is familiar with Poehler’s work in Saturday Night Live will know that she’ll go to any lengths (or prosthetics) to make people laugh. In ‘Parks & Rec’, Poehler looks like an average boss running the Parks & Recreation Department with an enthusiasm that ranges from annoying to endearing, and she still can make you laugh and look you straight in the eye without flinching.

In a nutshell, while ‘The Office’ is as blatantly hilarious on a regular basis, ‘Parks’ is subtly smart – and funny when it really shouldn’t be.

To watch ‘Parks & Recreation’ online, click here.

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