D6 • the silhouette’s art & culture magazine
thursday, march 31, 2011
clocking out and clocking in parks and recreation fills the mockumentary void that the office will leave Listen up everybody: The Office is on its last legs, and it has left viewers pondering, “What happens to us fans of the mockumentary format when our flagship program leaves port forever?” Well, fear not, for NBC has had an ace up its sleeve for three seasons now: the hilarious and heartwarming Parks and Recreation. Last Thursday, Michael Scott made the formal announcement to his employees that he would be leaving The Office and moving to Colorado. Fans of the program knew Steve Carell was going to be gone by the end of the season, but in that short moment right at the end of the episode, the truth of Michael Scott’s departure was finally spoken aloud. It’s probably for the best that The Office will be off the air soon. The series has had seven incredibly successful seasons. However, as a series goes on, characters in the show tend to go through a phase known colloquially as “Flanderization.” What that means is that characters with certain traits eventually just become cari-
catures of themselves. Think Flanders going from nice Christian neighbour to full-on fundamentalist. The characters and situations on The Office have become increasingly, for lack of a better word, zany. So when Steve Carell leaves, The Office is bound to go through a “Chachi” phase, wherein a popular and eccentric character is replaced by an even more eccentric but ultimately less likable character. After that, The Office will be in prime shark-jumping territory, and Parks and Recreation will hopefully take over its coveted 9 p.m. timeslot. It certainly deserves it: Parks and Recreation stands out as one of the brightest and funniest shows on television, with an amazing cast to boot. Like The Office, the show is filmed in a mockumentary style, with cutaways to talking head segments, voiceovers, and shaky cam. The sense of reality with the mockumentary format has always given slightly more depth to characters, which would otherwise be one-note sitcom standards, and Parks and Recreation is no exception. The format isn’t the only thing Parks
has in common with The Office. Both shows were created – or adapted – by Greg Daniels, a man who knows television comedy, having also written, produced, and directed for The Simpsons and King of the Hill, which he co-created with Mike Judge. Daniels’ specialty, stemming first from King of the Hill, has always been in creating characters that bleed comedy. Parks and Recreation’s cast plays their parts much in the same vein: people who shouldn’t be funny – in this case, city workers – working jobs that normally wouldn’t garner laughs, but almost every situation they find themselves in is so outrageous, that the results end up being raucously hilarious. The cast of Parks is top notch: sketch comedy veteran Amy Poehler plays the part of over-enthusiastic Parks director Leslie Knope, with so much unabashed optimism that she disappears into the role. Poehler is supported by some great comedic actors, including upand-comer Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, and Rashida Jones, who usually plays it straight, but every so often is given lines that are true comedic gems.
The characters on Parks are pretty out there. They are much more animated and over-the-top than the characters on The Office, so what makes them work in the mockumentary format? The answer is that the Parks characters started out kind of wacky, but unlike The Office, the show has kept them solidly grounded in reality. Like the best episodes of The Office, Parks and Recreation is filled with heart. The characters are so easy to love because deep beneath their comedic façade lies an emotional base. Though they are hilarious, we never forget that these are supposed to be real people with real feelings – something The Office has been lacking lately. While fans will probably mourn The Office for months after its departure, they should never forget that moving on is part of the process. And although hardcore Office fans may not warm up to Parks and Recreation right away, they will eventually have to come around and admit it: Leslie Knope is the new Michael Scott. • Colin Leggett
March 31st, 2011 issue of The Sil