Friday, September 19, 2014

Poehler Opposites

I got to say, “It’s Friday already?” today.  I think that’s a good thing.  The last couple of weeks have been a bit… full.  I also got to drive to the train station without using my air conditioner.

That’s not as great as it sounds, the flip side of not using a/c is that the trip will soon be completed in the dark.

We recently began to watch Parks and Rec.  It is, essentially, another remake of The Office which first aired across the pond and then was reimagined for us Yanks.  P&R takes the same conceit (documentary) and the same character traits but mashes them all up in a different combination.  Recombinant DNA, so to speak.

On the surface there is so much similarity that our first go with P&R ended after an episode and a half.  “I don’t like that woman,” said my wife.  “She is not Michael [Scott].”  True, Amy is not Steve.  But then, despite what a casual viewer might presume, Leslie is not Michael.  Their differences in character are actually the differences between the shows.

Michael Scott is a buffoon, a man oblivious to the world around him, offending everyone without malice, but always for his own gain.  He makes poor decisions and his coworkers both mock and manipulate him.  He manages a paper company’s sub office in Scranton – an office that is consistently outperformed by the Buffalo office.  When he succeeds, it is by luck.  His girlfriends all have psychological problems.  It makes a great backdrop for comic situations, but is at heart negative and pointless.

Leslie Knope is naive, a woman oblivious to the cynicism of the world around her.  She is almost a Pollyanna (or is that now a Sue Heck?) in her enthusiastic optimism, never realizing that her love of Pawnee (the local town) is not shared by anyone else.  She believes what she does is important and although we laugh at her, deep down we have to agree that the environment should be saved, parks should be clean, and hopefully there’s a Knope working in our local Parks and Recreation department.  She challenges her staff to be better, but only sees their good points.  There’s plenty of “the bad stuff” going on, but she isn’t the cause and somehow manages to rise above it.  She makes poor choices at times, but her friends pull her back rather than letting her go forward just to get a laugh at her expense.

The situations in the two shows are similar.  The supporting characters are similar.  But they are not the same show.  Don’t watch either thinking you’re getting more of the other.  You aren’t.  I mean really, would Michael ever date a small town cop who is so completely what’s good about our country?

Knope.  But I still like The Office.

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