The Office and Parks & Recreation Premieres: How Are the Veteran Sitcoms Aging?

I admit that I stuck with The Office this year, because I've been with it since the start and it is a rather hard habit to break.  The last two seasons haven't been able to reach the standards the show set in the beginning.  There were moments of brilliance last year, but James Spader never really connected and the show really should have wrapped up with the end of the Michael Scott character.

Parks & Recreation was the opposite last season, because it was the season that finally got me into seeing the series as something more than just something to pass time before The Office.  The Leslie Knope campaign storyline brought a lot of laughs, and had several fresh parodies and satires of current political events. 

So, it is a bit of a surprise that The Office was by far the stronger season premiere tonight.  I had hope that The Office could have a strong season, because they now knew this was the final season and so they didn't have to worry about stretching out storylines anymore.  The premiere at least proved they've found their groove again, and have potential to have the first really good season ever since Pam and Jim got married.

Parks & Recreation was fine, but it felt like it was just regurgitating past stories, and the humour just wasn't as sharp.  The characters did their usual thing, but all just felt flat.  Maybe I was just distracted by my wife who was finally home and free to talk, but I wasn't as entertained with the premiere as I was with episodes from last season.

The Office hit a quick reset button to change some of the established storylines from last season.  They quickly wrote out Kelly and Ryan since both are moving to the Fox show (or at least, I think B.J. Novak is going to be a writer for Mindy Kaling's show).  It was a fitting end with Kelly being smug but also completely unaware of where she is really going, while Ryan comes up with an excuse to try to chaser her down.  They'll eternally be the world' most dysfunctional couple, even if they haven't been a couple for over a season now.  They replaced them with two new cast members Dwight Jr. and Plop.  Though Plop doesn't really seem like he'll be much more than a background character.  The Dwight Jr. character should not only be a great new foil for Dwight, but also provide some of his own interesting character quirks.  I also know the actor has been in some other shows I've watched, but my brain isn't helping me out here.  Speaking of old Dwight, they quick blew through the "Angela had Dwight's baby" storyline that they'd been building all last season, and it just seems like the writers wanted to scrap everything from last season because they know it didn't work.

This episode really worked well.  I like the seeds they planted throughout the episode about Jim realizing he doesn't want to be at Scranton his whole life and he never wanted to be a career paper salesmen.  It looks like we'll have a rather interesting storyline for the season with Jim trying to figure out if he really should leave to Philadelphia and the stress that may put on his marriage with Pam.  I think it would be a fitting end to the series for Jim to finally leave the job, and go somewhere that will make him and Pam much happier.  I'm sure they have some twists in store before that happens.

The Dwight trying to prove he was better than Dwight Jr. was a fun side story, and allowed Dwight to be at his crazy best.  I hope this is also an ongoing storyline for the year, and it'd be nice to have Dwight with a new foil since the Jim thing has been done since the beginning.  This will hopefully make the series feel fresh again, and allow for some fun new stories for the final season.

Obviously, the Oscar seeing Angela's husband will be an ongoing storyline, but I don't think it will dominant too many episodes.  I'd rather it not get too soapy, since that isn't something this show does well.  I'm thinking it will be an occasional punchline, and I wouldn't even mind if Angele never found out.

It also looks like Andy getting perpetual revenge on the British lady that stole his job last year will be another humour storyline.  I liked the crap he put her through this episode, because he never did get his delicious moment after she stole his job.  Though I'm assuming they'll wrap up there issues and make them into best buds by the middle the season.  They have to do that unless they want to risk making Andy an unlikable character, which isn't something they should purposely do.

I got some laugh out loud moments this episode.  I love Kevin's attempt to rescue the dead turtle's shell and his confession he isn't very good at puzzles.  Andy's need to give people nicknames, because that is what Outward Bound does, was fun too.  The tight rope walking scenes with Dwight were really solid slapstick.  I actually loved all the scenes between the two Dwights.

As for Park & Recreation, I did laugh -- a little.  I still get a kick out Rob Lowe's character, and Ron Swanson is still one of the better gimmicks on TV.  The charade dating between Tom and Ann just so Tom could win a bet had its moments.  Andy's searching for the National Treasure clues or attempt to climb on the Back to Future train was the right kind of the silly.

The main storyline was between Leslie and Ben, and it was a storyline that we've already seen.  Last year was often about the tension between them because their jobs got in the way.  Leslie was the one that played jealous this time, but still something we've seen before.  It felt flat to me, and I really hope it isn't something they pound into the ground this season.  I'm guessing they want to keep Ben around this season, and so the relationship is the way to do it, but I'd prefer a break up if they are just going to do the tension in the relationship thing all season.

The staff BBQ storyline had its moment, and I loved Tom the pig.  The Swanson hissy fit should have been funnier, and the final scene wasn't as sweet as I think the writers thought it was.  It just didn't seem to become as funny as you'd think a Swanson style BBQ should be.

I'm thinking it was just a stumble, and the series has potential to continue to be one of the best sitcoms on TV.  I really hope we didn't just trade the goodness, and now I have to suffer through a subpar Parks & Recreation in order to have a great Office.  I don't have the same kind of loyalty to stick with this show for 22 episodes of crap.

I was happily surprised to get a really good The Office, and a subpar Parks & Recreation is still a pretty enjoyable half hour.