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Showdown: '30 Rock' vs. 'Parks and Recreation'

30 Rock and Parks and Recreation have a lot in common. They’re both NBC sitcoms. They both feature a member of America’s most popular comedy duo — Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — in the lead role. They both ran for seven seasons, and they both scored solid but not spectacular ratings. And they were both very, very funny.

I love 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, but like any parent, I have a favorite. Let’s do some comparing and contrasting to find out which show has rightfully earned just a little bit more of my love.

Lead character
30 Rock follows put-upon comedy writer Liz Lemon (Fey) as she tries to find a balance between her work life (infantile actors, corporate meddling, and long nights in the writers’ room) and her home life (ticking biological clock, night cheese, and a string of imploding relationships). Meanwhile, Parks and Rec centers around Leslie Knope (Poehler), a local government bureaucrat who loves her job so much that a home life seems like it would just get in the way of her happiness.

Although it should have been obvious, if I’d realized that writing this article would force me to choose between Liz Lemon and Leslie Knope, I might have thought twice about it. They’re both hilarious, iconic characters who share a lot of the same admirable qualities. For all of Liz’s angst about trying to “have it all,” she, like Leslie, loves her job. Both characters are leaders, and both own the role, however difficult it could become for them.

Leslie is the more unique character, though. In an age where bitter, partisan politics reign, there’s something inspiring about a public employee who enthusiastically believes that government can and should help people, and works tirelessly to make it happen.

WINNERParks and Recreation

Supporting cast
No show can survive on its lead character alone, and like all great sitcoms, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation sport fantastic supporting casts. 30 Rock’s is headed by Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy, Liz’s capitalism-loving, Scotch-drinking, secretly sympathetic boss. Shifting gears completely, Parks and Recreation sports Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson, Leslie’s capitalism-loving, Scotch-drinking, secretly sympathetic boss … huh.

Although 30 Rock places more focus on it, the relationships between Liz and Jack on the one hand and Leslie and Ron on the other are cornerstones of both series. The characters hold diverging views on everything from politics to religion to relationships, but they respect each other, and the writers mined their friendships for both comedy and pathos.

Beyond that, picking favorite members of the supporting cast is extremely difficult. Do you prefer the narcissistic ravings of 30 Rock’s Jenna Maroney or the gothic stylings of Parks and Rec’s April Ludgate? Who’s funnier — Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), a self-absorbed actor who’s seen too much, or Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt), a lovable moron with an overactive imagination? I could go on like that for paragraphs — these shows are bursting with great characters big and small.

I give the nod to 30 Rock on account of its more consistent cast. Wonderful as the Parks and Rec cast is, it has a couple of duds. For example, remember Mark Brendanawicz, Pawnee city planner and an early love interest for Leslie? If you don’t, few could blame you, because he was boring and the show put him out to pasture in the second season. This might be controversial, but I never thought Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) quite lived up to the comic examples set by the likes of Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson. Perkins was too subdued and Traeger too manic — the show didn’t lose much steam when they left in Season 6.


Laughs per minute
Although they’re both very funny, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation have different approaches to comedy. 30 Rock is the more fanciful of the two, never afraid to do a cutaway gag or a dream sequence. Jenna and Tracy each make a ton of money and live weird lifestyles, so we get bizarre jokes about Tracy’s pet lizard, for example, or increasingly alarming stories about Jenna’s encounters with Mickey Rourke.

The gang over on Parks and Recreation, living as they do in the small town of Pawnee, Indiana, are a little more grounded. Jokes mostly revolve around the characters’ personalities, as when the dim-witted Andy tries to diagnose Leslie’s illness with help from Google.

30 Rock had access to a wider range of jokes. That variety puts it over the top.


Part of the reason 30 Rock edges out Parks and Rec in the laughs department is because it doesn’t take its characters quite as seriously. That’s not to say we don’t care about what happens to Liz and Jack, but ultimately, almost everything they do is in service of the next gag. For example, when Liz got together with pilot Carol Burnett (Matt Damon) at the end of season 4, did anyone really think they would stay together? The show had some fun making Matt Damon mouth dialogue in Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole, Liz and Carol threatened to kill each other on a plane, and that was that.

But when Leslie Knope started dating mild-mannered, uptight budget specialist Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), it was the beginning of a proper love story. The show traced their romance from its inception right through to their wedding and eventual parenthood.

But the heart of Parks and Rec is Leslie Knope’s climb up the government ladder, from low-level bureaucrat to town councilwoman to federal employee and eventually beyond. The most satisfying leg of her journey comes in season 4, when she campaigns for a spot on the Pawnee town council. We’re with her every step of the way, and when she wins the election at the end of the season, it feels earned.

Parks and Recreation never forgot that it was a comedy, but its willingness to be earnest about its characters’ hopes and dreams allowed it to tug at the heartstrings in a way that 30 Rock couldn’t.

WINNER: Parks and Recreation

Like many shows, both 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation took a small dip in quality toward the end of their runs. Neither got as dull as, say, the last couple seasons of The Office, but their sixth seasons are a little less quick and a little less eventful than years prior. Happily, both shows seemed to sense that it was time to get out while the getting was good, and rebounded with excellent final seasons.

However, while Tina Fey’s show came blazing out of the gate, Parks and Rec stumbled. Parks was created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, both of whom worked on The Office. The first season of the show, which had only six episodes, hewed too closely to the Office formula, complete with documentary-style camera work and a bumbling, Michael Scott–like manager in the form of Leslie Knope.

If Parks and Rec had stayed in that gear, it likely wouldn’t have lasted long, but the producers found their footing in season 2. They abandoned the idea that the show was literally a documentary, and dug deeper into Leslie Knope, revealing that she more than compensated for her naïveté with boundless enthusiasm and follow-through. That first season is still weird to watch, though.


Funniest Moment
I maintain that 30 Rock is the funnier show overall, but what about the single most hilarious moment from each show? This is a deeply subjective topic, but here are my picks.

30 Rock: In season 3’s “Apollo, Apollo,” middle-aged Jack comes to the realization that nothing will ever make him as happy as he was when, as a child, he received a model of the Apollo Lunar Module and literally threw up from joy. Downcast, he wanders into the TGS writers’ room where, for reasons unrelated to his personal crisis, the writers are screening a commercial for a sex phone line … that Liz starred in years ago, back when she was still trying to be an actress. “And they only hired her because their first choice was deported,” Jenna chimes in.

Unfortunately, the full scene isn’t readily available on YouTube, but here’s the commercial by itself.

“That’s not even enough numbers!”

As he watches from the back of the room, Jack laughs so hard that he vomits … and he couldn’t be happier about it. It’s a scene about the healing power of laughter, but it’s also just really, really funny.

Parks and Recreation: In season 4’s “The Comeback Kid,” Leslie Knope is trying to get elected to the Pawnee city council, but her campaign hits a rough patch when her professional campaign managers withdraw their backing. “It’s true,” she says. “I no longer have highly trained, professional campaign managers. So what? Are most murders committed by highly trained, professional assassins? No, they’re committed by friends and coworkers!”

Unfailingly loyal, her friends volunteer to serve as her new campaign team, and they organize a campaign event at a hockey rink. Because no one knows what they’re doing, everything that can go wrong does go wrong, and I laugh and laugh and laugh.

30 Rock may have more laughs per minute, but the extra time spent developing the characters on Parks and Recreation makes comic moments like this richer. And also, the beautiful timing and that damn song.

WINNER: Parks and Recreation

So we have a tie. Like everything in comedy, which show you prefer comes down to taste. If you want a reliably hilarious but slightly more ephemeral show where you can pop in at any given moment, and it will dependably make you laugh, go with 30 Rock. If you want to go on a hilarious journey with characters who develop over the course of the series, choose Parks and Recreation. With a gun to my head, I think what Parks and Rec gains in heart is worth what little it gives up in belly laughs. For me, Parks and Recreation wins. Which show do you prefer?

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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