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November 29, 2016

Sister on Sister Crime: aka 30 Rock vs Parks & Rec

-- A Comparison of TV Shows Gone Good

When did this blog become a rankings website? Somewhere between getting a job and having a baby. The former stripped me of creativity and the latter of time, energy, sleep, and the ability to think like a human. But having a job made it so I could have a baby and having a baby made it so I had this:

And having that is pretty spectacular.  But there are other perks to parenting, such as gobbling tons of TV because what else are you going to do when you have to watch an immobile lump of human sit on the ground for 10 hours a day? Thus with my library of shows ever expanding it's time to rank the progeny of our two most famous comedy sisters: Tina Fey’s 30 Rock vs Amy Poehler’s Parks and Rec. Will this be as fun as Kate vs Pippa? Probably not. But since when did anyone ever come to this blog to have fun? If you answered not since 2011 ... (sigh) ... you're right.

Fey and Poehler are as linked as Potter and Voldemort, except in the good way. From comedy troop besties they became SNL cohorts, award show co-hosts, and Thursday night headliners for NBC. Their shows are likewise linked in genre, origin, and hilarity. Further the two shows revolve around the premise of mocking state government and corporate America, the two places I happen to have spent the last five years of my life working. Hence we come to this conclusion: these shows demand a head-to-head ranking. I doubt I’m the first to compare the two but as it’s now 2016 I very well expect I’m the last. And you know what gets saved for last don’t you? Excellent. With that shot of encouragement let’s get to it.


Music: You know when you visit your senile, 90-year-old gramps and he hums the same tune no matter where he is or what he's doing? Yup that's gonna be me with the 30 Rock theme in 2076.

Advantage: 30 Rock

Weirdest Character: The people of Parks and Rec worshiped a small horse named Lil’ Sebastian. That was weird. Meanwhile 30 Rock exposed us to a cross-dressing character that fell in love with the girl he cross-dressed as. That was weirder. And much creepier.

Advantage: Parks and Rec

Career Launchpad: Parks and Rec is the show most point to as the start of Chris Pratt’s ascension to stardom. A look at Pratt’s filmography on IMDB would seemingly confirm this, as his pre-2009 movie log includes not a single show I can identify (Jennifer’s Body? Wieners? Bride Wars?) while his post P&R list is blockbusterian (Moneyball, Jurrasic World, Guardians of the Galaxy).

30 Rock’s closest comp is Jack McBrayer (aka Kenneth Parcell) who turned his TV success into … Wreck it Ralph. So yeah, not much of a comp at all. However, before we go tossing points let's step back for a moment and remember that it was not actually Parks and Rec that made Chris Pratt Chris Pratt. Long before Jonny Karate became a thing a young man named Che wrought havoc on Summer and Seth’s lives in The OC. And The OC is the best. Therefore …

Advantage: The OC1
1. We're ignoring Louis C.K. on this one because I have no idea when he became popular.

Intense, Personal Mockery of my Employment Choices: To this point my entire working life has been split 50-50 between working for state government and working for a Fortune 500. Both shows do a superb job portraying the ridiculous, exaggerating the annoying, and most incredibly highlighting the truth of such career paths. As a result I've gone back and forth on this one a couple times. The nerd auditors and the nerdier accounting firm of Parks and Rec is so good it almost hits too close to home. And the idea of a government-hating Ron Swanson mirrors exactly one of my earliest tax commission associates. But then you see 30 Rock with the small digs on LinkedIn, the mockery of all acronyms, and finally the lambasting of Six Sigma and you know. You just know. Liz Lemon ends the clip above stating, 'Now that just seems intentionally confusing.' Welcome to the business world madam.

Advantage: 30 Rock

YouTube Afterlife: If availability of YouTube clips is any indicator of popularity this ranking ends here. You want a scene from Parks and Rec to email to your family and friends? Any scene? YouTube has it. I swear I haven’t stumped the site yet. P&R is immortalized forever in those digestible YouTube clips. 30 Rock on the other hand isn’t just mortal on YouTube, it’s dead. Of all the shows I’ve watched 30 Rock is the one I have the hardest finding on YouTube. Stupid YouTubers. Get your act together.

Huge Advantage: Parks and Rec

Attractometer: Let’s start with the token hotties, where words aren’t really necessary.

Ok now that we’ve settled that one let’s move on to the unintentionally attractive characters. Note: 30 Rock characters on the left, P&R on the right.

Jack Donaghy > Ron Swanson

Jenna Maroney > Ann Perkins

Liz Lemon > Leslie Knope

Avery Jessup > Chris Traeger

Tracy Jordan = Tom Haverford

Dotcom = Donna Meagle

Toofer < Andy Dwyer

Tremendous Advantage: 30 Rock in a near sweep

Cultural Impact: As pointed out in the YouTube Afterlife section, Parks & Rec succeeded in becoming a thing in ways 30 Rock never managed. The biggest example? Treat Yo Self, which has grown so large that it has its own day (October 13th, my apologies if you missed it). 30 Rock’s cultural waves were meager in comparison: ‘blerg’ is a great word, but not one your co-workers will get. Also I once dreamed that Reaganing would catch on. Nope.

Large Advantage: Parks & Rec

Greatest One-liner: From Jack Donaghy and 30 Rock, spoken during a moment of extreme crisis: “God, are you punishing me because my hair is better than yours?”

From Ben Wyatt and Parks and Rec, whilst pumping himself up to make budget cuts: “Idaho cut their parks department by 80 percent. And Idaho is basically one giant park.”

Yes the slam on Idaho is solid and equally appropriate no matter what Nathan Ballard may have been bribed into saying. Still, no one out-duels Jack in the one-liner business. Even if I do love this longer-than-a-one-liner from Andy.

Advantage: 30 Rock

Series Nemesis: Here we have another superb showdown. Where 30 Rock deploys Devon Banks, Kaylie Hooper, Colleen Donaghy, and Dennis Duffy as frequent antagonists in the lives of Jack and Liz, Parks and Rec returns fire with Tammys I and II, Jeremy Jamm, and cologne magnate Dennis Feinstein. There are too many characters to provide an in-depth analysis so let’s settle this by bringing the best against the best: Jeremy Jamm’s afro versus Devon Banks’ short robe. Both are items I wish I possessed, both are outside my reach, only one of the two is all natural.

Slight Advantage: Parks and Rec

Unlovable Doofus: Two quality non-quality candidates to debate in this space. Parks and Rec brought us Gary/Larry/Jerry/Terry who was apt at farting and falling. Seriously, that’s all he did. On the flip side 30 Rock introduced us to Lutz, he of dry-heaving, pants-peeing, Blimpie-picking fame. P&R deployed their doofus at will while 30 Rock picked their spots with Lutz and in the end I guess you have to decide if you prefer being bludgeoned to death by a repeated joke or jabbed unpleasantly in the ribs when you least expect it. Like the election behind us neither choice is palatable. Gun to my head I'll take Lutz.

Smallest of Advantages: 30 Rock

Joke Velocity: I wanted to include this metric as a shoutout to Talib Visram of The Atlantic who took on the creative project of identifying from a swath of shows which produced the most jokes per minute. I had planned to highlight this as a huge win for 30 Rock, as it famously led the league at an absurd 7.44  jokes per minute (with one episode rumored to have over 9 jokes per minute, or one joke every 6 seconds). However, to my surprise who would rank third on this list at a robust 6.97 jokes per minute? None other than Parks and Rec. Well done Parks and Rec, well done. But you aint taking down the king with a 6.97.

Advantage: 30 Rock

Cameos: At first glance this looks like a 30 Rock blowout. It was a regular Celebs R’ Us at times on this show: you had movie stars (Matt Damon, Emma Stone, James Franco, Julianne Moore, Steve Martin, Tom Hanks, Will Ferrell, Robert De Niro), moguls (Calvin Klein), astronauts (Buzz Aldrin), Batman TWICE (Adam West, Michael Keaton) Oprah once, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a former headliner of my most coveted list (Jennifer Anniston), TV stars (Alan Alda, David Schwimmer, Kelsey Grammer), the master of comedy (Jerry Seinfeld), a troop of NBC-ers (Conan O’ Brian, Jimmy Fallon, Brian Williams) and one Olympic athlete who played an idiot on the show four years before the Rio scandal (Ryan Lochte).

Parks and Rec countered with a wave of athletes (Detlef Schrempf, Roy Hibbert, Andrew Luck, Chris Bosh, Reggie Wayne), politicians (Joe Biden, Michelle Obama, John McCain, Madeleine Albright), Xena Warrior Princess, a WWE wrestler (John Cena), a supermodel (Heidi Klum), and a few movie/TV persons of their own (Paul Rudd, Bill Murray, Kristen Bell).

Whether or not you give bonus points for snagging the first lady it comes down to this: 30 Rock got Amy Poehler to come onto their show and cameo as a younger Liz Lemon. In other words the main character from Parks and Rec was reduced to playing the 16-year old version of the main character on 30 Rock for half a minute. And that's how you out-cameo your competition folks.2
2. This might have been closer if Parks and Rec had put Austin Collie on the show rather than simply mentioning him in conversation. The GOAT deserves more than a mere name drop.

Advantage: 30 Rock

Critical Acclaim: Our final category and perhaps the only one that is actually relevant in comparing these two juggernauts. 30 Rock wins this one by strength of numbers, being nominated for 145 different awards, winning 39, including the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series three straight times. Parks and Rec went for 89 nomination and 13 wins, with the most prestigious being a single American Comedy Award for Best Comedy Series in 2014.

Large Advantage: 30 Rock

Final Verdict: 30 Rock

Second only to the Holy Grail of Seinfeld in my personal rankings, 30 Rock is as good as 30-minute TV gets. Parks and Rec is a solid watch, but I don’t know if I’d have survived the horrible first two seasons if I didn’t get laid up with a broken back (maybe moving that car engine wasn't all bad afterall). To any would-be viewers who missed it live you'd do well to remember this 30 Rock axiom: "There ain't no party like a Liz Lemon party cause a Liz Lemon party is mandatory." The same applies for 30 Rock viewing.

1 comment:

  1. Jenna over Ann?! And Tom equal to Tracy?! Your grasp of visual aesthetics is equal to Jack's grasp of grocery store prices. Jenna would be better compared to Tammy 2's voice and Tom has a face you'd circle in your Jr High yearbook with a heart.