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Parks and Recreation vs. Modern Family – the battle for my heart

Modern Family

Image via Wikipedia

EW recently claimed for its cover article that Parks and Recreation is “TV’s Smartest Comedy.” While that may or may not be true,  the show has evolved from a lifeless, sterilized sitcom into something truly unique (which is even more impressive given the network  it airs on). Instead of a bland overarching storyline about filling a hole, the stories and their characters have evolved into more poignant satires on small-town life and government. Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope is no longer simply a female Michael Scott, but instead a savvier, quirkier version of NBC’s Thursday mascot. And the town of Pawnee has taken on a life of its own with its bizarre residents, establishing a world outside of the office that is endearing as it is odd. In my mind, there are few (if any) sitcoms on network television that can compete with it.

Except, of course, for Modern Family. While few would deny that Modern Family has not been as strong this season as last (with some very notable exceptions: “Caught in the Act”,  “Slow Down Your Neighbors”, “Chirp”, “Unplugged” and “Strangers on a Treadmill”), each episode is of such high quality that it’s almost impossible to be disappointed. Even the worst of Modern Family still outclasses 90% of television (and 99% of network television).

But while Modern Family far and away was my favorite network sitcom last year, has it been overtaken by Parks and Recreation? Interesting question. Part of the challenge in comparing Parks and Recreation with Modern Family are their fundamental differences in storytelling. Yes, both use the “interview” style single-cam format first popularized in the U.S. by The Office, but at their core they tell different stories. Parks and Recreation is much more serialized and builds it humor from season-long storylines that provide a bountiful amount of hilarity for the cast to play around with. Modern Family instead is much more “procedural”: almost all of its stories conclude at the end of an episode . There is also the innate distinction between a workplace comedy and a family/relationship comedy.

Still, if Modern Family has an edge, that edge is waning. Its storylines have been less ambitious with few truly innovative moments (to be fair: originality is not really a strong point for many sitcoms). While I think its cast edges out Parks and Recreation‘s, the material they’ve had to work with this season hasn’t been as strong. The festival storyline coupled with the introduction of Rob Lowe and Chris Pratt has propelled Parks and Recreation to another tier of sitcomdom; maybe its time for Dylan to come back.
What do you all think? Am I too quick to give the torch to Parks and Recreation? Am I wrong on both counts?

(Also, 30 Rock and Community can’t compare. Really.)


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