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Workplace comedies

What makes “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” so darn likeable?

 As I was scrolling through Netflix this past week, I found myself drawn to these workplace comedies that I’ve seen a million times before. I had to ask myself, “Why am I rewatching these?”

Was it the loveable antics of Jake Peralta, the fairytale romance between Jim and Pam, or maybe the sarcasm and relatable attitude of April? I haven’t had an office job, yet whenever I turn these on, I feel strangely at home.

There is something comforting about the idea of a workplace environment. Maybe it’s the knowledge that you will have daily interactions with your co-workers, or maybe it’s the routine you develop of working a 9-5. Nevertheless, when I turn these shows on, I feel a sense of safety.

What seems to make these shows so endearing is the added loveable characters to the comfort of the workplace. What would Parks and Rec be without Leslie, Andy and Ron? Haven’t we all found ourselves trying to impress someone in the way Amy Santiago does with Captain Holt in “Brooklynn Nine-Nine?” The reason we’re so drawn to these shows time and time again is because we love watching our “co-workers” get into these wacky situations that still feel grounded in reality.

When Michael Scott has to go and tell a group of high school seniors that he can’t fulfill his promise of paying for their college tuition, we suffer along with him. At that point, we’ve come to know the characters so well that it makes this one of the hardest to watch, yet best written episodes out there.

The shows can’t survive on wacky antics alone, however. We can’t be totally certain that no matter what happens during the episode, our characters will come out the same.

A perfect example is the will-they, won’t-they relationship between Jim and Pam throughout the first three seasons of “The Office.” Though it is not the driving plot of every episode, it is still a looming thread that changes who the characters are. Season one Pam is shy and quiet, while season nine Pam, after having been married to Jim for several years, is much more outgoing and open.

These constant recurring plot threads keep the viewers interested, allowing the show to take a break from the constant string of jokes to remind us that this is still meant to be set in the real world, with real people.

It would be hard to watch 23 minutes of nothing but jokes. We need the grounded nature of these plot lines to ensure ourselves that we are in fact still mirroring the real world with real consequences.

Between the lovable characters and the investment we have in the recurring plot lines, we seem to be drawn to these shows because we feel like we are a part of them. We get to watch along as these characters make mistakes, fall in love or do something as simple as their day jobs, which are all things many of us hope to experience on our own someday. 

At the end of the day, when the clock hits five, we leave with these characters, knowing that we’ll be back tomorrow. Same time, same place.

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