As a die-hard Parks and Recreation fan, I’ve always been slightly offended by the fact that most people tend to gravitate toward The Office. When Abbott Elementary, the sitcom on ABC that follows the lives of the teachers at the school of the same name mockumentary-style, came out, the comparisons between it and The Office started coming in. These comparisons included the relationships between two of the teachers, Janine and Gregory, to Jim and Pam. Well, all this is to say, I agree with Quinta Brunson, that the show is different from The Office, and I’m here to pose the argument that Janine and Gregory were way more like Ben and Leslie from Parks and Rec.
Over the last year, Abbott Elementary has proved it can hang with classic sitcoms, and it’s also inspired by some iconic comedies. I think the similarities to Parks and Rec are fairly obvious. However, the clearest comparison is the striking similarities between the characters of Leslie and Janine, and Gregory and Ben, and I break it all down for you here:
Janine Taegues And Leslie Knope Are So Similar
Not many people have a binder for everything, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Ms. Taegues and Leslie Knope have one ready for any given situation. These two enthusiastic ladies love their jobs, love their friends and have a semi-difficult love life. The overwhelming similarity, however, is their passion for their work and their drive to do good in the world.
To prove my point, I present some of the goals set by the second-grade teacher and the deputy director of the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department in both shows’ early seasons. In the second episode of Abbott Elementary Season 2 we see Janine give a Shark Tank-like presentation as to why their school deserves a computer. While she does not succeed, she does prove an important point and helps the school advance. Over in Pawnee, Leslie spends the majority of Parks and Recreation, but specifically the first season, trying to convince the city to turn a pit into a park. Both these ladies persist like no other to accomplish their goals and will do everything in their power to help those around them.
Looking at Janine’s trajectory in comparison to Leslie’s, I can totally see the teacher becoming one of the veteran teachers at Abbott, and maybe even becoming an administrator someday developing a curriculum for the kiddos. This would follow the path of Leslie, who ended up working for the National Parks at the end of Parks and Rec.
Gregory Eddie And Ben Wyatt Literally Have The Same Energy
Every show needs a straight man. The Office had Jim, Parks and Recreation had Ben, and Abbott Elementary has Gregory. They all glance at the camera at the perfect time, with their disapproving, confused or satisfied faces that always bring the laughs. While there have been comparisons between Jim and Gregory, I think Gregory is actually more like Ben.
One of the greatest inside jokes on Parks and Rec is Ben’s confusion about the tiny horse Lil Sebastian. In the Season 2 premiere of Abbott Elementary Gregory had a similar situation when the Philadelphia icon Gritty made a cameo. While I had my thoughts about their similarities in Season 1 (especially when we found out Gregory didn't like pizza), it was this Gritty situation that confirmed Gregory and Ben as kindred spirits. Both boys have a tendency to not get the novelty obsessions of their co-workers, and they both take things a bit too seriously sometimes.
Both Ben and Gregory entered their respective shows as skeptical characters in temporary jobs. However, as both shows progressed, they ended up sticking around longer and finding that they truly care for the people they work with. They also both ended up in their respective circumstances after deciding to turn a temporary gig into a full-time one, partially because of women they work with, but we’ll get into that next.
Janine And Gregory Seem To Be On The Same Romantic Trajectory As Leslie And Ben
Now that I’ve laid out the groundwork for the characters individually, I think the biggest reason why they are similar to Ben and Leslie is their romantic trajectory.
In the early seasons of Parks and Recreation, we see Leslie struggle to find a partner. While in the first season of Abbott Elementary, we see Janine make a big decision to break up with her longtime boyfriend. This leaves her single going into Season 2, and brings me to my next point: Abbott Season 2 is giving Parks and Rec Season 3 vibes.
In Season 3 of Parks and Rec, particularly at the beginning, we see Ben and Leslie grow closer through work. Ben is working full-time in City Hall and Leslie is starting to plan her biggest project yet. The big moment that made it clear these two had feelings for each other came when they put on the Harvest Festival. They worked so hard together to make the event a success, and it was clear by the end of it that the two were crushing on each other, even if they may not have known it themselves.
Much like the aforementioned couple, I think Gregory and Janine will likely help each other with their students, maybe work on a bigger school-wide project together and probably become genuine friends rather than just close colleagues. Quinta Brunson, who plays Janine, noted at the end of Season 1 that:
So while the two characters haven’t figured it out for themselves, the viewers have 100% caught on. All those longing looks in the hallway, or Gregory noticing Janine’s new hairdo in the Season 2 premiere after no one else did, plus lots of other moments point toward a romantic future for these two.
Also, much like Parks and Rec the two teachers likely won’t get together for a while. Brunson said Janine and Gregory have to find themselves first before they can be together. Obviously, long, long term, I hope the two are endgame for each other and end up getting married like their sitcom counterparts.
So, there you have it. I am a firm believer that Janine and Gregory are basically the teacher version of Leslie and Ben. I can’t wait to see how their relationship unfolds and if my predictions come to fruition. To watch their relationship flourish and see what all the other teachers at Abbott are up to, you can check out the 2022 TV schedule for new episodes of Abbott Elementary, which air on Wednesdays on ABC at 9 p.m. ET, or can be streamed with a Hulu subscription.
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Riley Utley is a Weekend Editor and resident Swiftie at CinemaBlend. She also adores (and writes about) Ted Lasso, rom-coms and whatever streaming series is gracing our screens.