Mike Schur is responsible for a handful of the funniest comedy series of the 21st century, but is that the only connection between these fictional worlds? Some fans and casual viewers of The Office and Parks and Recreation have wondered through the years whether the workplace comedies exist in the same universe.
And, as Schur's list of credits expanded to include Brooklyn 99 and The Good Place, there's been speculation about those shows also being connected to the former two. But do these fan theories hold any water? Let's investigate.
First: are 'The Office' and "Parks and Recreation' in the same universe?
On first reflection, it seems unlikely the Scranton, Pa. portrayed on the American version of The Office would exist in the same universe as Pawnee, Ind. if for no other reason than this: Scranton is a real place, and Pawnee isn't. It's a made-up town in a made-up county with a made-up rival town, Eagleton.
However, for the sake of a thought experiment, we could entertain the idea that there is a universe in which the version of Scranton we see on The Office exists in the same version of the United States that includes the town of Pawnee. And if so, we've got a set of doppelgängers, because Pawnee nurse Ann Perkins is a dead ringer for Dunder Mifflin sales rep Karen Filippelli.
One clever reddit user theorized that Karen was a key witness in the Scranton Strangler case and entered the witness protection program, assuming a new identity and moving to a small town in Indiana. Plausible? Not really — witness protection wouldn't provide false nursing credentials! — but it's fun to think about.
Mike Schur himself has said that the network originally wanted an Office spin-off, but instead of creating a show within the same world directly, he would seize upon the mockumentary style and the idea of a workplace comedy in a smaller town. So it doesn't sound like the two settings are meant to connect.
Then again, an eagle-eyed viewer once spied the logo on a printer in the Pawnee City Hall that fans of The Office might recognize. Apparently, the civil servants of Wamapoke County use Sabre (Saber, not Sa-bray) printers — the company that acquires Dunder-Mifflin in Season 6.
The possibility 'Parks and Rec' and 'The Good Place' exist in the same universe is stronger.
And it's not just because both shows were entirely created by Mike Schur (who wrote for several seasons of The Office but was not the creator). In Season 3 of The Good Place, when the Soul Squad is in Australia learning about ethics together, they visit an American-themed restaurant. And whoever created that menu seems to have at least visited the town of Pawnee.
A zoomed-in view of the menu at the Cowboy Skyscraper Buffet reveals one of the menu items is The Paunch Burger, a popular Pawnee fast food chain known for the Double Bacon Grenade Deluxe and its most popular menu item, the Greasy Lard Bomb. The Paunch Burger on the menu in the Aussie restaurant certainly seems like a nod to the original Paunch Burger.
The menu description reads, "Three meat patties, six slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle covered in our world famous bourbon brown sugar thousand island sauce and topped with a fried egg. The pride of Indiana recreated here for you." Now if that doesn't seem like a burger from a town ranked first in friendship, fourth in obesity, I don't know what does.
Of course, that means The Good Place's Eleanor Shellstrop either had a twin who happened to be a former Miss Indiana, or the Arizona Dirtbag had a double life on Earth we never learned about. Honestly, either is possible.
Another shred of evidence connecting The Good Place and Parks and Rec is that Bjorn Lerpiss, one of the descendants of Pawnee's founding fathers, is a resident in Good Place Neighborhood No. 12358W. He ranked just below Jianyu (aka Jason) in the neighborhood rankings when Tahani snuck a peek and learned the only resident lower than her was Glenn.
Then again, since it turns out (SPOILER ALERT!) that they are actually in the Bad Place and the rankings were just a method of torturing Tahani, it's also possible Michael plucked that name from the sitcom, since it's well established that afterlife beings are big fans of American television.
But perhaps the biggest reason to believe Pawnee and The Good Place coexist is the fact that the beloved mini horse Lil Sebastian, who passed away in Parks and Recreation Season 3 clearly shows up in neighborhood 12358W alongside Janet.
Of course this is all very silly speculation. Mostly it's just that Schur and Co. likes putting little easter eggs into his shows for the true fans to spot. But if you find yourself with a lot of extra time on your hands these days (for some reason), perhaps you can rewatch all the shows yourself and see if you find more connections!