Perhaps the initial lukewarm reviews scared me off, but for whatever reason I did not watch Parks and Recreation until a couple weeks ago.
It took me about four days to catch up.
Within a few days, I had not only finished the second season, but I had gone back and watched season one in spite of my leeriness, and had caught up on what I had missed of this current third season.
I feel confident saying Parks and Recreation is better right now than The [American] Office has ever been.
I think the show's real strength--and what sets it apart from its sister show--is that no one is unfathomably inept. The Office's true shortcoming has always been Michael Scott. Not only is he irritating, but he is such a bumbling idiot 95% of the time that suspending the level of disbelief necessary to buy him as anyone's boss at least in any long-term scenario is so taxing that it actually makes me tired. While I like Steve Carell, Michael Scott's exit can only be good for the show at this stage.
In the first season, Leslie Knope was essentially the female version of Michael Scott. In addition to being socially retarded (and I actually mean this in the sense that her social development was retarded, you whiny, PC douches), she was barely competent. Luckily, Greg Daniels and Michael Schur (presumably) identified that this dynamic was not working, and there was a paradigm shift insofar as way in which the character of Leslie Knope was portrayed. As the second season began to take shape, her awkwardness was still present, but she was no longer bordering on being incompetent. This adjustment drastically alters the show for the better. With Leslie becoming relatable, there is a transformation from mediocrity to sublimity.
The true key to its success, though, is that the characters are great. Parks and Recreation is a character-driven show, but unlike The Office all of its characters seem real*. Each character, no matter how small actually brings a lot to the show. I could wax ecstatic about everybody on the show, but I've got a better idea.
*If it is hard to believe that Michael Scott could possibly have risen to where he is, then it is even harder to believe that Dwight Schrute could exist at all.
Watch for yourself.