The Office – A Long Goodbye

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I just saw the finale of The Office, a show that was one of my favorites until a couple years ago. I’d hoped that the episode would feature the kind of writing that made me love the show, but it didn’t.

Early in the season someone commented that “watching The Office had become like seeing a good friend on life support. You felt sad and wished for the end.” Very true, I thought. Also, very sad.

The finale follows the cast a year after the documentary has aired. Dwight’s going to marry Angela, whose little boy has not aged at all since the previous episode, though a year has gone by. (Wake up writers. The child should not have been in the episode. He wasn’t crucial.)

PBS was holding a panel for the documentary in Scranton so Toby, who’s given up his steady job and moved to New York to write a novel. Who’d buy that? Why move to the most expensive city in the country just to write? Stanley who’s retired, and Darrell who’s with the successful marketing company that Jim quit, all return to Dunder Mifflin. Even Michael Scott, albeit without Holly, which just seemed unreal and cheap on the part of the producers, was back.

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Better days

The PBS documentary became a big part of the second half of this final season. I think that was a big mistake because while the insights from the individual worked well in the show, giving more attention to the doc made me think about it more. That makes the wheels come off the wagon as it would cost millions to staff such a project for 9 years. At most it would be a 9 hour program and just would not fill an auditorium a year after it’s aired. Downton Abbey could a documentary won’t. Besides a PBS documentary would criticize as well as praise its subjects. It would leave viewers thinking that some of these people aren’t worthy of respect and that incompetence is rewarded if you’re surrounded by nice people. PBS’ Frontier House and other similar documentaries showed some people to be noble and others far from it.

Towards the episode’s end, various characters opine about how great their time at Dunder Mifflin was and ponder the obvious Hallmark versions of carpe diem. The problem I have is that Americans, who watch PBS, aren’t be so banal that they’d sit through 9 hours of a documentary (or over 100 hours of a sitcom, I hope) just to hear that it’s important to value the “good times.”

There was little from the interactions between the staff or the audience at the panel to show that anyone felt they got a raw deal. Hard to believe. Someone would have, there’d be some villains because unlike sitcom writers documentarians don’t need you to laugh or feel warm and fuzzy. These reality shows aren’t hagiographies. As time went on many of these characters became more and more neurotic or in the case of Dwight, quite possibly psychotic.

The finale of the British The Office was sadder and more true to life.

Things I didn’t buy this season:

    • That it wasn’t malicious for Oscar to lie and steal Angela’s husband, that no one at the office caught wind of it and turned on Oscar. Someone should have learned of this and rightly turned on Oscar.
    • That Angela married a state senator was far fetched – a minor complaint.
    • That after leaving the senator, Angela, a shrewd accountant, would be destitute and have no where to live other than Oscar’s place. (So contrived.)
    • That Angela’s baby would be talking at about one year old.
    • That Creed, who’s got a regular paycheck, would live in the Dunder Mifflin men’s room and no one would know. I figured out a professor was living in his office in a far shorter time.
    • That Jim and Pam’s marital problems weren’t contrived for the sake of the plot. His taking the job in Philly and her insisting on staying in Scranton never rang true. Her selling the house without his knowledge even though she reminded him that he bought the house without asking her. It’s all so out of character.
    • That Andy’d be and remain the manager even after leaving for months at a time. His character was always bizarre in a pathetic, yet scary way. Actually, it’s hard to believe he was chosen as manager. It made sense that Michael was. He was a great salesperson and the Peter Principle is based in reality.
    • That Ryan would return (with a baby!) and then run off with Kelly, who was a head case, which he knew.
    • That Jan didn’t show up. She’d have had a bone to pick with the documentary.
    • That many of these people function and
      That during the country’s biggest recession in generations no one of consequence was let go. America was cheated on that count.

I felt the writers ran out of ideas and talent. They may be new to the show and inexperienced as they relied so much on psychosis and obvious, contrivances to further each week’s stories.

Dear Writers on “The Office”

Staff Writers
The Office
NBC

Dear Writers,

I’ve been getting caught up with The Office and am shocked at its decline. What have you done? Do you realize that you’ve whittled most of the characters down to one dimensional puppets? As one hulu.com commenter put it, watching The Office is now like watching an old friend on life support. I’ll add that the patient is now showing little to no brain activity.

You’ve crossed several comedic lines and wandered into the land of “Not At All Funny.” While it was somewhat funny, to have Oscar speculate that Angela‘s husband was gay, it isn’t funny to have an otherwise likeable character go behind her back and start an affair with her husband. Oscar has a lot of better choices and many of them could be funny. This one isn’t. At all. He’s now a plotting snake in the grass. Just because Angela’s annoying and uptight doesn’t mean she deserves betrayal or that she’s immune to the hurt. How craven do you think your audience is?

It’s preposterous that Andy can sail off on a sentimental journey without the higher ups caring. In many offices there’d be a real power struggle. And Andy as pure buffoon has been such a weak choice anyway. Michael Scott was weird and weak, but he was a terrific sales person and sincerely cared about his colleagues, often too much and therein lay the humor.

Now Jan’s back in her lower form. At the start of the series she was a type A bitch and symbolized a certain business woman. Then she got nutty and it wasn’t funny. It still isn’t and never will be. The episode where she plotted to get David in for a sales meeting didn’t make sense. Everyone knows the CEO doesn’t make sales calls.

Rumor has it we’re in for a series revolving around Dwight. Hmm. That”ll be tough to work because Dwight’s funny on The Office because he’s surrounded by normal people. I can’t envision watching a show where Dwight is the most normal character. But the real issue is we don’t need to see Dwight so much and we don’t need this season to lead us into your next series.

Erin’s always been too cute and too ditzy. That two men are interested in her is hard to see. She is a good fit for Andy and it’s pure puzzlement why the “young Jim-like character” would have any interest in such an airhead. It makes him look questionable.

It’s not like the world of work isn’t inherently funny. It is. There’s a lot you could do. If I were paid to offer some solutions, I think I could do better than what I’ve seen so far.

Where has the good writing gone? Have you hired people from The Big Bang Theory or other non-funny shows for this swan song season?

Sincerely,

SK