Watching The Office is like meeting an old friend at some sort of reunion, only except now the friend is 200 pounds heavier, has nervous eye twitches, and insists on being called “Admiral.” In other words, it’s so random and different from its glory days that sometimes it’s almost painful to watch.
And glory days it did have. I remember when the novelty of the show (not counting the British version blah blah blah) and the sheer awkwardness of the characters sent it to the top of everyone’s Thursday night. Fast forward several years, and we’re at the ninth and final season. However, instead of a triumphant send-off, we’ve got at least four main characters who are or will be noticeably absent (Michael, Kelly, Ryan, and Dwight) due to post-Office aspirations. Even if Michael Scott makes a guest appearance for the finale, this is going to be a decidedly inferior way to end one of America’s most popular comedies, though more people feel like The Office lost its charm seasons ago (myself included).
Why? Several reasons. First off, the original “feel” of the show was impossible to keep. The entire premise is a documentary crew follows the workers of a paper company throughout their office routines, and of course this becomes ridiculous when you consider they’ve been following them for NINE YEARS. Sheesh, it’s a paper company.
But, my point is that originally we started with a office filled with a rather large cast of everyday workers filling in the standard positions of accounting, HR, sales, and management. These were characters that any office worker could identify with or even recognize from their workplace. Jokes centered on workplace meetings, inept management, and the sheer dismal atmosphere these people were trapped in. However, over time, “the cute secretary” became to us “Pam.” We started to call Steve Carell “Michael Scott” instead of “that idiot boss.” “Weird guy who makes us uncomfortable” became “Dwight Schrute.”
There’s nothing wrong with this shift into specific, iconic characters, but it became less relatable. Still, some of my favorite seasons (2-4) revolved on shedding light on the lives and personalities of these characters, and they’re great moments.
What went wrong is when they went from “types” to “characters” to “cartoon characters.” The show got flat-out ridiculous, and so did the people. For example Michael Scott seemed to become dumber and more childish each season; actually, pretty much everyone seemed to shed several decade’s worth of IQ points just so the writers could still surprise us. Meanwhile, James Spader’s character never even seemed to have a consistent personality, changing character types in just one season like he suffers from multiple personality disorder. It’s a completely different kind of humor, and random does not automatically mean funny.
Finally, the stories of the show switched from their original focus. Instead of Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, we get random episodes that feature Dwight bicycling on a cable several stories above the parking lot. What is this, Looney Tunes? What’s wrong with taking real office quirks and running with it?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still probably watch the last season to see how it ends, but unless it sets up a Creed-centered show, I just don’t see the point.