Pop-Ed: The Office – A Farewell

the gang says farewell to Dunder Miflin…

OFFICE LOGO

Tonight NBC’s long-running documentary sitcom The Office will call it quits. Members of Pop-Break’s staff look back at the series — the good, the bad, the hilarious.

Justin Matchick: There is little doubt that Michael Scott leaving toward the end of The Office’s seventh season had a profoundly negative effect on the show. Although the writers have always tried to push Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) as the series’ main character, it was clear from the moment Michael left that the show had truly lost its centerpiece. It’s obvious the writers were still wishing they had the comedy chops of Steve Carell to fall back on, with characters like Andy (Ed Helms) and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) getting saddled with storylines that were clearly originally written for Michael that fell flat due to simply poor execution. Even an ever expanding list of new cast members including James Spader, Clark Duke, and Catherine Tate could not fill the gaping void left by Carell and came off as desperate attempts to lure in viewers with lackluster stunt casting.

The show, once a cornerstone of NBC’s comedy block and a leader in the rebellion against the stale, multi-camera, cliché ridden sitcoms of old, saw its ratings plummet as viewers came to realize that the show would never return to its former glory. Despite the misgivings I have about the final few seasons of The Office, I’ll still be tuning in to the finale this Thursday. Like saying goodbye to an old friend even though you haven’t seen them in years, it should be nice to look back and remember all the fantastic seasons of comedy The Office was able to deliver with what is hopefully a successful and nostalgia filled finale.

Jonathan Elliott: The Office changed how Americans absorbed comedy; it cemented a trend—along with its mock-doc sibling, Arrested Development, and the uneven although occasionally brilliant Scrubs — that divided the American sitcom-viewing public into two crowds —the single-camera, non-laughtrack highbrow folks, and the four-camera, traditional lowbrow gang. Maybe I’m being a little unfair there, but it did draw a partition between types, with an added assumption of quality as NBC wholeheartedly adopted the single-camera half-hour format. It crested a wave that changed how and what we accept in 22 minutes of television.

Perhaps most amazing is that the first six episodes hold next to no glimmer of the luster the show would later adopt; The Office only learned to soar when it hit the start of season two, and accepted that aping its British forerunner wouldn’t cut it. And most of the really juicy comedy and best heart-in-throat moments of The Office occur in seasons 2 and 3, from grilled feet to the Dundies to the quitting and return of Dwight to the monstrous eroticism of Jan to the courtship of Jim and Pam and “It’s a Date” — all of my favorite moments in the series really live (or at least start) there.

I’ve been lucky enough to have two workplaces in my adult life where my co-workers became something akin to family; once, I’ve been lucky (or let’s say foolish) enough to fall in love with someone who sat at the desk next to mine. We all have stories that mirror those experiences, and that’s why The Office took hold with so many of us, at it played hopscotch over the line between human moments of comedy and drama. It gave us a goofball manager in Michael Scott who could just as easily be an incredible antagonist as someone we deeply wanted to root for, depending on his mood and the moment. And while he started as pale shadow of Ricky Gervais’ David Brent, he grew and shifted and filled out over seven seasons into—and Brent Johnson will probably disagree with me — a superior character.

A friend of mine is fond of saying “If you don’t know a Michael Scott in your office, you are the Michael Scott in your office.” He probably stole that line, but I love it. And there are far worse and less noble things to be than Michael Scott.

Luke Kalamar: Despite how many people, both critics and my friends alike, said how amazing the show was, I actually didn’t start watching The Office regularly until about Season 7. I had seen an episode here and there but I never actually made watching it a priority until my junior year of college. It was during that time that I actually sat down, got a hold of the first six seasons, and just watched them all nonstop. Needless to say, I fell in love with the show and have remained a committed fan since, despite the fact that I missed all the hype during the shows brightest moments.

What really hooked me with the show was its “mockumentary” style. The one on one interviews, the cameras trying to capture private moments, and the fact that it was a show within a show all lead to The Office being a completely unique form of sitcom. It was nothing that I had ever seen before and watching it became a whole new experience. The wide cast also helped because it brought in so many different options for both humor and story exploration. Each character got fleshed out perfectly and had their own moments to shine. Even though the show did lose some quality following Carell’s departure (those shoes are impossible to fill), the humor was still there and I’ve been laughing every week.

I tried thinking about my favorite singular moment from the show during its long 9 year run, but that’s a lot harder than it sounds. Michael Scott’s (Steve Carell) accidental racism on a regular basis, Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) constantly pulling pranks on Dwight Shrute (Rainn Wilson), and the ever present romance between Jim and Pam Beasley (Jenna Fischer) are just three classic instances that I will remember forever. These, amongst MANY others, contributed to the outstanding success of The Office and why the show lasted a lot longer than its British counterpart.

I will say though that there were moments where The Office truly frustrated me. I mean, the show wasn’t perfect. The show really did stumble after Steve Carell left for good, and the Season 7 finale “Search Committee” where several different famous actors/actresses were interviewed to fill the open managerial role failed to meet its high expectations. How can you boast that Will Arnett, Ricky Gervais, Jim Carrey, and Ray Romano will all be on the show but give them extremely minimal roles? Hell, Carrey’s character didn’t even get a name! He was just “Finger Lakes Guy.” Even though Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) as the manager grew on me, I still stand by my claim that any of the four aforementioned gentlemen would’ve been a better choice. If the show didn’t entertain me like it still does, I probably would’ve left like many others did.

That being said, I will still miss The Office, Dunder Mifflin, and its colorful staff. The show’s departure will leave a massive hole in sitcom television that will probably never be filled, but I’m sure NBC will still try. I’m glad the show was on as long as it was and I know I will only look back on it with fondness.

Jason Stives: Unlike 30 Rock’s conclusion back in January (which really meant nothing to me) the finale of The Office comes for me at a time when it’s all a bit bitter sweet to watch the show. The show has seen a slow decline over time punctuated by Steve Carell’s exit two years ago and as it comes to an end after nine seasons it only shows shades of what it once was. I’m not one of those people who believes the show declined after Michael Scott zoomed off to Colorado, on the contrary, I feel like anyone who has half a mind to what made the show great could identify cracks in the formula as early as the fifth season. Yes, Michael Scott was the face of the show because Carell was the big name star of the show but the show was always invested the most in the story of Jim and Pam. When those two finally married in Season 6 and soon became just another face on the show that’s when things started to sink in that this show had seen better days.

The Office’s biggest issues over the last four or five seasons has really come down to painting lovable characters with defining traits into corners that felt either unnatural or expected. The show has always been an ensemble show but you can’t give everyone something to do which is what they have been trying to do the last few years even adding additional characters that proved unpopular. Even Andy, with Ed Helms clearly being the next big profile actor behind Carell at this point became a sticking point for me in how the writers took him from stuck up jerk to lovable goof to almost a stand in for Michael and then finally as some mean spirited, power hungry abomination. I give credit to the show’s writers for keeping it trudging along these last few years but as we head into one final moment with the Dunder Mifflin crew part of me says it’s long overdue. Sure, it’s had its moments the last couple years and I look forward to the finale just as I would as a fresh fan but the time has come to close the books on this long running show.

Trying to decide a single favorite moment from nine seasons of the Office is impossible for me. Rest assured whatever it is it didn’t come from the last few years but even then there are just too many to name. What I can give is my favorite EPISODE of The Office and it’s one that when I mention it people ponder over with curiosity and then understand after some gestation. Season four was the abbreviated season of the show due to the 2007 Writer’s strike but it still produced some great moments even though some critics and fans started slowly writing the show off at this point. “Dinner Party” is one of the weird bed fellows in the show because it’s incredibly uncomfortable to watch but that makes it the most in line with not just the first two seasons of the show but also the original UK incarnation of the show. It also has some of my favorite moments and lines in the show and it all comes down to the acting of Steve Carell and Melora Hardin as Michael and Jan who at this point were on the last leg of their “relationship.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve busted out the “oaky afterbirth line” when describing a drink or gone into a rendition of Jan’s former assistant Tyler’s crappy music. It’s a tough episode to watch at times but it wouldn’t be The Office if it didn’t make you uncomfortable.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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