The Office TV series is over after nine seasons between 2005 and this year. Long live The Office.
Like many TV viewers I was reluctant to become a regular viewer of the show in its debut six-episode season, in part as with others because the two seasons of the original UK version of The Office starring Ricky Gervais was such a treasure. Another initially off-putting aspect was that two of its major characters, wacky office manager Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) and eccentric and ambitious salesman Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson), were so obnoxious.
But after it pulled me in by season two I was hooked. And in time the characters became almost a part of my life, and both Scott and Schrute won me over. Its innovative single-camera technique and structure as a documentary film about a paper company (which originated in England) plus the lack of a laugh track set it apart from the usual network sitcom fare. It was an ensemble cast rather than driven my main characters and stars. It also was a show that went beyond the usual TV comedic situations into absurd plots turns and circumstances.
Yet its greatest charm was the humanity of the characters, and how even in their oddest and wildest moments, each of them felt like real people you might now. I even have a former friend who looks and behaves like Dwight Schrute at his most irritating yet without the redeeming qualities, which is why I chose to excise him from my life.
In addition to its uncommon and innovative structure and techniques, the series was brave enough to tackle such hot button issues as race and gayness plus relationships between the genders. It also tackled everyday matters in the American office environment, corporate culture and buyouts, and even how modern technology was making the product the company sold, paper, into a bit of an anachronism.
And it was able to take its observations and unspoken commentaries on modern society and life out to the edges and succeed thanks to the defusing power of its humor. Even with its wackiness, it was still akin to life as we know it and featured characters in which we all can see something of ourselves and others. And as a result laugh at our own foibles and ameliorate the irritating aspects of certain people we may know by always coming around to the humanity, imperfection and vulnerability of everyone. That’s no small feat as well as a positive contribution to society.
At the core throughout was the relationship between salesman Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) and, to start, receptionist Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer). They started as best pals, grew awkwardly into becoming lovers and finally husband and wife as well as parents. They were both the beating heart of the series as well as the most seemingly normal characters in the cast. And the two served as mirrors to the relationships we have with significant others, shedding light on the ups, downs and issues, and ultimately making a case for enduring partnerships and the importance of doing what it takes to make that work.
At the same time, over the length of the nine seasons, the show was able to delve more deeply into all of the ongoing characters as the series progressed. And it managed to integrate new persons into the ensemble while others left with a smooth continuity.
As with any show that becomes a long-running hit, wrapping it up in a final episode is a huge challenge. Without being a spoiler, I can say that its one-hour finale did that splendidly.
Early on in that final episode, I felt a twinge of sadness that these characters that came to feel like people would no longer be a part of my life. That’s because in the final analysis The Office was about family, in a way – the families we gain and build outside our own nuclear family. Just as I came to like and cherish the characters I didn’t initially like, we all find ourselves growing to like, understand and appreciate plus even find a love for others who may alienate us at first. That (among many other merits) is what made The Office so significant and a lasting TV masterpiece that symbolized the times we live in yet endure for all time.
Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From The Progressive Populist, July 1-15, 2013
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