Friday, May 17, 2013

The End of The Office

Last night was the very last episode of The Office ever.

Not a whole lot of people have watched these last few seasons of The Office. I mean, it was still one of the top comedies on the air, but given the sad state of today's sitcom market that isn't saying much. It certainly wasn't pulling either the viewers or the cultural cache it did for its first six years when Steve Carell was on.

And this is a bit of a shame. While Carell was on The Office produced this sort of balance between legitimate humor and cringe-worthy moments, all from the marvelous Michael Scott. If nothing else, it made the sitcom different. When Carell left, a lot of viewers left too, but they probably should not have. While all of the cringiness was gone, they had built up a scaffolding of characters and plots that the remainder of the cast--carried by Riann Wilson and John Krasinski--was still able to maintain the funniness of the original. And while some of the characters became caricatures of themselves (Kevin, especially, became almost unbearably stupid) by and large they were effective because they were real. Anyone who has lived in an office environment has worked with a grumpy Stanley or an overenthusiastic Erin or an uptight Angela or a creepy Creed. It is normally (and rightfully) cliche to say that viewers relate to the characters and feel like their friends/family, but The Office excelled in making the character fairly efficient representations of exactly the sort of people viewers work with every day.

It should also be noted that The Office almost singularly killed the multi-camera sitcom. The number of laughtrack-less single-camera sitcoms prior to The Office in the previous decade in the US could be counted on one hand; afterwards, it's difficult to find a new sitcom that doesn't. If nothing else, this is probably a net benefit to television culture.

Of course, The Office wasn't without its bumps. Season 8, with Robert California, was pretty awful; the writing and plotlines were boring and the scripts unfunny. They misused both Catherine Tate and James Spader, both great talents that were squandered in poorly-written shows. Thankfully, Spader left and Tate actually ended up being a decent and interesting character, although at that point there wasn't enough time to really develop her character into anything useful. The addition of Pete and Clark seemed kind of pointless in a show that already had fourteen characters (although Clark, at least,did end up producing some of the funnier moments of the last season, and Pete was somewhat necessary to drive Andy and Erin's plotline). Even before the late-series issues, occasional story arcs seemed out of place--the constant selling and re-selling of the company (and Michael's ill-fated breakoff venture) just seemed to be a way to generate a plot when the writers couldn't think of anything new.

As far as the episode itself was concerned, it was nearly everything it could have been. It managed two big events quite skillfully (Dwight and Angela's wedding and the panel for the in-show documentary) which also served as a convenient (and plausible) way for everyone to come together, past and present. Everyone's story was more or less wrapped up (I would have like to seen Jan and Holly, and Toby didn't really get a proper resolution, but those are small details). It gave opportunities to show how everyone had grown as characters (even poor Stanley and--surprisingly--a lot of screen time was given to Creed). Nothing seemed out of place (which, to be fair, is difficult given that the Schrutes were involved). In the end, it was surpising it would take so long to get such a satisfying ending.

That's what she said.

No comments:

Post a Comment