Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Review

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Review of NBC Sitcom The Office from Three Years Ago

A banner promoting Dunder-Mifflin, the fiction...
A banner promoting Dunder-Mifflin, the fictional paper company on NBC's "The Office" hangs outside city hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


12 February 2010
Arts Reviewing & Reporting

Apathetic is the best way to describe my feelings towards The Office. POTENTIALLY GOOD FOCUS STATEMENT. LET’S SEE HOW WELL IT WORKS.

I stopped watching The Office when everyone else did HYPERBOLE OR EXAGGERATION. WE UNDERSTAND IT IS NOT LITERALLY TRUE. IT IMPLIES SOMETHING LIKE: “EVERYONE WHO IS AS SMART AS ME…” —3 seasons ago—after Pam and Jim finally got together.  GIVES A REASON, A DETAIL FROM SHOW, FOR DROPPING OUT.

Well, that statement is not exactly true. HERE’S THE CORRECTION. SETS TONE FOR STORY: SOMETIMES I EXAGGERATE AS A FORM OF ARGUMENT. It seems the show is still going relatively strong with an average of 8.1 million viewers during its 6th season. While many viewers may still be addicted to the mockumentary-style and awkard interactions among employees, that does not mean anything BACK TO EXAGGERATION interesting is still happening in the plot of the show.

WE WILL NOW HAVE LOTS OF PLOT SPECIFICS. SUCH SUMMARY ISN’T THE PLOT KILLER IT MIGHT BE IN A MOVIE REVIEW. TV VIEWERS MAY NOT WANT THE DETAILS OF INDIVIDUAL EPISODES REVEALED AS THE SHOW MOVES FORWARD, BUT TALKING ABOUT PAST EPISODES ISN’T A SPOILER – UNLESS YOU ARE CONSIDERING JUMPING INTO THE SHOW. BUT IF THAT’S THE CASE, YOU ARE FOREWARNED BEFORE STARTING THIS STORY. The love triangle, (or in the case of The Office, it was really more of a rectangle) also the most dynamic and entertaining storyline of the show, VALUE JUDGMENT, AND THAT’S FINE. KNOWLEDGE OF SHOW=EXPERTISE between Jim, Karen, Pam and Roy, was relatively short-lived, only making it through the third season. Between Pam’s thick-headed fiancĂ© and the sexy Karen, TWO GOOD SUMMARY ADJECTIVES there were only so many obstacles that writers could put between Pam and Jim. YES. GOOD INSIGHT ABOUT SITCOM CONVENTIONS. A PROBLEM IN ALL TV SHOWS CENTERED ON A BURGEONING ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP. TO THE DEGREE THAT A SHOW IS ROOTED IN ‘REAL LIFE,’ IT CAN’T POSTPONE RESOLUTION INDEFINITELY. AND ONCE IT’S RESOLVED? WHAT NEXT? Now that they are together, and with a baby on the way, there is pretty much no way one could write anymore drama between the two because they are far too in love with each other do to anything stupid. Hence, boredom ensues. I WOULD HAVE ADDED: OF COURSE, JIM IS ACTUALLY THE CENTER OF TWO RELATIONSHIPS, ONE WITH PAM AND THE OTHER WITH DWIGHT AND THAT ONE, BASED ON WORKPLACE CONFLICT, CAN GO ON FOREVER BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS SOMETIMES IN WORKPLACES. THE JIM-DWIGHT TENSION GOES ON AND ON (8.17.14 HOW WRONG THE WRITER WAS, AND HOW WRONG THIS REVIEWER WAS. JIM'S JOB IN SPORT'S PROMOTION AND PAM'S FLIRTATION - TALK ABOUT META - WITH THE GUY WHO HAD SUPPOSEDLY HELD THE CAMERA FOR THE FAUX DOCUMENTARY INSIDE THE ACTUAL SITCOM - CREATED TENSION)

There is nothing left in the show that is worth investing in. There is no relationship to hope for—no relationship that we hope fails—nothing.  BUT WHAT ABOUT …? WE THINK. SHE KNOWS WHAT WE ARE THINKING! NOW SHE LISTS THE OTHER RELATIONSHIPS ON THE SHOW THAT LEAVE HER COLD The most interesting storylines were between Jim and Pam and, to a lesser extent, Michael and Jan. Jim and Pam, for most obvious reasons, were an interesting duo because of their slightly-less-than-forbidden love and their so-cute-you-just-want-to-put-them-in-your-pocket appeal. CLEVER SHORTHAND. SHE SAYS: THIS IS HOW I FELT. Michael and Jan, on the other hand, were of interest because it was so fascinating to watch Michael actually interact with another human being and have that human being not want to punch him in the face. CLEVER Yet, that relationship also ended back half way through season 4. There was the hilariously creepy love triangle between Dwight, Angela and Andy. Yet, that was short-lived and sometimes hard to watch. WHY?

So what are we left with now? The show has simply run out of angles. BACK TO A BASIC PROBLEM IN LONG-RUNNING SITCOMS
Attempting to revive the secretary-employee affair we saw with Pam and Jim, the writers brought in Erin at the end of the 5th season. Unfortunately, she is simply a less attractive, less captivating version of Pam. And her new love interest, Andy, is a seriously less attractive (both in appearance and personality) and less relatable version of Jim. YEAH. IF THE OBJECT OF A SITCOM IS TO HAVE SOME CHARACTERS WHO ARE MORE ‘REAL’ AND WITH WHOM WE CAN IDENTIFY, ERIN AND ANDY ARE LESS SO. Watching their interactions in no way encourages the viewer to become invested in their relationship. SHE HAS GIVEN SOME DETAIL AND SHE EXPLAINS HER REACTION. I SEE HER POINT.
Michael Scott behavingly awkwardly is not enough. OH YEAH, I THINK: THIS IS THE SHOW’S PIVOT. The show has just lost its shine. It is not painfully funny IN TWO WORDS SHE SUMS UP MICHAEL SCOTT. IF YOU DISCUSS SOME THINGS IN DETAIL, YOU DON’T HAVE TO DISCUSS EVERYTHING IN DETAIL anymore. It is just kind of painful, but not enough to keep the viewer entertained for long. Recent episodes generally have one laugh-out-loud moment, I’D HAVE LOVED A ‘FOR EXAMPLE’ BETWEEN DASHES and the rest of the time is filled with slight awkwardness that is shortly followed by boredom. What made the show so successful, aside from the comedic appeal of a mockumentary-style shooting, was the balance between making the viewer feel so uncomfortable they may have to leave the room and the reward of watching the endearing, semi-depressing lives and relationships between the employees progress. THE PRECEDING STRIKES ME AS A REASONABLE SUMMARY OF THE SHOW’S INITIAL APPEAL, THOSE ‘CRINGE’ MOMENTS THAT SHOW MICHAEL SCOTT’S INABILITY TO UNDERSTAND COMMON SOCIAL NORMS, HIS ROLE AS THE OUTSIDER WHO DESPERATELY WANTS TO FIT IN. OF COURSE, LACKING THE COURAGE OF THE ORIGINAL BRITISH SITCOM – AND UNDERSTANDING THE ECONOMIC REALTIES OF AMERICAN TV – OFFICE/USA GRADUALLY SOFTENED THE ATTITUDES OF SCOTT’S UNDERLINGS TOWARD HIM AND GAVE HIM MORE MOMENTS OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE. I THINK. IF I’M WRITING MY OWN REVIEW, I NEED TO COME UP WITH SOME DETAILS. Unfortunately, all the captivating relationships between the employees have either ended, or ended in marriage. Where’s the drama there? SHOULD THERE BE DRAMA? NICE PLACE TO COMMENT ON FACT THIS SHOW IS ONE OF THOSE SITCOMS IN WHICH WE ARE SUPPOSED TO CARE ABOUT SOME OF THE CHARACTERS, THAT IT IS A KIND OF DRAMEDY, THOUGH MOSTLY COMIC. CREATORS MAKE A DECISION TO HAVE US CARE ABOUT CHARACTERS AND THEN CREATORS RESOLVE THE MOST IMPORTANT OF THEIR PROBLEMS, WHERE DO YOU GO NEXT?


A large contributing factor to show’s dark comedic story IT IS A SHOW THAT GOT PROGRESSIVELY LESS DARK line is the imminent downfall OF the company due to the fact that they sell paper goods in a world that is attempting to go online and, well, paper-less. It has been hinted at since the beginning of the series that Dunder Mifflin was in some kind of trouble. Yet, when a series starts out on the basis of an impending doom, writers can only make so many excuses and surprise turns before the company must receive its death certificate.

The writers of The Office must be on about their fourth write-around in maintaining the Scranton Branch. SOLID ANALYSIS In the most recent episode, “Sabre,” Dunder Mifflin is officially bought out by Sabre (pronounced Say-bur). However the Scranton Branch is allowed to survive because they (somehow) were the only ones making any money. Though this is very hard to believe due to Michael Scott’s incredibly entertaining capacity to not do his job, perhaps this was supposed to be an ironic turn of events to coincide with the several other twists and turns in the show’s past that have been counterintuitive. PRECEDING ANALYSIS SEEMS SOUND. HOW HAS IT LASTED THIS LONG? YOU CAN’T ANSWER EVERY QUESTION IN A SINGLE REVIEW  Or, it could be the network’s attempt to keep the show running in anyway it can in order to preserve its trademarked “Thursday Nights of Comedy”? DUH

While this episode had a few laugh-out-loud moments, including the altered  version of Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA” to welcome the new Sabre to the Scranton Branch, and the interaction Pam and Jim had with the competitive preschool teacher, the episode seemed to kind of drag on. It begs the question: how can the Scranton Branch still running? Which then leads to the thought of—why do I care? AND BACK TO THE LEAD

Regardless of NBC’s motivation to keep the show running, it has already surpassed its 100 episode mark and is currently syndicated on three different networks. Thus, it may be time for NBC to let this baby go because they have clearly run out of ways to keep us invested in any sort of plot in the show. We know the company’s going under. We know what happened between Pam and Jim. We know Dwight is always going to be creepy. We know Michael is ultimately helpless. What we don’t know is when NBC will realize all of these things. AS IT TURNED OUT IN THE YEARS SINCE, THIS FINAL ANALYSIS IS RIGHT AND SOME WAYS AND NOT IN OTHERS. BUT HER STORY IS FILLED WITH SPECIFICS AND WITH  SOUND GENERALIZATIONS ABOUT TV SITCOM CONVENTIONS. IT HAS A CLEAR THROUGH-LINE. IT IS BRIGHTLY WRITTEN. I LIKE IT

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