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Goodbye, “The Office”

Joel Kolb | Friday, April 26, 2013

Finish what you started.
It is because of this precept that any of the roughly 3.5 million viewers of the ninth season of “The Office” are still watching “The Office.” At points, the past two seasons “The Office” have been more zombie-like than “The Walking Dead” and less exciting than a Brittney Griner dunk. Most of the same cast remains, but the magic is gone. “Where did the bough break?” one might ask. It broke the second regional manager Michael Scott headed to the Mile High state.  
As a relative pointed out to me, “The Office” was the tragedy of Michael Scott.  As the seasons passed by, we learned all Michael yearned for was companionship, with countless episodes reaching a climax when Michael’s shortcomings in this regard were exposed. This yearning was invariably unfulfilled, episode after episode. A particular episode comes to mind, when employees of Dunder Mifflin brought their daughters to work.  Michael has Ryan bring in an old film when he was a child on a local television show. Young Michael reveals he wants to “be married and have a hundred kids so I can have a hundred friends and no one can say no to being my friend.” Words that come to mind are: sad, awkward, but very funny.
A couple seasons later, Jim and Pam get married and Michael states it is one of the happiest moments of his life. An argument could be made that the Jim and Pam plotline played an equal role in the shows development – while I would not deny that, even their wedding pointed to Michael’s desire for companionship. The tragedy was in the fact no matter who it was with – be it Carol, Jan, or Pam’s mom – true companionship for Michael was as elusive as a Cub’s World Series. Season after season the tragedy continued. Michael eventually found love in Holly, only to have her torn away, then to have her come back a following season.  
When Michael left “The Office” he unknowingly took the show’s identity with him. Without the main catalyst, the writers began searching for new storylines but failed to produce something genuine. Andy was morphed into a self-centered, sometimes revenge-seeking boss, a surprising and unwelcomed change to the humorously ignorant, positive Andy which returned after his successful “graduation” from anger management. Also Toby, apparently not having anyone to cut him down frequently, has grown into a decidedly creepier character. However, none of these transgressions compare to the two biggest casualties of the post-Michael era: Jim and Pam’s relationship and the introduction of plot-engaged cameramen. It is hard for me to believe Jim and Pam after years of flirting followed by marriage are already at the point of marriage counseling after Jim began splitting time between Scranton and Philadelphia. In previous seasons we saw them endure a long distance relationship while Pam was at art school. Jim had in early seasons hinted at wanting to escape the confines of the office setting, yet it was also in these seasons when he was trying to get over the prospect of Pam being married to Roy. It seems his character wanted Pam more than an escape to elsewhere, and now that things were going well with Pam the writers felt the need to add a tension which should not reasonably be there. The continuing drama and possibility of divorce seems like a slap in the face to those of us who watched Jim and Pam throughout all of the years. Finally, the cheapest move made in this year’s season came when a boom-microphone operator intervened in the episode. Since season two, viewers have been conditioned to view the documentary part of the show of negligible consequence. It is obvious NBC is trying to milk all of the ratings out of this as they can, but in doing so they have begun to tarnish and obscure what made the show worth watching in the first place.
What made the show worth watching in the first place was the laughter.  Michael’s departure also correlated to a departure of laughter, the obvious foundation for success of any comedy.  
After all this has been said though, here I am, still watching. Ironically, the show itself best defines why there are roughly 3.5 million weekly viewers. Watching the past two seasons of “The Office” as Pam once said, “it’s like squishing a spider under a book. It’s gonna be really gross, but I have to look and make sure that it’s really dead.”  Maybe I’m watching just to see how bad or ‘gross’ the show is at its finish. More likely though, it is because of nostalgia, which “is truly one of the greatest human weaknesses … second only to the neck,” as said by Dwight K. Schrute.  
In closing, here’s hoping to a finale that doesn’t leave a stain on a truly great series. Consider this a reflection on the end of an era. Goodbye, “The Office.”

Joel Kolb lives in St. Edward’s Hall and is a sophomore studying mechanical engineering. He can be reached at jkolb1@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.