Friday, January 24, 2014

The End of "The Office"

The Office is finally ending, and I’m still watching it with all the enthusiasm of someone who just wants to get to the end of the massive book they’ve been reading, even though most of the interest ended around chapter 153. Back in 2009, I wrote an article when Steve Carrell was getting ready to leave the TV show that made him a star. I’ve re-posted the article below, along with some updated reactions and opinions to what I wrote: 

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Steve Carrell will soon be leaving The Office. Is it a good idea for NBC to keep the show going? Here are some arguments for and against the idea:

Pro: Michael Scott was running out of steam. After multiple seasons of being the incompetent boss with no signs of growth or realization from upper management that he needs to be fired, it’s probably for the best that Michael is moving on. This setup can only go on for so long before straining even sitcom credibility. However…

Con: Michael Scott IS The Office. The incompetent boss from hell was the centerpiece of the original UK series and all of its international variations. What’s going to happen when that goes away and the focus is placed on either another incompetent boss or the rest of the office?

[Since Carrell left, the show basically became just another below-average workplace sitcom. The various guests stars trotted out to replace Carrell on a temporary and semi-permanent basis (Will Farrell, James Spader) universally didn’t work, mainly because of weak plot writing. The current boss, Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) has been at best an ineffective compromise, which is not a knock on Helms, a genuinely funny guy who made the most with what he was given. Unfocused from the beginning, the shows producers couldn't settle on whether he should be a scheming rageaholic, then a meek, incompetent beta-male, or a cynical jackass. During one stretch when Andy went on an extended leave of absence, no one missed him, character or audience.]

Pro: More opportunities for other cast members. The show has always had a large cast with talented, likable actors. I wouldn’t mind seeing characters like Daryll the Warehouse Guy and Kelly the Customer Service Rep...

Con: Some characters are only good in small doses.... but I WOULD mind seeing more of characters like Creed, Phyllis, and Stanley, who right now get just about the right amount of screen time. In filling the void left by Scott’s departure, minor characters could quickly wear out their welcome. Also...

Con: A lack of good story lines for the rest of the cast. Other than the Jim/Pam romance (one of the show’s weaker long-running plot lines), there hasn’t really been a lot for other characters to do other than react to Scott’s shenanigans. The question is, can the writers come up with enough interesting stories for the remaining cast?

[The answer: no. I surprised myself with how much I’ve come to dislike Jim and Pam, both individually and as a couple. I hope they get divorced before it’s over, if only to add a genuinely interesting development and end what’s become the most tired romance on TV. The new cast additions have been OK, but now instead of 12 people with nothing to do, there are now 15.]

Pro: A good show on NBC gets to continue. It’s not like NBC has a deep bench of quality comedies on its schedule. Might as well squeeze as much juice out of a proven commodity as you can. On the other hand…

Con: The show could quickly become unwatchable. There have been series that have survived and even thrived after a major character leaves, but it’s still a crap shoot. Taking this particular character, who is central to so many aspects of the show, out of the mix could prove disastrous. Also…

Con: The network could be devoting its resources elsewhere, maybe by allowing its now-veteran stable of actors and writers develop other projects instead of maintaining a project that, statistically, doesn’t stand much chance of continuing for more than another few seasons anyway. Also, it must be said…

Con: The original purpose of "The Office" ended a long time ago. What started in the UK as a withering black comedy about the soul-sucking nature of corporate employment in the 21st century has changed over the years in the US into pretty much any other workplace-as-family sitcom, complete with quirky co-stars and warm, huggable moments.

[Since Carrell left, the show did get worse in just about every way, and NBC has not developed a single breakout hit to match with brilliant but ratings-challenged Community and Parks & Recreation (although the Matthew Perry vehicle 'Go On' shows promise). The Riann Wilson spinoff series The Farm never got off the ground, which is a good thing if the episode featuring the plot is an indication of where it was going. None of the supporting cast seem to be poised to appear in other shows, and only a few [Wilson, Angela Kinsey] seem positioned to do anything else right away on US television.]

On balance, it would probably be better for NBC to close this office down. [Which is exactly what’s happening. Networks don’t seem interested in putting money into scripted comedies anyway (unless they're simplistic pap like 2 Broke Girls) not when “reality” and “news” shows can be made for less money. Considering how hard it is for sitcoms to catch on on ANY network (e.g. ABC's incompetent handling of 'Happy Endings' and 'Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23'), we may be seeing the end of "high concept" single-camera comedy shows on network TV. ]

1 comment:

  1. The Office Season 1-6
    This is a mockumentary that documents the exploits of a paper supply company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Made up of head chief Michael Scott, a harmlessly deluded and ignorantly insensitive boss who cares about the welfare of his employees while trying to put his own spin on company policy. With an office including the likes of various peers who have their own hangups, The Office (2005) takes a look at the lives of its co-workers: bored but talented salesman Jim, his mildly sociopathic, butt kissing enemy Dwight, mildly righteous receptionist Pam, and indifferent temp Ryan...

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