5:16 PM CDT, May 21, 2013
I’ll warn you in advance that this column will reveal what a total pussy I am, but here goes anyway.
So I’ve been continuing to watch the American version of “The Office” for the last few years even as it first grew lame, then terrible, then borderline unwatchable. It introduced genuinely unfunny characters, stopped and started plot threads that led nowhere, and generally felt like a meandering waste of time.
I couldn’t figure out why I was still bothering to watch this show that had become so totally uninteresting to me that each new episode felt like homework. It was some kind of TV inertia I have in which once I’ve invested any time and thought into characters I must see how those characters develop as if they’re my own friends—even if they’ve become a boring and pale version of their more interesting British selves (pun intended).
I was reminded of just how far the American version had strayed from Ricky Gervais’s original creation when my roommate Pat began watching it for the first time on Netflix. Even though the American version is a carbon copy in theory, the British version was so much darker, meaner, and bleaker that it’s practically night and day compared with the emo American version.
Anyway, all this is to say that if you at any point enjoyed the American “Office” I highly recommend you check out the series finale.
It hit so many totally perfect notes that it almost made up for slogging through the last three seasons of the show. It was funny, poignant, and even insightful about the ways in which this funny little life flows. Of course most of this comes out through the viewer’s central avatars in the show, Jim and Pam, a relationship that ceased being interesting by about season 4, but which comes back to life in this final episode in extremely thoughtful ways. The central conceit is that the castmates have all become minor celebrities after their documentary aired and are reunited a year later to talk about what’s happened since.
Unlike a lot of the shows using the faux-documentary format (“Parks and Rec”, “Modern Family”— it feels like that ploy became ubiquitous for a brief moment), here we see the results of a camera crew following these people around for nine years. There is even a rather smart underlying dialogue about what it means to be famous in America, and how people of all stripes can project their own hopes and desires upon those objects of fame.
I’ll say this: I watched the episode with my friends Joe and Laurie while their little baby slapped me in the face and played with my beard stubble (Riley either bawls her eyes out every time she sees me walk through door or slaps me around; much like my relationship with most women).
All three of us kind of sat staring at the screen, not looking at each other as wave after wave of laughter and lump-in-throats hit us. Like Joe said, “I wish you two weren’t here so I could cry.”
Which is why I watched it later on my own. Even if you’ve skipped the last three to five years of the show, give the series finale one last chance.
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