Breaking Up with The Office

Dear The Office,

We’re now in our eighth year together, but I’m afraid I have to end our relationship. Sure, as tv comedies age, that romantic spark can begin to fade, but you promised me you weren’t like those other shows. You created an opportunity to shake up the status quo with Steve Carell’s exit, but you squandered it. Tell me, just how many of Andy Bernard’s many foibles as regional manager have been nothing more than recycled Michael Scott scenarios? A Michael Scott-lite simply doesn’t cut it. Nothing new is brought to the table. Andy is harmless and that’s the problem. There’s not enough comedy to mine from a lead character who is overly agreeable.

Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) and Robert California (James Spader)

What about James Spader’s Robert California? The Robert who was introduced in the season seven finale, was a compellingly off-kilter and seemingly unhinged candidate, capable of creating a brand new atmosphere in the office. But was this the Robert who entered into this season? No. This Robert is a decent, if not blunt and stand-offish, man. The vibe he creates in the office and around the office workers may be a decidedly more chilly one, but it is not enough to re-invigorate the series.

Even in the shift from a lead-centric series something more ensemble-driven, your characters have lost their specificity. Your stories this season lack a narrative drive and without a solid comic base, your players have become untethered, floating aimlessly around the workplace. What has become of Angela and Pam’s pregnancy competition? Of Gabe’s pursuit of the new warehouse worker? Few stories of substance have come out of this season thus far. The awkward cringe factor that was so enjoyable and so prevalent in your early seasons has now become a neutered dead-eyed stare.

I understand that the NBC executives cannot simply let you go. It’s hard being a fourth place network. I get it. You don’t have many options. But you can count me in the camp that would have been satisfied with the series ending with Michael Scott’s departure. His proposal to Holly proved to me that you still had life in you, an emotional life grounded in your characters. But where is that life now? There was so much promise in your post-Carell era, but you’ve hit a lull and are operating in a character and narrative stasis. It’s more of the same and it’s time I move on.

While you have given me moments to cherish for a lifetime (Yankee swap, the George Foreman Grill injury, fashion shows at lunch, Cafe disco), you are simply not dynamic and fresh enough to continue to hold my interest any longer. But you can rest assured that even though I will satisfy my comedy needs elsewhere in NBC’s Thursday night line-up (no, not you Whitney), I shall treasure my Dwight bobblehead forever.

Sincerely,

A Longtime Viewer

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3 responses

  1. Interesting, I’ve actually been enjoying this season of The Office a lot more than most of last season and even some of season 6. I feel that in the span of only a few episodes, the show has humanized Andy more than in almost the rest of his run in the series so far (of note, his maturity in dealing with Darryl and the sadness of watching him deal with his parents, as well as the support he receives from his coworkers). The show doesn’t have the subtle authenticity of the first few seasons (it’s hard to cheer for Jim and Pam anymore, and the show has tried but won’t be able to recreate it with any of its current cast), but after watching it go broader in seasons 5 thru 7, bringing it back to Andy in season 8 has been a refreshing change of pace for me.

    And of course, let’s not forget Erin who has easily become my favorite part of the show. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment, Jason! I’m glad to hear that someone’s been enjoying this season! 😉

      I agree that The Office has taken steps to flesh out Andy’s character, but to me, it’s been a bit too heavy-handed. Like now that Andy has been suddenly thrust into the spotlight, the writers felt obliged to give him a semblance of depth. The garden party, for example, while focusing on Andy’s relationship with his parents, didn’t really shed any new light on his character. We already knew he was eager to please, thus making the episode a bit dry. The disparate storylines of the supporting players didn’t help either. But I am with you on his maturity with Darryl; that is one of the few instances this season that I’ve felt that the show has handled Andy’s character well, with a subtle and effective hand.

      Even though I stopped watching The Office after “Doomsday,” I wish the series all the best, especially Erin’s character!

  2. Pingback: What I’m Watching/Ditching in the Fall 2012 TV Season | everybody and television

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