‘The Office’ (US) is about a bunch of homogeneous, dysfunctional and mildly lovable characters working at Dunder-Mifllin, a paper company, which also evolves over the nine seasons of the show, and their day-to-day lives. It is shot like a documentary (another Modern Family) in Scranton (insert: the Michael and Dwight rap on the “Electric City!”) with New York and Niagara thrown in for good measure and for the right reasons. I have to say this – you might not like it initially. In fact, it is like breaking into a pair of new shoes or going through the awkward first season of Friends where you are trying very hard to find a semblance of humour in all that bad acting and it might even slightly get to your nerves – Steve Carell does that consistently across seven seasons to the main protagonists so why should you be absolved but then you get comfortable and accustomed to the inanity and learn that this show is probably the best thing to have ever been made in the history of television. Unfortunately, it isn’t the stuff of legends – it is no Friends or That 70’s Show or Everybody Loves Raymond but it is the stuff that will stick with you for a long time and make you want to revisit a few scenes on YouTube.
Steve Carell (Michael Scott) – the unusual Boss of the office finds himself in the company of relatively sane people who miss no opportunity in not working each day which includes being personally and constantly involved in each other’s lives, battling their various eccentricities and dealing with a Boss who makes life painful yet pleasurable in his pursuit to waste every minute at the office being engaged in some ridiculous activity like defending his foot-in-the-mouth and patronising homosexuals. In this venture of his, he is forcibly assisted by the office receptionist – Jenna Fischer (Pamela Beesly) who is droll, dull and lifeless and occasionally lets her hair down by helping John Krasinski (Jim Halpert) prank Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute). If there is one thing that The Office deserves to be remembered for at the very least are these pranks which range from the mundane (trapping Dwight’s stapler inside jello) to the elaborate (Dwight believing that he is being recruited by the CIA for a secret mission) and to the plain silly (imitation – my absolute favourite scene in the show!).
The characters in the show are well thought-out in the overall context of the show (for instance, you have the standard wacky, geeky, African American, drunk etc.) and you grow to love them each for their brilliant execution even the mildly irritating Steve Carell whose final episode in the seventh season leaves you with a lump in your throat. The seventh and eighth season will also be remembered for other wrong reasons, that is, the addition of Will Ferrell (Deangelo Vickers) and James Spader (Robert California) and for granting more screen time to Ed Helms (Andy Bernard) which considerably dulls the sheen of an otherwise vibrant show. James Spader in particular brings a certain dark humour and some extremely distasteful and not warranted action to a show which had so far relied on its clean humour and wit to survive till season seven. No, not all of The Office is serious – it is goofy with a compelling, strong and fast story line which you can pick up mid-season too. I would however advice against mid-season watching just for one reason. The Pam-Jim romance! Touted as the perfect couple and soul mates, the gradual evolution of their relationship from close friends to a couple with the white picket fence, it has it all. Of course, one can always argue about how a relationship of such two similar people was a bore and that it was saccharine sweet, however, I believe that it is just the cynic in us who is unable to appreciate a healthy relationship which undergoes its fair share of strain in seasons eight and nine (thankfully!).
Coming to Ed Helms. The reason I am dedicating a separate paragraph to write about him is his character in the show – Andy Bernard or the ‘Nard Dog as he calls himself on multiple occasions that you literally want to wrench every single strand of hair from your head. Probably an exaggeration but I absolutely hated the ‘Nard Dog not only because I found him to be one of the most useless and ill-etched character on the show but also because by seasons eight and nine, you are at your wit’s end on having to see the character make a complete ass of himself. Stop with the singing man! This is where The Office lost me and I couldn’t wait for Andy’s scenes to end just so we could probably watch somebody else, even the minor characters like dull Phyllis Smith (Phyllis Vance) or the annoying Ellie Kemper (Erin Hannon), the latter of which managed to have three full blown romances in two and a half seasons, one with Andy himself.
The other striking thing about The Office is that there is actually no concept of a minor character. Each character gets his or her adequate screen time to not make it a one-man show but eventually you do get around to having your favourites. No, actually, I like all the characters except for Deangelo, Robert and Andy. I like them all. Yes, you read me right. No actually, I didn’t like Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor) and BJ Novak (Ryan Howard) who have also coincidentally produced the show. Point being all of them are likeable in their own way (this does not include Andy) but you do come to a point when you have a softer spot for a few compared to the others. My soft spot would definitely belong to Dwight Schrute for playing an extremely difficult and dangerous yet humane, multi-talented, determined, tenacious, geeky, empathetic and lovable individual. This Amish guy owns a beet farm and would be that one person whom you would love to pick on (see Jim’s pranks in this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfGN7bfohms) but as the show evolves you don’t see Dwight as the enemy, rather, you see him as that friend you would love to have in your life. I loved the show’s trajectory on his on and off romance with the irritable cat-lover Angela Kinsey (Angela Martin) eventually leading to an unlikely happily ever after.
The Office to me is the one show which emotionally tugged at my heartstrings and overwhelmed me in its finale. Somewhere a part of me wishes that I still had a few more seasons to watch and that probably the binge-watch was not worth it but like all good things (just like Friends) it had to come to an end. It is a class apart and maybe you will not watch it on repeat but it will stay with you, trust me. Thankfully, the last episode which had the characters talking about their experience on having been documented for the show for nine years did not end being preachy but left you with a sense of “what if?”. What if your life was being documented right now? What would you come across as? Would you see your mistakes and learn from them? Would you enjoy seeing yourself being a total idiot? Would you want to go back in time and change a few things? The Office is an experience and if nothing else stays with you, you will at least remember how to prank your co-worker by gift wrapping his cardboard desk or paying everyone in office just to mispronounce their name. As for me, I am in the hunt for some good quality jello.
p.s – This is fresh out of writer’s block, excuse the errors, if any.