TV Blogging: The Office

Meghan Keane really, really doesn’t like the direction The Office is headed.  I’m a little confused by some of her points, though.  Like this:

Jim and Pam getting married did more than give Michael and excuse to hook up with Pam’s mom. It expanded the lens of The Office wide enough to reveal a disturbing fact: Jim and Pam don’t have any real friends.

Suddenly, a romance that seemed like the natural progression for two quietly charming people revealed itself to be much more depressing.

All of Jim and Pam’s witty asides and eyerolls in response to their officemates’ antics have stopped being expressions of untapped potential and started to look like passive-aggressive attempts to undermine their peers—who are the only people who will socialize with them.

I admit that the earlier seasons – seasons one and two in particular – were the most fun when it came to the Jim/Pam dynamic.  The tension of unrequited love was the life and breath of the show, and the triangle between Jim/Pam and Dwight was a lot more funny back then.  But I’m just confused by this idea that somehow Jim and Pam have no friends, and that they are somehow acting in a passive-agressive attempt “to undermine their peers – who are the only people who will socialize with them.”

First of all, how does Keane know that their peers are the only people who will socialize with them?  What does that even mean?

And second, how long do you want the Jim/Pam tension to go on?  At some point it just starts to look like a gimmick.  Either they had to get hitched or at least just start living together, or they had to split.  The fun in the tension would have gotten stale pretty fast.

Keane goes on to lament the character development of Jim:

Now Jim has developed into the most depressing archetype: a mediocre man who has already realized his full potential.

Gone is Jim’s charming lack of enthusiasm for his job. Now he’s proving exactly where a lack of drive is likely to lead you—to the mediocrity of middle management, where one is gripped by the fear of losing whatever corner of inanity you’ve carved for yourself in the workplace.

Rather than rely on the fact that his intellect could capably get him a job at any other two dimensional office space Scranton, PA, has to offer, Jim is now terrified of losing his job—and his pressurized wall of status—at Dunder Mifflin.

[….]

And as he uncomfortably settles into his partitioned office, Jim’s story is starting to resemble the worst purgatory of 30-something life. Each subsequent episode now brings with it a reminder of Jim’s failure, the harsh reality that having dreams is no indication that you’ll ever achieve them. If there’s something more depressing than that—and less funny—I’d be hard pressed to find it in prime time.

I think what we refer to this as is a crisis.  Yes, Jim could have continued as the affable, care-free employee season to season with little if any character development.  Somehow, though, I think that as a central character this would have also grown tiresome.  Dwight’s lack of personal evolution is fitting, funny. We would be disappointed if Dwight were to mature. But we expect more from our leads. The Office isn’t some throwaway sitcom where the husband and the wife and their kids interact in a perpetual cycle of sameness. Jim Halpert is not Homer Simpson.

The same crisis, of course, is facing Dunder Mifflin, as branches close and the company faces bankruptcy. And like much of the rest of the show, there is a mix of seriousness and comedy at play. It can be depressing at times. But so far this season has been pretty damn funny, too. I don’t mind less of an emphasis on Jim and Pam. I like the fact that we can get a bit more of the other characters. I like the fact that Jim has to face some sort of career crisis, some struggle now that he’s gotten the girl and the job and all of that. It’s a little bit of reality in a show that is mostly outrageous, with over-the-top characters in embarrassingly over-the-top situations.

I think Meghan Keane is over thinking this one.

(h/t Jamelle)

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3 thoughts on “TV Blogging: The Office

  1. You’re right about the Pam/Jim progression. Aside from the 6-episode first season, we’ve had one season of Jim pining for Pam, one of Pam pining for Jim, one with them dating, one with them engaged, and now one with marriage and a child on the way. That’s very normal in real-life, and pretty odd for a sitcom.

    Jim’s off his game this season, with an expectant wife, a house, and a management position in a struggling company. That’s natural. It’s also natural that your former equals are going to be insubordinate. The show is about the mind-numbing experience of modern office life, and that includes personnel conflicts and sabotage.

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  2. I never liked The Office, and that’s because of Jim. Imagine being in a workplace with someone, and people are filming for some kind of documentary. Your idiot boss does something hilariously idiotic. You look over at your buddy to silently transmit, “You saw that too, right?” He’s not looking at you, though. He’s looking into the camera. Yeah, fuck that guy.

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  3. I’m a big Office fan, but I have to agree that the Jim/Pam storyline was not well played. Of course, they had to progress; they can’t be static characters. The problem is they didn’t develop any other characters or story lines. The Office had one over-arching story line for five seasons, and now it has none. The problem isn’t Jim and Pam per se — I agree they have to develop them and that means they’re not going to be likable for the same reasons they have been in the past. But as one arc starts pointing down, as writers, you have to plan for another one to start pointing up and swinging into action. All they’ve done so far is offer gimmicks. That’s no substitute for story and character arcs. Plus, the gimmicks often don’t work.

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