Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Office: Playing by the Rules?

I once made a list of the “Rules of Television.”

It covers an entire sheet of college-ruled notebook paper, front and back, and contained rules ranging from brilliant to asinine.

Rule #17: Avoid women named Rena. This was because of Dr. Carter’s short-time girlfriend Rena, who broke up with him because he chose a weekend road-tripping with Abby over Bulls tickets, and also because of Rena Sofer, an actress who I have despised in basically every role she’s ever played.

(That was an example of an asinine rule.)

Rule #23: Formalwear makes people want to get naked.

Yes, it does. Every time there’s an event of some kind that requires formalwear, shit’s going down.

Formalwear is the reason why Sydney and Vaughn had such great sex all the time. They were dressed up all the time, dude. (That, and the fact that Michael Vartan’s a French Jew.)

It is also part of the reason why Jack and Kate haven’t hooked up yet. If you can figure out how to get Jack back in the suit he wore in the pilot and fix Kate up with an island prom dress, they’d be in the proverbial sack in no time. I mean, I guess the Losties are a little busy fighting the Others and hunting boar to throw a jungle prom, but it would be a really great sweeps event, wouldn’t it? No?

These situations often involve sex, but it’s not a guarantee. It is probably important to note that situations involving fancy outfits are usually big events and big events usually occur during sweeps, and sweeps is usually when life-changing stuff happens to TV characters. (You’d think eventually they’d figure out they might want to brace themselves for November, February, and May—s’gonna be a rough few weeks.)

I call as evidence:

Ed, “Prom Night.” An obscure reference, but this show, as much as I loved it, conformed to just about every trite Television Rule I could fit on a ream of college-ruled paper. The first season finale brought the junior prom to Stuckeyville, and Carol was on the planning committee and roped Ed into helping her and, oh, going to the prom with her. An almost-kiss was interrupted by Rena Sofer. (See Rule #17.)

Grey’s Anatomy, “Losing My Religion.” Last season. Derek and Meredith do the dirty in an exam room while an impromptu patient prom goes on in the distance. (Check out YouTube or the season two DVDs for the uncut super-dirty version.)

ER. February sweeps of season seven, Carter just had to attend a supa-swank benefit at the Natural History museum and his date cancelled—what a bummer. Abby made Luka jealous by attending with Carter at the last minute, in a bridesmaids dress no less. The whole experience was perfect: Carter brought Abby flowers and checked her out in a bra, they shared a precious dance, they made awkward small talk with her ex-husband and then proceeded to let the air out of his tires. “Thy Will Be Done” remains one of my all-time favorites.

Leave it to Friends to take a fresh turn with this concept in the season two episode, “The One With the Prom Video,” which uses 1980’s formalwear to finally—finally!—get Ross and Rachel together. Like all the best Friends moments, their coupling was touching and hilarious. Appreciated.

Gilmore Girls’s Luke and Lorelai got together shortly after sharing a romantic dance at Luke’s sister’s wedding. The wreath in Lorelai’s hair during that episode (“Last Week’s Fights, This Week’s Tights”) was what did Luke in, I’m pretty sure. This also wins for best music ever, with Sam Phillips’s gorgeous “Reflecting Light.” Holy crap, I’m downloading it off Acquisition right now.

With such a steadfast canon of work to base my predictions on, I long ago assumed that tonight’s episode of The Office would bring big news for Jim and Pam, as it takes place at coworker Phyllis’s wedding. Recent spoilers and speculation, however, have led me to believe that perhaps my brilliant law of motion is about to get massively discredited.

I am definitely being coerced into thinking that Pam leaves Phyllis’s reception with Roy, not Jim.

This goes against the rules in every way conceivable.

It surprises me because lately The Office, as far as the Jim/Pam relationship is concerned, has been conforming to just about every rule on the piece of paper.

Rule #31: When you kiss an engaged girl in the season finale, you’ll mess her up enough to get her to stop being an engaged girl, but not enough to get her to run off with you.

Rule #7: Just when the timing might finally be right for the OTP, it’s time for a new love interest! Cast members are required to say that person is “a valid choice for my character, and perhaps the better choice. A genuine alternative to [insert name of soul mate].” Is really there to prolong sexual tension and make the other person crazy jealous.

Rule #19: TV characters always act like they are in middle school when it comes to hooking up. In real life, no one pines for that long. It’s ridiculous.


Judging by the super-spoilery clips I’ve seen, I don’t think I’ll be getting my wish for a Jam dance, nor will Jim and Pam catch the garter and bouquet, respectively.

That said, I can’t help but think they’re trying to trick me.

I bet those little devils have a super-great Jam moment prepared that they’ve kept incredibly secret. (One of my friends would call this “keeping the wraps under it.”) It’s difficult to do in the age of Michael Ausiello and the fact that the NBC promo department has pretty much proven itself to be run by monkeys. But honestly, how many of you saw the “Casino Night” kiss or the “Booze Cruise” 27 seconds of silence coming?

Maybe there will be not only a dance, but a kiss and a breathy “Let’s get out of here” from Jim. (Maybe that’s just my personal Halpert fantasy.)

The show is notorious for keeping things quiet. Don’t forget that up until the final minutes of the finale, it looked like there might be a Jim/Jan hookup.

Maybe I’m giving the producers too much credit, or putting all of my Jam hopes into this one episode, or maybe I’m just hoping my rule remains true. In any case, I bet my friend $20 that the following prediction comes true:

Kelly catches the bouquet.

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