Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Office: Since When Did Scranton Become Hell?

To sum up this Thursday in television, Grey’s was funny, Jack and Kate are canon, and The Office was insufferably stupid. All in all a great week, but man, that third one really has me down.

I’m so glad my friend turned me on to 30 Rock during the strike, because that show outpaces The Office week after week. This week, with 30 Rock at what I think was an all-time high—I’ll get to that later this week, hopefully—and The Office at a new low, the dichotomy of the two is just ridiculously apparent.

A lot of this Office ennui, I’m sure, comes from my shipper, shipper heart. When I turned off the Lost episode that I shouldn’t even mention lest I reduce this post to yet another pathetic pile of squee, I knew I still had The Office left to watch. Although nothing Jim and Pam could have done would have topped Jack and Kate’s flash-forward outing (as Jack and Kate are undeniably my OTP, emphasis on the O), there was that sense of could both of these couples get engaged on the same night?

So my hopes were high. BUT I felt like they had reason to be.

I blame Jenna Fischer. That girl is really good at creating a fangirl media storm. She’s blathering on and on about how they told her that, with the strike forcing them to condense the back twelve or so into five, Jim and Pam’s relationship was being pushed to the back burner, and then she read some scripts and was, like, “well, so much for the back burner.” And, actually, Jam has been pretty back burner. Sure, there was “Chair Model,” but they were definitely relegated to second-class storyline in “Dinner Party,” “Night Out,” and “Did I Stutter?”

So much for my prediction that “Night Out” would be Jim on one knee in a restaurant or that “Did I Stutter?” would be in response to Pam’s startled reaction to Jim’s proposal.

(Okay, yeah, my hopes were unnecessarily high.)

Here’s the thing.

Nobody’s watching 30 Rock for the relationships. There’s nothing to ship over there! Yeah, a lot of us think Floyd’s cute or whatever, but I’m not falling to pieces over it. Tina Fey has even said that the stories about Liz’s personal life are her least favorite to do, because they seem so relatively trivial to the rest of the story. (So then I guess the Liz pregnancy cliffhanger they seem to be setting up wasn’t Tina’s idea.)

Anyway, people are watching The Office for the ship. You know why? Because we know. When Pam was with Roy, it was just a matter of time. There wasn’t ANYBODY in the fandom who was, like, “JIM? YOU THINK SHE SHOULD END UP WITH JIM!?? YOU’S STUPID! RAM 4EVERRRRRRR.” Jam is our escape from our other fandoms, where we’re consistently bogged down with triangle drama. [Except not this week—Jack and Kaaaaaaaaaateeeeeeeeeee!!!!]

And in season two, arguably the best season thus far, there was a Jam storyline practically every week. The writers weren’t afraid to give them sweet scenes and wooks and 27 seconds of silence. I’m almost positive that the only episode from season two without substantial Jam interaction was “The Injury,” which was drop-dead funny anyway—there wasn’t time.

Also, they weren’t afraid to give them silliness before now. Who doesn’t love their day of jinx or their presh ice skating or them wearing sombreros and giggling about Andy? THEY DON’T DO THAT ANYMORE!

Everything about The Office—not just Jim and Pam—has taken a way-too-serious turn. These back five episodes have just been so down. To recap, we’ve seen Jan and Michael’s pathetic coexistence crumble, Ryan get addicted to drugs, Toby self-implode and become a huge creeper, Jim exhibit some frustrating and ridiculous fear of proposing, and basically everyone in the office take one huge step further into Crazytown.

I don’t like it.

Why won’t Jim just propose to Pam? There’s no reason to wait—he’s got a ring burning a hole in his pocket and a girl who’s prepared to say yes. What’s the problem? You’d think that after four seasons of emotional anguish, the dude would just want to get on with the rest of their lives, but noooooo, he’s got to be a tool about it.

Dude, just borrow Jack Shephard’s line. It’s really easy, it just goes, “Will you marry me?”

[asdhfja;hgjadk Jack and Kate.]

Toby weirded me out last week, but on Thursday, the guy leapt right into full-on creeper. Sabotaging Jim’s professional reputation? An unprecedented low. I hoped last week’s fence jump ended the Toby/Pam story arc, but I’m becoming increasingly frightened that he’s going to pull a “Casino Night” in the season finale. And if that happens, it’s going to go from a something else. (Thanks, Mr. Friendly!) Seriously, the Toby crush is not supposed to boil into Jam sabotage. Like I said, we watch The Office for the ship, and we will not accept a triangle. We won’t buy it, we won’t appreciate it—we’ll hate it.

Of course, the problem is that when I say we, I mean Caroline and The People Like Her. I’d like to do some empirical research on this, but I’d imagine hard-core viewers represent less than 10% of the total viewing population of just about any show. (Wow, I’d really like to do a nationwide study on that.) But, yeah, like 10-15 million people watch The Office every week, but the percentage of those who, like, visits after the episode to analyze is likely quite small. Remember last year when there was that production problem ‘cause Greg Daniels thought we’d all get online after the show and watch the deleted scenes and then everybody would know that Andy had gotten shipped off to anger management, but, like, no one actually did? Yeah, not everyone is like me.

The problem is people like my roommate Lily, whom I love desperately. She told me last night during dinner that she’s okay with Rose being around on Grey's, because she’s not a boring character and she’s making the Derek/Meredith stuff interesting and she’s really just into the show to be entertained. “I’m not like you,” she said. “I’m not watching it for the SHOW.” What she meant is that she doesn’t care that the Derek/Meredith drama has gone on for far too long and that their relationship has undergone every cliché obstacle in the How to Write Bad Fanfiction manual. I literally looked at her and said, “You’re the problem.”

People ARE watching The Office for Jim and Pam and nothing else, especially now that so much of the show has gotten so out of control unbelievable. Remember in “Money,” how Michael’s critique of Live Free or Die Hard was that Bruce Willis had gone from everyday NYPD cop to exploding helicopters with his car? Well, that’s my critique of The Office. In the first two seasons, the episodes centered around mundane office work, like “Performance Review” and “Health Care” and “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” Sure, they occasionally threw in an outing, like “The Dundies” or “Booze Cruise,” but they were still within the context of Michael-as-ridiculous-boss.

Now, every episode is within the context of Michael-as-ridiculous-PERSON. OH MY GOD, that Michael monologue at the end of Thursday's episode went on for, like, at least sixty seconds too long. WHAT a disappointment--I'm sitting there waiting for what I'm sure is going to be a Jam proposal scene in the parking lot, and what I get is three minutes of Michael being so unbearably stupid. I hated that. HATED. Of these last four episodes, only “Did I Stutter?” had an A-story that was actually about work.

So, seriously, why not give the people what they want? Stop screwing around with Jim and Pam, because it’s swiftly getting old and out of character. Have the balls to give Jim the balls to just POP THE DAMN QUESTION ALREADY.

Get back to the basics—everyday office-related humor. No more driving cars into lakes. No more far-fetched love triangles that NEVER exist in everyday life. I’m okay with making Jam the B-story or even C-story of the episode, but I know you know how to make it good.

And for crying out loud, get them engaged. I can’t stand it any longer.

In an attempt to not be as negative myself as the show has been, three things about this episode rocked my world. (1) Darryl pretending to be in all the gangs, including "the Newsies." Classic Office--more of this, please! (2) The deleted scene with Kelly and Pam. Why didn't they edit out Michael's stupid effing monologue and replace it with this hilarious Kelly/Pam scene? Pam's glasses story had potential but ended up being pretty pointless--this scene gave it more weight and was classic Kelly Kapoor--loved it. (3) Michael's "That's what she said." I am a huge fan of TWSS jokes, but they're getting old. Your average everyday "that professor is hard" doesn't get you anywhere with me these days. Michael's face-in-concrete joke was actually really funny. He should be proud of himself for that one.

...and I just realized that I am unbelievably difficult to please. No wonder I am still single.

One response to “The Office: Since When Did Scranton Become Hell?”

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. Give the people what they want. Just propose already.