Friday, September 26, 2008

The Office: State of the Union

Boy meets Girl. Boy falls in love with Girl. Boy and Girl enter into some geometrical nightmare in the form of a triangle, square, or pentagram – complete with blood. Boy might "die". Boy might get into fight with Girl and send his best friend on a rowboat. Boy might be cloned. But Boy and Girl are separated by stupidity until ratings start to die and a show faces certain death. Suddenly, Boy and Girl are united, inseparable and, in a desperate attempt to regain the lost audience, all other plot gets watered down or readjusted to suddenly 'make room' for Boy and Girl who were naturally the core of the show BEFORE the math problems. Ratings get lower and show gets cancelled. Writers, and the media, blame Boy and Girl.

When did Boy and Girl get such a bum rap and why do we let it continue? The answer is: it's far easier to blame a ship than it is to blame foolish writing because that would be assuming responsibility for your own lack of talent.

Believably, a couple will have problems. They might even decide, suddenly, after successfully working together for years, that they don't trust one another and make googley eyes over dead bodies while suffering over how difficult it is to deal with this problem instead of actually dealing with this problem. The thing is, when you get the point where the only way to separate your couple is to have them be kidnapped by the bad guys, put in a cage and a fishbowl, and then proceed to mentally break one half until the only way they know how to function without their better half is to have irrational – not to mention muddy – sex with a complete ass… you can't expect the general audience to keep watching, much less the portion that could care less what lame plot you surrounded that crapshoot with.

So it's refreshing when a show eschews this norm that the writers in Hollywood have grown prone to shoveling out. When a show allows a couple to grow naturally into a relationship understanding that, yes, there are ups and down, but that when you work through them, the fruits of that labor are worth the effort.

Last night we had the fifth season premiere of The Office. This is a show where we've been told Jim met Pam and fell instantly in love. Pam followed soon after when Jim warned her that her Mixed Fruit Yogurt was expired. He didn't know HOW he knew, he just knew. The problem was Pam was engaged to Warehouse Guy Roy. Jim respected that and simply furthered their relationship as friends. It's an odd show already that displays a respect for a marriage not yet inked on paper and I say we owe our British friends for that since they came up with the initial concepts for The Office.

Then season two ended with a fantastic kiss between Jim and Pam after he told her he couldn't keep his feelings secret from her any longer. Oh, and Pam told her mom that yeah, she thinks she loves him except you had to read between the lines and whatever, she totally did. So season two ended in that spot where normal shows go to die. Season three would begin with Pam still engaged and suffering through her love for Jim and Jim would go out and hook up with some floozy.

Except this isn't your normal show. Pam broke off her engagement with Roy, again, out of respect for an institution we've turned into a joke in our society. How can she be engaged to Roy if she's in love with Jim? Simple answer is she can't, not if she cares for Roy and I believe she truly does. The problem now is Jim thinks his love is unrequited and can't handle working in the same office with Pam so he's transferred to another branch and has become friends with Karen, who is a total bitch.

Except she isn't. Karen is a professional, she's in control of her life, and she's sweet. I'm sure some would disagree, but, realistically? Karen was kind of awesome. Her only flaw was she wasn't Pam. And when the branches had to merge and Jim was faced with Karen and Pam, he realized that no matter how he tried to run away from his feelings for Pam, they'd always be there, preventing a true relationship with Karen. So Season four ended with Jim dumping Karen and Pam finding a new boy toy for more angst.

Except it didn't. Pam realized that she wasn't going to play games anymore. If she couldn’t have the man she loved then she wished him well and would begin to work on things for herself – like her art. But she could have him because he wanted her. The moment that normally takes a show seven years to accomplish with a hefty prescription for Vicodin for the audience, happened relatively painless in three. So season four MUST be the season where they have horrible fights and sleep around and break up.

Except it wasn't. Jim and Pam shared their first office kiss while everyone was watching. They shared their first night together away from home (so far as we know). They shared the knowledge that Jim is an aspiring sports writer and wished he played guitar and that Pam wears glasses and maybe wants to pursue something beyond being the secretary at Dunder Mifflin. And it wasn't boring or contrived, nor did it steer the show into certain death. But the engagement we assumed was coming at the end of the season, the engagement to wrap up a season's worth of solidification for the couple, didn't come. So obviously they're going to make us wait for that.

Except they didn't. In a move that was somewhat symbolic, Jim proposed to meet Pam at a halfway point between where she was going to college in New York and where he was in Scranton by instant messaging her, "meet me at the place where the soda can exploded on me". And within the first hour of the fifth season Jim was down on one knee and Pam was agreeing enthusiastically (and they don't have any hillbillies with secrets, or alcohol problems to contend with) and we're left in shock because… this isn't normal. And because it's not normal, it's amazing. The show that continually breaks out of the mold broke out of the biggest one of all.

Jim and Pam enter a fifth season running into no man's land because of the history this show has given them. This show will continue to let them to grow naturally into this relationship with their ups and down, but they'll work through them, and the fruits of that labor are worth the effort for them as well as for the audience.

- M

2 Responses to “The Office: State of the Union”

Anonymous said...

*HUGS MY GIRL* You so damn good, baby.

And yes, I wish all writers could have the balls and courage that the Office writers have shown with their characters and relationships.

As much as I ADORE Jack and Kate, they could have been SO MUCH BETTER if the writers would have just grown a pair and said "This is our couple. Deal with it." Instead of the little head games they've been playing. But its not just the Lost writers unfortunately.

Loved this entry, sweety. Can't wait to see more from my favorite writer ever! :D

Anonymous said...

Oh yes - kudos to the Office writers. It's quite "funny" sometimes how we by now always assume the worst with tv couples, because during the last decade we learnt that this is apparently the way to go until the very end of a show. No happy moment without an immediately following major breakup. So again, kudos to these writers for making a difference :)

(and to you too - thanks for this very enjoyable read <3)