Thursday, May 16, 2013

Quitting Time: A Farewell Post to The Office

Tonight marks the end of an era. The Office airs its last episode tonight. The television series, adapted from the British version in 2005, has been on the air for 9 years and has been a Nerdy Pop favorite since we started. Although the series has had its highs (Jam Wedding! Dwight Pranks!) and lows (Jam Fighting. Michael Leaving.) we'd still like to give it a proper send off. Below Auddie P and S.E. Andres discuss the TV series' impact on their lives.

S.E. Andres:
I had always been a dry humor person, and it was easy to find indie movies that I'd love.  Christopher Guest gives me my favorites.  So when The Office came along, it was an instant must.  My oldest brother told me to watch the second episode after he raved about the first and said I'd love it.  (This is exactly how I got into It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Archer, as well.)  And I did.  I couldn't get enough, despite how different the first season was.  As I found out, it was essentially the first season of the original British version with different actors that acted in the same manner and had similar looks.  But I loved it, and I loved every background character that appeared.  I wasn't as vocal about my love for it until we watched it junior year together in Auddie's apartment (before I left to go to English Theory Club, of course).  My fondness for The Office exceeded its humor.  I connected to the characters.  It was like each one was a different part of my personality: Meredith's love of alcohol, Jim's pranking, Pam's gapes, Dwight's entirety (I love bears, I grow beets, and I LOVE Battlestar Galactica), Creed's random musings, Angela's control.  I'm starting to think I am more complex than I might be.

Auddie P:
I remember the first time I watched the Office. Season 2 was airing and the episode was Take Your Daughter to Work Day. If you're familiar with this episode you should understand why, from that moment, I was not exactly hooked. I was so confused by Dwight's strange behavior, Pam's desperate attempts to get the kids to like her and Creed's unusual feet. I didn't understand the show at the time. I found no humor in its awkwardness and ended up wondering what the big fuss was about.
Fast forward a couple months to me passing time at S. E. Andres's apartment and he and his roommate pop in season one. This time I got it and I was hooked. Over the next few weeks I became obsessed, binge-watching before it was a thing. I got caught up with the show in time for the season three premiere, as did my roommates.

During those early years of the Office I was in college, and while my friends and I often had separate interests, classes and social groups, we'd all come together on Thursday nights to watch as a little family. The theme song would play and we'd jump up and dance, as was required of all who watched with us. We loved it. We loved it so much that in honor of the season three finale we had an office party complete with costumes and origami doves for the closing ceremony.
Those doves stayed up in my apartment until after we all graduated and moved out, if only for the opportunity to tell visitors "those are the doves." I was the last of my roommates to leave that apartment and for some reason taking down those doves made moving on and growing up real. Those doves lived in the trunk of my car for months afterward. I wasn't ready to let them go.

The Office brought me joy weekly.  Our Office finale party was wonderful, with our own Dundees.  Now I do annual awards of our own called The Duckies.  I made origami ducks for trophies.  I feel like it's an appropriate homage to The Office.  (We have a demented duck as a mascot.  Yes, our group has a mascot.  STOP LAUGHING!)  This wasn't the only time I dressed as Dwight K. Schrute. I also went as Dwight to Halloween the year before.  When I dress up in a costume, I go all out and even act like my character.  Sometimes in college, we would speak entire conversations in The Office quotes.  I have to wonder, though: do I not like The Office as much now that I don't watch it with friends and quote it?  Or do I not enjoy it because it really has gone downhill.  I'd like to think that it's both.  I don't even find any quote-worthy lines anymore.  No episode sticks out for me from the past four seasons.  I watch The Office out of habit, out of duty, out of respect, out of love, out of nostalgia.  Out of the want to be with friends so far away from me (except for Auddie P) every Thursday.

Even though it's been 5 years since then, The Office still has a way of connecting my college family. Whether it's a good (or bad) "That's What She Said" joke, or a friend texting a photo of where Jim and Pam had their wedding, the show is still part of what connects us. I think it's that nostalgia that's kept me watching even in these last few not-so-great seasons. Some characters aren't as likeable, and relationships are sometimes hard to watch, but it's still the Office to me.

I haven't enjoyed Andy the past 4 seasons, since he became regional manager and broke Erin's heart after he wanted to be with her so badly.  Erin has even become a nightmare since her first season on.  What are they doing to her?  I guess we couldn't have another Jam on our hands, so they went the opposite way.  Angela went from being my favorite character to my least favorite.  Dwight started to bore me when more A storylines were given to him.  Jam became boring and too nice.  They became too comfortable in their job and playing the only people who aren't incredibly weird.  Michael became more annoyingly adorable rather than awkward and completely ignorant and naive.  Kelly became my favorite with each episode, and I only wish Mindy Kaling had written more episodes.  I wanted to love The Office again, but the only things that remained constant were the characters who never got A stories.

The Office was a milestone in what comedy could be.  The absence of a laugh track or live audience was monumental in changing the way we view comedies.  It provided a less general appeal and catered to a niche audience.  NBC led the way.  Unfortunately it has backfired against them in the competition with CBS after The Office's engine slowed.  ABC followed suit in providing diverse comedies, where people with different tastes in comedies would have something to watch on TV.

The Office not only impacted an important time in my life, but also the television sitcom as a whole. It really is a shame it never received the accolades it deserved. It paved the way for sitcoms like Modern Family and Parks and Recreation (an almost spin-off). True, the last few seasons haven't been the best. Dunder Mifflin wasn't the same after Michael left and it became difficult to embrace new characters (and those who were evolving). These final episodes, though, in my opinion, have recaptured what it was before. I'm looking forward to the finale tonight and expect it to leave on a high note.

And with that we say so long Dunder Mifflin...

That's what she said.

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