Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 14: The Office

13 Oct

Let’s put this right out there.  I know quite a fair number of people who were long time Office fans for the first three, four, or five seasons who just don’t watch it anymore.  It’s over the hill they say, jumped the shark, however you want to put it.  To me, that’s a lot of shit.  Has that happened in shows before?  Certainly.  I’ve complained about it myself.  And I’m making no claim that The Office as of 2011 and seventh or eighth season is as good as it’s ever been in its entire run.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not quite good and funny and enjoyable.

Admittedly this season was particularly strange, paving the way for the departure of Michael Scott, with guest star Will Ferrell as a potential replacement boss appearing in the last few episodes of the season.

Some people have said, Steve Carell is leaving, maybe that’s a sign you should just end the show, whether to put it out of its misery, or whether it’s going out on top.  Normally, I’d think they have a good point. It can look desperate to replace a major character in a comedy, and worse than appearances, there’s a huge risk of it simply not working.  The show got so far because of the chemistry and laughs generated by the core current cast.  When you risk throwing that off, you could have a show that would never make it on air as a pilot, but automatically gets a season because of the show’s pedigree.  In this instance though, I’m not particularly worried, at least about Steve Carrell leaving, although, of course, who they bring in is another matter.  I’ve been advocating Steve Carell leave the show for another boss for a couple years now.  Not at all because I think he’s done a bad job. On the contrary, I think he’s been able to make a character awkward and funny in a way I think very few actors could pull off.  Still, the character has inherent limitations and it’s a credit to him and the writers that they were able to continue to generate laughs until the end, but fresh blood can be a good thing.

Just looking through the episodes of the most recent season I recall funny segments.  In the last episode with Will Ferrell the oddly hilarious dunk attempt that landed him in a coma –  I can’t explain exactly why, but my friend and I laughed for five minutes straight and had to pause the show.  Dwight at the garage sale, starting small and then trading up, until he is sold on Jim’s magic beans.  Dwight and Jim gags may be the most resilient part of the show.  By all rights, they should get old, but they never do.  Ryan’s grilling of Pam about her Christmas comic book gift was fantastic and emblematic of the newest and best iteration of Ryan’s character as a pretentious hipster.

A word is also worth saying about how the Office’s attempts to add new blood (new blood?  fresh blood?  same difference) with new receptionist Erin and corporate liaison/stooge Gabe have very much worked.  Gabe becoming wholly unhinged by Erin’s awkward and extremely public break up with him turned into what may have been one of the funniest running arcs of the season, highlighted in the last episode when he quizzed Andy, during his interview, about the sun, and when Andy knew the answers, ordered him to “Shut up about the sun!” Erin carefully walks the line between adorable empty-headedness and maybe-she-has-an-actually-problem with the defining moment possibly being her believing that disposable cameras were for disposing immediately after you took the pictures.

Why it’s this high:  It’s still The Office, more or less, Dwight and Jim antics are hilarious, they continue to do good work

Why it’s not higher:  Yes, you should still watch it, but no, it’s not as good as it was during maybe the third season

Best episode of the most recent season:  There’s no obvious choice but I’ll take “Andy’s Play” which had one of my favorite scenes of the season at the end – Michael’s word-for-word rendition of a Law & Order episode as an audition

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One Response to “Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 14: The Office”

  1. Beardface October 13, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    At least it wasnt higher than this, but the fact that you put this ahead of Curb made me throw up a little in my mouth.

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