The summer after my sophomore year of college, I had one week off between school and starting my full-time summer job, and I chose to spend it in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Well, not literally. But instead of hitting the road and finding a beach somewhere, I made the trek back home to my parents’ house and cozied up in a recliner with my laptop and acquainted myself with our friends at Dunder Mifflin. I plowed through 4 seasons in that one week. I remember the joke that week was to walk through the house and for someone to ask, “Caroline, what are you doing?” and when I would go to reply they would cut me off and sarcastically chime in “Watching The Office.”
Forgive them tv gods, they knew not what they did.
Blasphemy aside, I may have been the only one into it that summer, but it didn’t take long for it to catch on in my circle. Soon, most of my closest comrades had made their way through the series and by season six, we had a full-blown Office viewing party for the season premier.
Ah, the good old days. What I wouldn’t give to go back to Casino Night, to once again find myself at the edge of my seat with will they/won’t they Jim and Pam anticipation. Or to watch another classic Michael berating Toby scene. I find myself filling the awkward spans of time throughout my day with vintage Office episodes, usually going back to season 2 or 3 for the most laughs. Once the show found its voice in Season 2, everything up through season 5 is complete gold. Then we get season 6, which is the feel-good season in which of course we see our favorite couple tie the knot and have a baby. And season 7 brought us a lot of nostalgia and rewarded long-time fans of the show with episodes like “Michael’s Last Dundies” and “Threat Level Midnight.” The final season for Steve Carell, I think the series delivered up until the very end.
But let’s just say what’s on everyone’s mind. We can’t have The Office without Michael Scott. I don’t want it to be true. Theirs is a cast I believe in and love dearly, but each and every character had a chemistry with Michael that we just simply can’t recreate with Andy Bernard or Robert California. The writers have tried to make it work. I feel like most fans were on the same page when they got the news about Carell’s leaving: end it. But we found out season 8 would press on and so there was hype and speculation and debate. I personally made a list of acceptable candidates for the role of Regional Manager, which included such people as Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Steve Martin, Jane Lynch, and the only man who could truly fill those shoes, Ricky Gervais. But instead of finding someone strong to fill the Michael Scott-size hole in our hearts, we had countless guest stars dangled in front of us to distract us from the consuming void that has proven to be the majority of season 8.
Thursday’s episode sat particularly unwell with me. The opening sequence utilizes the now formulaic go-to bit—Jim pranking Dwight. Jim reports that with Pam gone, Stanley is his only audience and we see Dwight open a desk drawer full of meatballs as well as a stapler baked inside a meatball. What I’m sure was meant to be a humorous nod to season 1 was received a lot more like the writers pleading with me “Remember when we used to be funny?” The episode didn’t get any better from there, unfortunately, as we follow everyone to Robert California’s former dream home for a last hurrah. Erin is continuing to be weird. Not good weird like when she was bobbing for apples and came up to proclaim, “I got 2! I ate 2 apples!” But bad, clingy weird. I think we’re supposed to still be rooting for Erin and Andy, but I’m not liking the tactics at all. I was okay with a first-time-ever-drunk Erin making a sad but sweet fool of herself a few episodes back, but I’m not at all into the “Dwight, help me make Andy jealous” thing. It seems overdone and predictable. Add to all this the cut-away scene of Dwight passing out underwater (what is this, a Lifetime movie? And—since when do mocumentary style shows send cameramen underwater?) and I think it’s safe to say the most recent episode was somewhat of a disaster.
Don’t get me wrong, there are things I will never get tired of. John Krasinski’s face tops that list, but there are aspects of the show that remain charming and that I still enjoy. But for the most part, I think it’s time to pull the plug. Why not sign off with an epic two-part reunion with Michael Scott? Let Erin and Andy find their way into each other’s arms, give Dwight the branch, make Gabe his assistant, bring David Wallace in to show off some incredibly successful entrepreneurial exploit, do something with Ryan and Kelly, send Toby back to Costa Rica, tie up loose ends and have fun with it. The magic is gone; let’s try to sign off with a little dignity.