One of the most difficult things to do in life is to stop speaking in hyperbole. I also find it difficult to give up on things that I, at one time, really enjoyed. It wasn’t until 2007, when Norbit was released, that I decided that Eddie Murphy wasn’t funny anymore. I had to go back and watch Raw again just to remind me why I ever thought he was. By the way, he was, he really, really was.
A few years ago my wife and I were enjoying our normal Thursday night routine of “must see TV” on NBC. It really puts things in perspective in my life when I regularly fall for ploys such as “must see TV”. Regardless, there we were queuing up NBC’s hit The Office. It wasn’t until I was fast forwarding through the second commercial break that I noticed something strange. We weren’t speaking. I realize that a husband and wife sitting on the couch watching TV and not speaking is far from unusual. The whole reason TV’s were put in living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens is so that spouses can avoid accidently speaking to one another. Can you imagine the divorce rate if TV’s were never used as fight avoiders?
The strange thing about us watching The Office and not talking during the commercial breaks was that it made me realize that it was giving us nothing to talk about. Normally there was a “Why is Michael in love with Ryan” or “I can’t believe Michael promised to pay for all of those kids college educations” or “why does Jim keep making that stupid facial expression to the camera?”. But this time there was nothing. It made me wonder if The Office was done. After several more seasons of watching bad episodes (cause what else was I going to do) I have come to the conclusion that The Office is no longer worth our time. And here’s why:
1. Michel Scott is not coming through those doors
The initial premise of The Office was to surround a bunch of somewhat normal and relatable people around a racist, awkward, rude, egotistical boss who is completely unaware of it. The show worked because it created this great tension that was relatable. Everyone, at one time or another, has said something that made them come out looking like Michael Scott.
When Steve Carell announced last year that he wouldn’t reprise the Michael Scott role for this season everyone assumed the show would suffer. I actually didn’t. I thought that it was a great opportunity for the writers of the show to reinvent The Office. I was even more excited when last year’s season ended with 2 quality “outside the box” episodes after Carell left.
Then the new season started and The Office reverted back to the old tricks. Andy Bernard became the new boss who acts vaguely familiar to the old boss, and hijinks ensued. Unfortunately it all feels a little cheap. Instead of taking the opportunity to be great again The Office chose to be a lesser version of themselves, and they shouldn’t be rewarded for it.
2. Robert California
The more I think about the addition of James Spader to the Cast of The Office the more I’m convinced that it was a decision made by the NBC executives. They were convinced that by losing their “star” they were going to lose their cash cow. Instead of giving someone the opportunity to step up they brought in a ringer. Don’t get me wrong, I am a Spader fan. He was great in Boston Legal. I was excited when he joined the show. However, at this point it isn’t working.
My biggest issue with Robert California is he doesn’t bring an element to the show that changes things. He is sort of crazy but not to the extent that he stands out. It’s hard to know exactly why it’s not working but I know I’m not laughing.
3. Character Morphing
Remember when Ted Danson played Sam Malone on Cheers? Remember the first couple of years when he was an ex baseball pitcher that chased every chic that came into the bar? Then, a few years into the show, he became a dedicated husband with kids. Then, a few years after that, he was a dirty politician? No … that’s because when Ted Danson feathered his hair and got behind that bar he was the same Sam Malone in episode 1 as the was in the season finale. That’s what we loved about him.
You can’t say the same thing about all of the characters in The Office. I’ve already mentioned how I feel like Andy Bernard is just playing a version of Michael Scott. But what about Kelly Kapoor? In the first season Kelly was a reserved American Indian that often got offended when Michael would talk about her heritage. Now she is … I don’t know … the complete opposite of that. As a character she is probably funnier now but it still feels like cheating.
Ryan Howard has been 3 characters in the show. He was the mortified temp, then he morphed into the egotistical executive, and now he is a guy that offices in the closet that takes away more than he adds to the show. Originally he was a great character but he has been morphed into mediocre at best.
4. Happy Endings
I hate to continue to compare The Office with TV’s greatest shows but remember on Seinfeld when life lessons were never learned. There wasn’t ever a Full House moment on Seinfeld when Jerry sat George down and explained the ups and downs of relationships. It made Seinfeld stand out and it was a breath of fresh air to the sitcom world.
The Office started out as a show that did the same thing. The format consisted of Michael offending someone by accident and never realizing it. Then, instead of him learning from his mistake, the episode would end and everyone was happy. This doesn’t happen anymore. Now we find out Andy has a bad relationship with his dad or Jim and Pam are so in love because he realizes that she needs to follow her dream of becoming an artist. It’s pathetic and formulaic but worst of all it’s unoriginal.
5. The ratings are too high
The real reason everyone should stop watching the office is because you haven’t stopped. The Office still gets higher ratings than any other NBC sitcom on the air. That includes 30 Rock which is by far the superior show. So please join with me and stop. You’ll thank me for giving you back 30 minutes of your life every week.