Friday, April 19, 2013

‘The Office’ ending nine-season run with strong finish

The end is soon.

The Office is in the final weeks of its nine-year run on NBC, and there has been much discussion about whether the show can recapture its past glory as it ends. Can it raise itself back to the high level of its prime years?
To a certain degree, the answer to the question has been ‘yes.’ Though the show has meandered somewhat this season, shows in recent weeks have been consistently funnier than most episodes of the last couple of years.
In recent weeks, the show has been working to resolve long-running storylines as it heads to its finale on May 16. As those storylines continue to unfold, the show is reminding us just how funny it can be.
The April 11 episode was probably the funniest episode since Steve Carell left after the seventh season. The show was both funny and dramatic as it dealt with different characters.
On the funny side, Stanley (played by Leslie David Baker) stubbornly refused to go out on a sales call, which forced Dwight (played by Rainn Wilson) to stoop to ridiculous levels to get him to do his job.
How ridiculous? Dwight shot him with three bull tranquilizers and dragged him down a flight of stairs to get him to the sales call on time. With Stanley still groggy, Dwight guided him through the sales meeting with fine laughs provided.
On the dramatic side, the marital problems between Jim (played by John Krasinski) and Pam (played by Jenna Fischer) continued to unfold. While the end of this storyline is a tightly-guarded secret, it is hard to imagine them not pulling it back together. Their romance and subsequent marriage has been one of the most pleasing aspects of the show, and if their marriage ends, the show will be on the receiving end of a lot of raspberries.
Also, the impact of the “documentary” that has been shot about the Dunder Mifflin office continues to develop, and it is my gut feeling it will be a major player in resolving the differences between Jim and Pam, as well as other storylines.
The show’s resurgence has been a relief to long-time viewers. When Carell left, he left a huge hole. Though the ensemble cast is one of its strengths, he was clearly the glue that held it all together.
In its eighth season, the show struggled mightily after he left plus Fischer missed several episodes while on maternity leave. New characters like Robert California (played by James Spader) did not work, and viewers could almost see the actors trying to pump water out of a sinking lifeboat.
This is what has made this recent resurgence satisfying. Instead of going out with a whimper like other long-running shows, a little bit of fire is being breathed back into it.
During its prime, The Office was one of the finest shows on television. While that may be faint praise given the current state of network television, the show’s quality was high. Beginning late in its second season through its fifth season, the show rarely delivered a clunker.
However, like most long-running shows, there are only so many situations that characters can be put in and remain fresh. We have seen it happen to shows like The Simpsons, M*A*S*H* and others.
It appears the five- or six-year mark is the most appropriate life span for a television show. Shows like the old Dick Van Dyke Show and Mary Tyler Moore show knew it was best to get out while on top.
This is easier said than done. After all, with success comes money, and it is not easy to say ‘no’ when executives start offering piles of money to people.

No comments: