The Office finale airs this week, and all I can think about is how it began. I was a freshman in college when my friend Christina introduced me to The Office. I sat on a bed in someone’s dorm room, watching Michael Scott’s awkward antics with no awareness of how much this show would be part of my young adulthood. Almost a decade later, I can’t believe the show wraps in a few days.
At the time of its inception, The Office was something of an original. While not the first TV show to implement the “mockumentary” style, it did depict the most boring of subjects: a typical middle-class American job. While most workplace comedies focus on jobs that people want, like Ugly Betty, The Office went the other way and presented a dreary work-a-day world where the only relief is the insanity of co-workers. The Office is a satire of one version of the “American Dream”.
The Office took an interesting turn in season two when it made two characters fans loved to hate, Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute, likeable. How could we not root for Michael when we saw him happily handing out candy to kids on Halloween, after confessing his desire to have children? And how could we not like Dwight, after his sweet side came out after he suffered a concussion? They became less caricatures and more characters, eventually winning my affections.
One of the best things about The Office is its genius for creating memorable moments. The Office Olympics, the vampire prank in “Business School,” and Pam’s teary eyes when Jim returns from an interview in New York to ask her out on a date are sequences I still recall with perfect clarity. There are dozens of these little moments throughout the run of the series, and I have no doubt that The Office finale will contain several.
While some of the later storylines are a little melodramatic for my taste, all in all I think The Office has done a good job of portraying a slightly fictionalized version of what it’s like for the majority of us who are working dull office jobs while attempting to figure out if there’s more to life than a steady paycheck.
When Michael Scott left, I was one of the few who thought The Office deserved to continue apart from him. After all, Michael was never the main character, Dunder Mifflin was. It has changed more over the course of nine years than many of the characters. Michael’s leaving was also a very realistic portrayal of what it feels like to lose someone you’ve grown accustomed to, and I was curious to see how the show would evolve. I did, however, bawl at the end of the episode. A year later, my own boss left and I experienced the same feelings I had while watching Michael’s departure. Although Steve Carrell’s reps have denied his involvement with The Office finale, I can’t help but hope we get to see him one last time.
I think The Office is most closely related to another of my favorites, M*A*S*H*: a workplace comedy about a group of wacky, humorous people in a less than ideal situation who try to make the best of it while taking every opportunity to get away. Jim and Pam’s continued attempts to extricate themselves from the paper company via art classes and rival companies, Toby’s move to Costa Rica, and Ryan’s forays into more ‘exciting’ business opportunities all end in a return to their desks in Scranton. I just hope The Office finale doesn’t end like M*A*S*H* did.
We probably won’t see the likes of The Office again. It appeared at just the right moment, before we became fed up with lives lived inside a cubicle or at a desk, when we were still intrigued by the idea of a corporate job where there might be a cute receptionist, an oddball deskmate, or a politically incorrect boss.
I think people who begin watching The Office a few years from now will think it as bleak as the British original with its sardonic take on a once sought-after ideal. To me, though, it will be a nostalgic reference to my late teens and early twenties, when I found solace from my own dull job by watching this show every week.
The Office finale airs on Thursday, May 16th.