TV Review: The Office
By: Maggie Watkins
NBC’s series “The Office” started out as an offbeat, “mockumentary” style comedy based on the British version of the show and seems to have successfully made its way into mainstream popularity. Now in its fourth season, the series has gained a wider audience, but the question is whether it has maintained its original witty humor that gained its initial loyal fans. Though the characters have become more developed and have created relationships among themselves, this may detract from the show’s original premise of the monotonous work environment at Dunder Mifflin in which the boss is excruciatingly annoying, coworkers are all a bit off and the job is the most boring one imaginable — selling paper. The humor of the show comes from viewers’ ability to either relate to such a depressing job or their desperate wish to not end up in the same situation.
Now that the characters have become well-rounded, viewers can become more emotionally invested in them versus just laughing at them in the earlier seasons. The different relationships between characters also encourage viewers to keep up with the show to better understand what is going on. In the current season, for example, Pam and Jim have finally become a couple, but the new development is better appreciated if you have watched the previous seasons in which their flirtations always left viewers wondering when they would get together.
In the latest episode, Pam and Jim have their first weekend away together, in which they visit their co-worker Dwight’s beet farm, which he is trying to convert into a bed and breakfast. Unlike the majority of episodes in previous seasons that are confined mostly to activity within the office, this new episode takes viewers outside the workplace to see what the characters are like in their off time
The episode also follows boss Michael Scott outside of the office to a second job that he has taken to make ends meet. The sudden reversal of roles in which Michael is now the employee making fun of his boss (as his employees do on a daily basis) injects humor. Throughout the four seasons Steve Carrell’s strong performance as Michael, the annoying yet pathetic boss, has remained a constant. As Michael has grown, however, viewers may now be more sympathetic towards his character rather than being annoyed by his loud personality and awful jokes. No matter how obnoxious Michael behaves in an episode, his naivety and innocence always bring you back to just feeling sorry for him.
In Thursday’s episode Michael tries to jump a moving freight train in order to leave town and skip out on his debt. When his employees learn of his financial problems, they offer help and advice — showing that despite their general dislike for their boss, they have come to care for him in some way. In fact, the experiences all of the characters have gone through together has increased their concern for each other. In the latest episode, Jim consoles Dwight over his broken heart even though they have been arch-enemies throughout the duration of the show. Though the emotional development between the characters has made the cast creates an emotional investment for loyal viewers, the humor of the show seems to have become more situational versus stemming from the smart writing and quirky dialogue of previous seasons — Jim and Pam visiting Dwight’s antiquated and creepy home, Michael as a telemarketer, etc.
That is not to say that the situations in Thursday’s episode did not achieve their comedic intent and present a new idea, but the number of times I found myself laughing out loud were far fewer than in previous seasons. As a fan of the remake of “The Office” since its beginning, I find it disappointing that I am not as enthusiastic about catching it every Thursday night. It is especially surprising to be laughing less in the current episodes as the first few this season have been an hour long as opposed to the usual 30-minute installments. In earlier seasons I always wanted the shows to go on longer than their half hour time slot whereas when watching Thursday’s episode I didn’t see the need to make it an hour long. Maybe it is hard to keep the momentum going on a sitcom when it is at its funniest. I just hope that this somewhat lackluster beginning does not predict the remainder of the fourth season for “The Office.”