Friday, September 23, 2011

My Five Cents: I Don't Want To Work In An Office, And Now I Don't Want To Watch 'The Office' Either...

I finally sat down to watch the new season of The Office-- well, at least the premiere-- to see how the new manager was handling things, and I have to say...It was not worth the wait. It was not even worth coming back, in my opinion.

You can say that The Office has rebooted to a bit more of a mature show now that Michael Scott is gone. The new manager is not nearly as much of a buffoon as Michael was. But Michael was a lovable buffoon, and in many ways his own wacky brand of creativity and optimism is what inspired others to be the same way. Who else wouldn't have fired Ryan Howard for mouthing off, slacking off, and basically usually company resources and company time to pursue other endeavors? Who else would hang his employees' "doodles" in the office and participate in skits, sketches, and fake Olympics?

The energy in The Office has been changing for awhile now. It wasn't just that Michael Scott left and sucked the fun out of the room. But in his absence, there were certain key people I expected to step up and fill that void. One was Andy, a guy who was well-meaning and equally as wide-eyed as his former boss but something of a screw-up. Another was Jim, the guy who was so sweet and caring he created those damn Olympics to boost morale. Both used to goof off with video games or other invented things on a daily basis. But both of those guys have had to step up and accept leadership roles, and in doing so all of their once-whimsy is gone, barely a distant memory of the excited youthful guys with big dreams that they were mere seasons ago. You could say it is within their maturity as men that they cast aside silly games, but really it appears to be conformity.

Jim, especially, is a shell of his former self. The guy who had audiences everywhere falling in love with him is unrecognizable as a drone who follows the herd like the rest of them. He used to make me want to stick it out longer in my own crappy corporate job because I felt if I could harvest my desire to do something more even in the simple ways he did, I, too, could make a boring office a better place to be. Where is that guy now? Sure, having a house, a wife, a kid, and another on the way means he has more responsibility than ever before and the weight of that probably means he needs to focus more on having strong numbers. But honestly the fact that he's still in this job at all is disconcerting for the character. The job has changed him-- the environment has changed him. He used to drop everything-- sales calls and all-- to whisper with Pam over by the reception desk, and he'd do anything to make her smile, like creating games where they tried to throw things in Dwight's coffee mug. Now he wants her to wait while he wraps up work and simply scolds her for watching YouTube videos that make her feel things. Perfect guy Jim has become Corporate Drone Jim, and I don't like it one bit!

The Office as a show used to be funny and poignant all at the same time simply because its characters were stuck in a horribly dull, and right now antiquated, work environment. But they were all colorful and quirky enough to make you want to hang out in the stale air and fluorescent lighting anyway. They breathed new life into a place that would be a chore to have to step foot in every week. But now it is feeling like a chore to have to pop by once a week, when The Office airs on NBC as part of the Thursday night comedy line-up. The paper business is dead (long live the digital age!), and honestly, The Office should have gone out with it. When it was still on top, when we could still hold out some hope that these characters would be able to live on. Instead, they have been relegated to returning to this soul-sucking place, and they appear more and more like zombies every time we see them.

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