Worst Episodes: When Did "The Office" Get Bad?
The show is iconic. Certainly the characters are. Dwight Schrute has spurred thousands if not millions of memes across the Web, with his choppy hair-cut with the short bangs and know-it-all attitude and need to impose regimentation on everyone and everything. Jim and Pam had the most believable romance ever depicted and Michael Scott became the poster child for clueless lovable insecure bosses that everyone has had or will have or has miraculously avoided.
What could go wrong? Well, it did eventually, but it took awhile. Let's journey through Heaven and Hell and find out how the miracle show went down the tubes, but also miraculously redeemed itself in the end.
The Office was an amazing show, let me just start with that. The cool camera work inherited from UK version originator Ricky Gervais, the innovative cringe comedy expertly performed in each episode, the acting, the original ensemble, the romance, the whole bit. Nothing quite like the show and it spurred many copies. The show was great, I still love it and I even liked it when it started going sour. But like a lot of long running series, there was that shark jumping point when it became obvious that they needed to wrapped things up a long time ago.
So, The Office was still good through season 7, though it started to show signs of wear. The unfortunate introduction of Andy Bernard and Erin really made the show go off on unnecessary tangents and uninteresting story-lines. I'm glad they kept the series alive to finish Michael Scott's arc and see him happy and finally living the life he always wanted, but the addition of superfluous story-lines and characters was a bit much to handle.
But what happened was, the characters that needed to have their story arcs completed, had already completed them. Pam and Jim finally got together. Their story was one of the most captivating stories I'd ever watched on TV. Anyone can relate to the pain and longing of wanting to be with someone and not being able to and finally being able to; the tension and relief created by that story was extraordinary. Once that story was complete, though, and then Michael got together with Holly, and then Michael left and Pam and Jim kept moving around in job positions (Jim was off to Philly part of the time to pursue other business and Pam became a salesperson and her position as receptionist had to be filled), it seems the show started to flounder. Well, show-runners evidently felt they needed new story-lines but unfortunately recycled the old ones and tried to superimpose them onto new and uninteresting characters.
This was the case with Andy and Erin: Two mostly unlike-able characters that were supposed to be in love but had no on-screen chemistry. Writers tried to re-create the tension of the Jim and Pam romance but the lack of chemistry between Andy and Erin and the weak story plots with the two characters left me yawning. I mean, it was unintentionally cringe-worthy. I'll say right here, the only things that redeemed the show after season 7 was the completion of Dwight and Angela's arc, beautifully performed by Rainn Wilson and Angela Kinsey, and Michael's return to attend Dwight's wedding. It was beautiful.
And then you had these weird extraneous characters like Robert California, played by James Spader, and Jo Bennett, played by Kathy Bates; granted great actors and characters who were well-portrayed with a certain importance to the story, still so far removed from the original feeling of the series that they just became abrupt and disruptive additions to the story-line. And, worst of all, the introduction of Catherine Tate as, at first, the new boss and then as another staff at the company, she was a discount copy of Robert California that did nothing for the show.
When Will Ferrell came in to do some episodes in season 7, I almost got my hopes up, but it was just a hilarious short-lived visit that left me wanting more.
And then there were the episodes that amounted to nothing but, seemingly, the writers waving their arms wildly trying not to fall off the rolling log on the river. Some kind of weird television death knell similar to jumping the shark but less interesting.
One of these episodes was the field trip that "boss" Andy Bernard decided to have employees go on, to Gettysburg, to boost morale. Again, this is where the writers evidently thought it would help to superimpose successful past characters onto new unsuccessful characters; it seems they were trying to make Andy the new Michael, except that Michael was funny and like-able and cringing created by him also created intense belly laughs. He also would take the gang out on field trips to boost morale, but when Michael did it, interesting things happened and it was funny. Like when Pam walked across fire and, more or less, told Jim she loved him. Here, again, Jim and Pam was a relate-able, believe-able romance that you wanted to have happen. You were rooting for them. The Gettysburg trip had you trying to believe that Jim liked Andy which was again, not believe-able. The whole episode made me cringe, in a bad way.
Same thing with the episode in which the staff all go to a party at Robert California's house. Yes, we get it, California is weird, full stop. And then they continue the unbelievable plot of Erin wanting to be with Andy. Boring.
Just half-hearted attempts at jumping the shark.
So my feeling is they should have kept the story-lines mostly centered on the original characters. These are:
- Michael Scott
- Pam and Jim
- Dwight and Angela
And the other remaining ones of course should have remained fairly prominent and important and offer necessary support. These are:
Holly, of course, was necessary for Michael's story arc.
These are the mostly unnecessary characters:
- Erin and Andy
- Robert California
- Jo Bennett
I might be hasty putting Robert California and Jo Bennett on there, but they're close to being the extra baggage that Nellie, Erin and Andy were.
In short, I think it was very possible for them to wrap things up in the 7th season, Michael finally gets the girl and rides off into the sunset and Dwight and Angela possibly could have completed their arc too. Because after season 7, there seemed to be mostly uninteresting and superfluous story-lines and recycled ideas meant to fill time and substitute for a dying inspiration that the show originally rode on in its first several seasons.