The paper pushers of ‘The Office’ left an imprint on TV
BY LORI RACKL TV Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org May 15, 2013 11:19PM
Updated: June 18, 2013 7:43AM
‘The Office” is about to close for good, with Thursday’s 75-minute finale capping off a nine-season run.
But for me — and probably many fans — NBC’s groundbreaking workplace comedy really ended two years ago. April 28, 2011, to be exact.
That’s when one of the best TV characters of all time, the irreplaceable Michael Scott, packed up his World’s Best Boss mug and said goodbye to the Dunder Mifflin staff.
Improvisor extraordinaire Steve Carell shaped Michael into someone who could make your toes curl and your heart break at the same time. The perfect blend of vile and vulnerable, Michael was a literal paper pusher whose desperate need for acceptance ended up being his greatest virtue and vice. He was the key to pulling off what seemed to be an impossible task: make the U.S. version of “The Office” better than the British original, whose snarky David Brent (Ricky Gervais) lacked the likability of Michael Scott.
Michael, with his snort-laughter and many malapropisms, was the center of the universe around which a talented ensemble revolved. His absence left a black hole that couldn’t be filled, even by the likes of Will Ferrell.
I loyally stuck with the show after Carell’s season seven departure, through the dark days of Robert California and asinine plot developments, like Angela taking a hit out on Oscar for having an affair with the (state) senator. I kept tuning in, even though Pam and Jim’s saccharine sweet love story gave me a cavity and Andy’s evolution defied logic. Despite some unevenness, the show still had its funny moments. And I’d invested enough time with this cast of time-card punchers to develop a “Cheers”-like soft spot for them.
“The Office” has been around so long — the finale marks its 200th episode — it’s easy to forget how fresh and original it was when it debuted as a midseason replacement in 2005. Its shaky-camera, unpolished, cinema verite style went on to be replicated by other comedies, from HBO’s “Veep” to talk-to-the-camera mockumentaries like “Parks & Recreation” and “Modern Family.”
Another legacy: Without rom-com-obsessed Kelly Kapoor, there likely would be no “The Mindy Project.” That would be bad.
At its best, the Emmy-winning “The Office” was brilliant social satire. Its humor often revolved around stereotypes, homophobia, misogyny and racism, but in a way that undermined those things instead of perpetuating them. It masterfully made use of silence, letting the camera linger just long enough so the viewer couldn’t escape the awkwardness.
After nine seasons, few would argue that it isn’t time for “The Office” to go. But with or without Michael, I’m still sad to say goodbye. It’s hard.
All together now: “That’s what she said.”