Monday, May 20, 2013

The Office Finale

Last week, The Office passed into the great beyond. I confess that I stopped watching when Michael Scott left; if that makes me a fair weather fan, then so be it. But contributing blogger Cheryl has stayed with the show through the good times and bad, so I asked her to weigh on the finale episode. 

When Maggie asked me to write my thoughts on the final episode of The Office, I really didn’t know what I was going to say. A lot of ink has already been spilt (bandwidth dedicated?) discussing the topic. People have called it moving and heartfelt and a fitting goodbye to old friends and all of that is true. But I can tell you what the show has always meant to me and why I’m personally going to miss the pants off of it.

I’ve always had a…healthy appreciation of television. My brother is fond of saying that I mark my life by it. While that isn’t exactly true, I can see where he’s coming from. Just like certain songs can instantly take you back in time, certain TV shows have always had the same effect for me. For example, the first season of Friends will forever remind me of my freshman year of high school, sitting outside on the steps with my friends before school on Friday mornings, discussing the episodes together. Dawson’s Creek was always forbidden in my house so, while I snuck a few episodes in here and there, I never really got into it until college when my best friend down the hall and I bonded over gummy bears and our love of Joey and Pacey.

And The Office? It reminds me of growing up. I didn’t always care for it. As cliché and pretentious as it is to say, I, like everyone else, was a big fan of the British version. I didn’t see how anyone could top the genius that is David Brent. Why would you even try? Add to that the string of failed British adaptations NBC had at the time (Coupling, Teachers) and I was sure it was going to be terrible. I ended up watching it anyway, because I was just that douchey, and felt vindicated when the pilot was less than impressive.

That would have been the end of the story except that Christmas my roommate got an iPod and downloaded and forced me to watch “The Fire.” I was hooked. It was the beginning of a love affair that would see me through what were hands down the most formative years of my life thus far. Yes, in its later seasons, it lost focus. Michael left, Jim and Pam lived their happily ever after and got boring, the antics became a little too big, a little too unbelievably wacky, but in my mind the show is so tied to such a significant time in my life that I could never quite give up on it. Even when episodes lingered on my DVR for weeks, sometimes months, I just didn’t have the heart to cancel that season pass. And the last episode was more than enough reward for my faithfulness.

The absolute highlight had to be the return of Michael. He was Dwight’s Best Man! And he’s got a family! One he loves so much he had to get “two phones, with two numbers and two bills” just to hold all the pictures. It was everything he had ever wanted, and everything we’d always wanted for him. I was just about as happy as he was that he “finally had a family plan.” Being a family man hasn’t given him any sense though and we got a few classic Michael Scott blunders to prove it. Could his opening line have been anything but “that’s what she said?” And his comment as he watched over Dwight and Angela and Jim and Pam talking with each other after the wedding – “I feel like all my kids grew up…and then married each other. Every parents dream.” So touching. So creepy. So Michael.

The other familiar faces I was happy to see at the wedding were Ryan and Kelly. As super, crazy hot as Sendhil Ramamurthy unquestionably is, I have to admit, I was sad when Kelly chose his Dr. Robbie over Ryan. Ryan endangering the life of a baby to occupy the hot doctor’s time thus leaving Kelly alone long enough for him to whisk her away is the most fitting sendoff I could imagine. Five’ll get you ten, they break up before they get out of Pennsylvania. God love ’em.

Due to some clever finagling by Jim and Pam to ensure everyone would be in town, Dwight and Angela’s wedding weekend coincided with a reunion panel PBS organized for fans of the documentary. Which gave that audience the chance to ask the questions that we, the real audience, have always wanted to ask (admit it, as disturbing as the hearing that woman say she’d let Jim do anything was, you’ve totally thought the same thing). And while we never did find out what was in that teapot letter, we did find out that Jim and Pam’s marriage is stronger than ever after the beating it took over the past year and that Pam did have something up her sleeve to repay Jim for that gorgeous video he made for her – a grand, romantic gesture that may have, in fact, out-Jimed Jim. She sold the house he bought without her permission without his so they would have a clear path to Austin and his waiting job at Athlead.

(And as happy as I am that Jim and Pam moved to Texas, even make-believe Texas, if anyone can give me a plausible reason why a professional sports management company would have a base in a city without any professional sports teams, I’d really like to hear from you.)

At the end of the day though, The Office was about…an office and there’s really no other place they could have ended it. The final scene finds everyone gathered together because like Angela says it’s probably the last chance they’ll ever get. As they all get drunk off of Meredith’s hidden stash, we’re given moment after moment of feels: Pam answering the phone with one last “Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam.” Dwight calling her his best friend. Jim thanking the doc crew for giving him the chance to see himself grow up and become a husband and father. Then saying everything he has he “owes to this job. This stupid, wonderful, boring, amazing job.” Pam telling the camera she can’t stand to watch the documentary and see how long it took her to notice what she had, and that she wants people to learn from her mistakes and be brave. Dwight refusing to accept Jim and Pam’s resignation, but firing them instead so he could give them severance. The song Creed sang over all of it.

It was funny bordering on silly and heartwarming bordering on schmaltzy – just like the show always was at its best and the most perfect goodbye it could be given.

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