Most of us would agree that The Office isn’t at the level it once was, and hasn’t been for several years. This doesn’t mean there haven’t been good episodes and even good story arcs, but it certainly doesn’t reach that level of greatness that it once had. There could be several reasons for this. Or maybe the writers simply began to run out of ideas and couldn’t come up with better story lines. Either way, it’s fun to think about how they could have done things differently. Let the speculation begin!
The Pairing of Jim and Pam
The Jim/Pam relationship, or “Jam” as some call it, was probably the most exciting thing in a show full of exciting characters and stories. The first couple of seasons where we knew they were perfect for one another, but weren’t sure when they were going to get together were priceless. Jim’s pining, Pam’s unhealthy relationship with Roy, Jim transferring to another branch and not telling anyone the truth, his relationship with Karen. We watched with such anticipation to see how they would overcome these hurdles to be together. Even at the end of Season 3 when they started dating and into Season 4 things were still exciting with them as it led to Jim’s almost proposal at the end of the season.
Now it has been said by the writers that they didn’t want to drag the relationship out. They wanted it to move naturally because we knew that they were too compatible to have any on again/off again stuff going on. Well, being that it seems like in the last couple of seasons they haven’t really known what to do with them as much, maybe they should have dragged things out a bit more. In Season 5 they had a very natural opportunity with Pam going to art school. They played a bit with the misfiring between her and Jim about her being hours away and having new friends and a life of her own, but she ultimately gave up her dream to go back to Scranton. They should have played with that a little more. Maybe the two of them could have taken a break because they weren’t sure how their separate lives would fit together, or maybe Jim could have come to her. He was in a job he hated after all. It seems like they just brought her back to have all the main characters in the same building again. Having now seen how the characters were handled down the road, it might have been nice to just at the end of last season seen them married, before Michael left. This is one relationship that worked best before they had the stability of marriage and a baby together. After that they became (for the most part, not completely) boring. Note to The Office writers: the Andy/Erin story arc doesn’t hold a candle to the Jim/Pam one.
The Wider World of Dunder Mifflin
Perhaps one of the poorest choices in the show was to end the company Dunder Mifflin, including its corporate offices and all the other branches. Not only was it cool to see there was this sort of wider world, or deeper mythology if you want to call it that, but it also provided another opportunity to get out from within the four walls of Scranton branch. On the former note, the show really shined in the episodes that took place at the corporate office with CEO David Wallis. It brought some fun and some great drama to the show. Nothing beats watching Jan hear from Michael that she lost her job and storming into David’s office to tell him off, seeing Michael flounder between loyalty to the company that he loves and the woman he loves, and David trying to keep it all under control in a professional CEO-type way.
So when they decided that Dunder Mifflin Scranton would be taken over by a company called Sabre and all other branches and corporate offices would be dissolved, I was skeptical. Sure we gained a tough love lady company runner and a creeper guy from the main Sabre office named Gabe, but we lost that wider world and a big chunk of the fun that came with it.
Over the Top and All in the Office
This last point is really two points that tie together. The premise of the show has been and always will be the mundane life in the office of a paper supply company. That said, some of the best moments in the show have been outside the office, when the characters are doing other things. In the early days, it flitted from inner-office happenings to other happenings seamlessly and didn’t spend too much time in one place. Now not only does the show spend most of its time in the office, but when it does branch out it doesn’t feel as exciting. This could be the result of the writing and the energy the actors put into the scene, or it could be that these outside journeys don’t feel natural. It’s always been about realism and a documentary sort of straight-forwardness. More and more in recent seasons over-the-top moments get pushed to the forefront over realistic ones, especially when working outside the office.
I’m not here to say I don’t still enjoy the show. It certainly has its moments. I just hope to see more of them as the next season starts up.