A racist, sexist, over-the-top, but well-meaning guy being all too exuberant and attempting to be the life of the party, a couple busy falling in love, another couple going at it in the annex, a nice (-ish), depressed guy rejected by every girl just hanging around somewhere, the over-sized, porno, pervert with a “delightful” smile, the guy who don’t give no shit, the hippie veteran who no one knows how he got there and the woman who, well, I can’t really find the polite synonym for loose and/or easy. I find it eerie how easily the template for any college party can do just as good a job when you talk about The Office. Oh wait, there’s also the guy who talks about the quality of his manure, his beets and the different kinds of meats he can procure for your birthday party. Come on, you know every party has at least one of those. And who wouldn’t love the idea of having four different kinds of meat as the main attraction at their sweet sixteen (cue high pitched, excited voice). The point, however, is that a college party and The Office are equally enjoyable, if the latter isn’t more so. Sure, one pretty much guarantees an over-burdened bed, and being all too well-versed in the other insures a life-long relief from any such problems. Despite that, however, The Office provides and teaches you so many things that you would generally not know—not to bring uncooked birds to the office with the intention of cooking them, not to have three vasectomies because the woman you’re with might just choose to be impregnated by a cup and to be utterly unflinching in telling someone how you feel about them. Like Jim did with Pam, or how clear Michael always was with Toby about his feelings toward him. Inspired by a Ricky Gervais-led British show, this series is the story of an all too intrusive camera crew which infiltrated the lives of a kind of family where no one is overly attached to the other and would throw them under the bus for a chocolate bar; at least initially. Kinda like Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
“Friends joke with one another.
‘Hey, you’re poor.’
‘Hey, your mamma’s dead.’
That’s what friends do.”
Wouldn’t you love to work in an office-space where a boss can openly and unashamedly ask a gay worker about what to expect for his colonoscopy? Or where he can ask the black guy to teach him some of their “language”? Or a place where the boss declares bankruptcy by literally yelling it out loud in the office, thinking that is, of course, the way to declare bankruptcy? Steve Carell plays Michael Scott, “the not superstitious but a little stitious” boss, and my god, does he play it well. Perhaps the weirdest, craziest individual with little to no regard of private space and/or (mostly and) political correctness and workplace norms, Carell is fantastic as the “World’s Best Boss”. Perennially well-meaning but always narcissistic and selfish in his approach, he possess all the characteristics of a failure, and everything he does points to him, well, sucking at managing a branch. Yet, somehow, he manages the most successful branch of Dunder-Mifflin. So either he is really lucky (which I doubt because all his plans backfire: he gets three vasectomies and yet his girlfriend at the time goes to a sperm bank. Oh, and he regularly takes forced hiatuses from sex for a very, very long time) or he is the greatest mastermind since Mojo-Jojo. Hey, hear me out—even though he was the bad guy, maybe it was all his plan to get the Powerpuff Girls to sort out their problems and be stronger superheroes. Either way, Michael Scott is the enigma that denies a solution and actively resists common sense, or any sense at all. Despite his desire to be accepted and liked, he has a deep aversion to being normal and yet, everything he does seems geared toward making the office a better workplace and to keep his working family together. Such valiant efforts spur him on to hitting a co-worker with a car and throwing a watermelon off the roof, albeit well-meaningly.
“My philosophy is basically this. And this is something I live by. And I always have. And I always will.
Don’t ever, for any reason, do anything to anyone, for any reason, ever, no matter what. No matter….where. Or who, or who you are with, or where you’re going, or….or where you’ve been…ever. For any reason, whatsoever.”
I would be so incredibly remiss if I wrote a review of The Office and failed to dedicate an entire paragraph to Dwight Schrute, Assistant (to the) Regional Manager. Now if, from what you just read, you thought Michael Scott was an enigma, Dwight Schrute is from a whhhooolllee other world. Then again, he is German. But jokes aside, if you ever place an advertisement on Craigslist about a beets and manure expert, who is also a volunteer for the Sheriff’s department, he is sure to pop up. In a world where Michael Scott is the highest ranking employee of a branch, it is also okay to place an fuck-load armada of weapons all around the office, ranging from pepper sprays to throwing stars to katanas, and that is exactly what Dwight does. He is headstrong in his belief that he is the best sales rep at the office, thinks he deserves to be the manager and feels that he is an expert in babies because he performed his own circumcision when he was growing up. A savant of safety, he simulates a fire (which causes one of his co-workers to have a heart-attack), thereby proving that no one paid attention to his safety presentation. So, essentially, Dwight is a Sheldon Cooper on crack who focuses more on doing the weird things he fantasizes about than just simply imagining them. Rainn Wilson seems an easy-going person in reality, as compared to Dwight who wears his enema-up-my-behind look with immense haughtiness and pride, and it is to his credit and ability that he brings such a wonderful persona to the role that he seems so different from. Like I mentioned earlier, The Office wonderfully balances comedy and intense feelings, and Dwight is no exception to this rule. Even though he seems like one of those characters in the Cyanide & Happiness memes with his perpetual doomsday preparations, Dwight tends to be an immensely emotionally layered character. It is rather touching to see him struggle with his emotions when his ex-girlfriend starts dating, and then gets engaged to, a different co-worker. His weirdness belies a very sincere individual who just merely happens to have a different set of beliefs. Sure, those beliefs involve his co-workers all being fired, how they would probably all die way before him and feeding his boss and friend fried bull-testicles for revenge, but you know, very sincere.
“People say, ‘oh it’s dangerous to keep weapons in the home, or the workplace.’ Well I say, it’s better to be hurt by someone you know, accidentally, than by a stranger, on purpose.”
There is a very remarkable poignancy to the show, despite its amalgamation of such strange characters. It’s one of those ideal sitcoms which retains the ability to split your sides with laughter and yet, touch you on a very intense emotional level. If you have just funny stuff, you seem to be trying too hard and end up like one of those also-rans, like Matthew Perry’s The Odd Couple. But if you’re intensely emotional and only emotional, you’re cast aside as a rather pale imitation of One Tree Hill. The Office navigates these waters masterfully, abundant in comedy with just a dash of feeling that is so wonderfully satiating. The Office isn’t just a funny ride, it’s a fun ride and it all begins when Jim sticks Dwight’s stapler in jelly. All too often when I’m writing these reviews for sitcoms that balance comedy and emotional intensity well, I seem to run out of words because the shows feel so wholesome that describing mere parts would take away from them. The Office is quite similar. I would feel incredibly guilty if I left out the “Ro-do-doo-do-doo”s, Michael’s attraction toward Ryan, Mindy Kaling’s stereotype bashing about how all Indians are quite smart and Creed’s penchant to making you laugh with the weirdest shit. But a review must be limited and so must I (somewhere my readers are heaving a collective sigh). But that just goes to show how in how high a regard I hold this TV series. To be able to speak about something ceaselessly, even when told to stop, is the mark of appreciation, obsession (in a good way) and, in my case, utter isolation.
“Security in this office park is a joke. Last year I came to work with my spud-gun in a duffel bag. I sat at my desk all day with a rifle that shoots potatoes at 60 pounds per square inch. Can you imagine if I was deranged?”
The mark of a good sitcom is, in my (not too) humble opinion, that it claims universality among the viewers it does and doesn’t attract. What I mean by that is that a good sitcom breaks boundaries in some manner or another. Seinfeld did that in terms of location—despite being based in New York, it appealed to audiences everywhere. Friends and HIMYM attracted audiences across the bounds of time, in the sense that it was appealing to and spoke to a multitude of generations watching the show. The Office manages a similar kind of appeal but in a manner that is way more substantial—it manages to break out from that workplace setting to appeal to different generations beyond the boundaries of place. It is almost existential in the way that that office is limited to a part of a floor in a rather small building; it feels as though it is removed from the world. But it is the show’s ability to break out from those binds to encompass so much more—comedy, love, sadness, catharsis, and to appeal to such a large audience. It is touching at the right moments, none more so than in the last episode where the tears of the cast were real and in “Goodbye Michael” where their pain at Steve Carell leaving them was so visceral, you could feel it on this side of the screen. The comic material is more than abundant, what with Michael making every politically insensitive joke there is, Kevin’s eye-catching physique and Dwight’s delightful antics. Even the romantic has a little soup for the soul—Jim and Pam’s love story, especially their marriage which is very beautiful, and certainly one of those moments which make you want to get married at the Niagara Falls. I realize I haven’t talked much about them and their story but even though I am kind of a dick and ruin most things for people nice enough to read my meandering bullshit, there is a kind of amusing satisfaction in watching their wooing go back and forth, and an all too incredible delight in having them get together, get married and Pam having her first baby. I didn’t want to be the one who takes away from all those bits of delight and wonder. Enjoy those moments, because like Andy says, “I wish there was some way of knowing that you’re in the good old days, when you’re in the good old days.” The Office is not merely the collection of characters with their individual quirks, but it is a show for the whole family and all parts of you. Of course, all of us watch it, and will watch it, largely for the comedy, and rightly so—the show is just filled to the brim with funny. But for all of Jim and Pam’s pranks, there is Dwight’s heartbreak, for all of Michael insensitiveness, there is his farewell, and for every other funny moment, there is the finale which would push you closer to tears than if you cut a hole in your trousers and started plucking. You will find all kind of characters on various sitcoms—giant babies who wear The Flash t-shirts, grown men who say “How You Doin’” to random women and a man who wears a suit to bed, they will all amuse you as I’m sure they do. But if you were to remove all sitcoms from the horizon, and have just one to provide the template for all others, wouldn’t you pick one where a white person dresses for Diwali as he would for Halloween and gets his girlfriend to come for a Diwali dinner as a cheerleader? Or a show where the weirdest guy isn’t even the person who circumcised himself (hint: it’s Creed)? Or a show where common sense is given more of a bashing than it ever has in The Simpsons or Family Guy? The answer to all those questions is but one, and that’s also the only word you should ever say to someone when they ask you, “Should I watch The Office?”.