Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Office

So, I finally discovered The Office.

I'd caught a random episode at one point, and I couldn't figure out what in the world people found so funny about this show. Maybe it's the absence of a laugh track to clue me in to what was supposed to be funny, but I just didn't find myself amused in any way. Office Manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell) was inane and stupid, and paper salesman Dwight Shrute (Rainn Wilson) was downright mean. I was supposed to tune in to watch these two goof balls act like idiots?

Then, a few weeks ago, I was trolling through the remote when I happened to catch the Tuesday night airings of The Office in syndication on TBS. Two episodes, which I watched intently, and I was good and hooked.

I have no idea what spurred me to give this show another try when I hadn't gotten it the first time. Actually, yes, I do know.

Jim and Pam.

In various formats I've come to learn that this couple called "Jim and Pam" are really appealing and offer up loads of UST and are just one of the cutest things to watch on TV. Since I'm always game to find a wonderful new 'shipping opportunity, I even went so far as to YouTube Jim and Pam and caught a few "My Favorite Jim and Pam Moments" vids which, to be honest, were enough to catch me up to their story and convince me that, yes, they seem to be 'ship-worthy. I figured if I ever got the chance, maybe I'd tune in again if only so I could watch this lovely couple get their romance on.

Come to find out, when I watched those two rerun episodes that Tuesday night, I was jumping into the Karen-As-Obstacle chapters of the Jim and Pam romance. Even though this might be consider the lowest valley in the Jim/Pam relationship rollercoaster, I still found them compelling as both a couple and as individual characters. Plus, what do you know, some of the other characters were kind of funny as well.

Some easy wikipedia reading caught me up, I set my DVR to record any old and new episodes, and headed to Amazon to see how cheaply I could find Seasons 1, 2, 3 or 4 in the "Buy New/Used" section.

Over the past week, I've watched all of Season 1, all of Season 2, most of Season 3 (the local Blockbuster didn't have the 3rd disc on hand for rental) and the Season 5 episodes that have aired in the last few weeks.

What I don't get is why in the world I didn't find this show hilarious the first time I saw it. This show is a roll-on-the-floor scream! And it's not just the Jim/Pam romance that keeps me hooked. It's Michael taking the women of the office shopping at Victoria's Secret and Dwight giving Pam a hanky to wipe away her tears and The Dundies and Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration and Jan's boob job and creepy Creed (actually, he's the one character I do not like) and the entire premise and execution and all of it. This show is a masterpiece. Of course there's no laugh track. You don't need a laugh track.

And there is Jim. Oh my goodness, there is Jim. What a wonderful hero. He's every-guy. The perfect template for the true beta-hero. He's cute but not gorgeous, sweet and charming but just a little bit goofy. He's romantic but clueless, he's naughty but not cruel. His sense of humor is right up my alley - sarcastic and dry and amused by the absurd. John Krasinski owns this character, and if I worked for Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch, he'd be the reason I showed up at the office every single day. Never before could I have imagined a fantasy wherein I was a receptionist for a paper company.

Pam and Jim's romance has been absolutely perfect. Friends who feel more than friendship, kept apart by Pam's relationship with another man. When Jim confessed his feelings for her at the end of Season 1, I wanted to melt. And knowing that she wanted to be with him as well but felt she couldn't leave Roy...perfect. Then it was too late. Jim was gone and then he had Karen. Or had he?

Best thing about this relationship is how it unfolded so realistically. Just as such a relationship would in this situation, an office friendship turned romance. You can imagine the daily flirting, the lunches together and shared experiences that little by little by little push these two together and deepen their feelings for each other. That's the way we as viewers got to experience it as well. Each episode gave us the same tiny amount of development that one might expect in the real world, nothing huge, no grand gestures or dramatic events. Just a slow evolution that seems very organic but is unmistakable in its direction. Thus the obstacles standing in the way seemed natural as well. You can believe in this relationship because it's based in our reality.

It will be interesting to see how Pam and Jim's engagement and (presumable) new marriage will play out.

One thing I have come to know about this show is that it does need to be experienced from the beginning to fully appreciate. To a casual drop-in viewer, Dwight's antics and Michael's incompetence come across as absurd (see my above experience). You have to live with these characters to understand them, to care for them and understand their appeal. I think that's what was wrong when I saw my first episode. I had no background from which to gain context, so Michael and Dwight came off as stupid rather than funny. Now I've had a chance to see their layers and their actions make a lot more sense.

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