With the removal of “The Office” on Jan. 1, 2021, American Netflix audiences can finally move on from their toxic relationship to a sitcom that ended in 2013. At long last, Tinder bios will be written with care instead of littered with a slew of Office quotes. Society as a whole can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Nature is healing.
Let me start off by clearing the air. I don’t think that “The Office” is the worst sitcom in existence, nor is it wholly unfunny. However, at its best, “The Office” made me chuckle, and at its rock bottom made me cringe so hard that I vowed never to watch several episodes ever again. Looking at you, “Scott’s Tots.”
Before I watched the show in its entirety, multiple people suggested I skip the first and last two seasons. Although the first season is only six episodes compared to the average 24 episodes a season, that’s still a third of the show deemed “unwatchable” by fans. I’m always wary of recommendations that come with caveats, because if a show is truly that spectacular then viewers shouldn’t have to skip around.
“The Office” suffers from the fact that the writers and showrunners thought that an onslaught of cringe humor and making fun of underdeveloped characters constituted good television. From season one to nine, there are fat and dumb jokes made about Kevin, a character whose weight is made to be his defining characteristic. “The Office” seems to forget the cardinal rule in comedy is to punch up, not down.
It isn’t woke culture that brought about the demise of “The Office;” it’s that people are slowly starting to realize it was never that funny to begin with. A scene of cringe humor playing off of social awkwardness can be relatable and funny, but a whole show built upon that concept cannot— especially not one that plays off blatant racism, sexism and homophobia for laughs.
The show should really be called “The Michael, Dwight, Jim and Pam Show” because those are the only characters in the office who receive any memorable screen time. Other ensemble characters such as Oscar, Angela, Kelly, Ryan, Phyllis, Meredith, Creed, Erin and Kevin are relegated to paper-thin 2D character types and given no room to grow. What’s worse is the women in this show are oftentimes only defined by their relationships to men.
Pam may be the exception to the rule in that the pursuit of her artistic career steals the spotlight for a bit, but then again her education is paused indefinitely when Jim proposes at a rainy gas station.
As a brief aside, Jim is not a great guy, and Pam deserved better. He’s a slacker, a bully and ultimately lacks accountability.
I guess I should’ve known from the get-go that the women weren’t destined for greatness in a show where one of the main character’s catchphrases is the suggestive “that’s what she said.”
One sign of a great TV show is that its writers are cognizant enough to throw in the towel while they’re ahead. “The Office” is no such show. The writers and NBC should’ve naturally ended the show after season seven when Steve Carell’s contract was up. Instead, they added two bloated seasons after viewership was already in decline.
While Carell’s character Michael Scott was never meant to be relatable, and whose ignorance was played off as laughable, he was admittedly the heart of the show. Without him, the remaining seasons seemed a soulless husk of what the show had once been.
Those final seasons also made bizarre character choices, such as making Andy an incredibly unlikable and arrogant boss, while also wasting high caliber talent (Will Ferrell, Catherine Tate, James Spader and Kathy Bates) on a messy and wandering script. Stars/writers B.J. Novak and Mindy Kaling abandoning the show after the eighth season should’ve been yet another red flag for NBC.
In the end, “The Office” strayed far from the original premise of a group of co-workers commiserating about their awful boss and their boring job. It became cluttered, wasted whole character arcs and forgot about breathing life and laughter into the story.
On the bright side, one of the best things to come out of the creation of “The Office” was that developer/writer Greg Daniels had enough momentum to co-create “Parks and Recreation” with Michael Schur — a superior piece that is funnier, developed each of its ensemble characters with complex arcs and arguably has more heart and soul behind it.
Shelby Kleinhans is a freelance photographer and beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BirdsNotReal99