Over the next few weeks, I’ll be summarizing my thoughts on many of the series that ended just as the “official” television season came to a close recently.
Overview: I thought season five of The Office was a nice return to form after the mediocre fourth season and had big expectations for what season six could bring. But sadly, this batch of episodes ended up being the most disappointing and uneven offering the series has ever done. There were definitely some hilarious episodes and only a few flat-out horrible ones, but as Parks and Recreation brought the heart and Community brought the references, The Office just looked…old. And tired. And ready to leave the air.
Pros: This started to manifest in season five, but I’m so happy that Andy Bernard is more like a human being than he was earlier on in his Office run. Sure, Ed Helms is now the biggest non-Carell star on the series, but even before “The Hangover,” the writers were figuring out how to make the Nard Dawg the best part of the program and that continued in season six. It’s odd that as all the other characters continued to become broad types and one-note joke machines, Andy has become more real. His relationship with Erin will never be Jam 2.0, but it’s cute and heartfelt, something that’s lacking from the rest of series at most points.
Speaking of Jam, their relationship still holds as a nice emotional anchor for the series and they experience two major moments this year in marriage and pregnancy. Both were handled well — the marriage much more so — and though some people have been critical of the characters’ evolution, I think it’s par for the course for people who are finally growing up while still trying to have some fun in the workplace.
Cons: The Office is a series that works so much better when it has a real world threat bearing down on the workplace, whether it be downsizing, corporate espionage or competing companies featuring former branch managers. That’s what made season five funny again once Michael Scott Paper Company came around. This year, the writers tried to include the solvency of Dunder Mifflin and the ultimate purchase of the company by Sabre, but it never really went anywhere. The middle of the season addressed the changes, but then it felt like back to status quo until the stupid whistleblower story at the tail end of the season.
Moreover, the problems with Sabre highlight the major issues with the season — it was full of missed opportunities. Jim was given a promotion and Michael a demotion at one point, but most of it was dealt with in just one episode. Darryl was given one too, and not a whole lot came from that aside from putting Craig Robinson in more episodes. Each one of those stories should have opened up the season to a slew of funny stories, but instead they were contained to a few episodes and then used as background context for the interpersonal drama.
Of course, I cannot criticize the series without mentioning the degradation of the characters, most of which are far from the complicated real people we once loved back in seasons two and three. Dwight always teetered the line of reality and the ridiculous and aside from a few moments, he completely leaped into caricature mode. Same goes for Michael, who has blown which ever way the plot wind needed him to in the past few years. This season, Michael did a number of stupid and despicable things and never did much on the other end to make us feel like he wasn’t a complete dirt bag. That’s not Michael Scott.
Perhaps this is the only way you can take characters on a long-running comedy, but it’s still disappointing to know exactly what kind of thing Phyllis, Stanley or Meredith is going to say before they even start to say it.
Best storyline: Pam and Jim’s journey to marriage and through parenthood.
Worst storyline: Michael and Donna’s adulterous relationship.
Best performer: Ed Helms — I already praised the Nard Dawg up top, but he balances the comedy and emotional moments well while still making us slightly uncomfortable.
Best single moment: Learning that Jim and Pam had already gotten married at the Niagara Falls before the “real” wedding.
Three best episodes: “Niagara,” “The Delivery Part 1,” “Murder”
Worst episode: “The Banker”
Where does it fit in the context of the whole series: Alas, the series is officially showing its age because this is definitely the worst season so far. The biting humor has been replaced by broad strokes, the characters are no longer that interesting and without a real world threat catalyzing the action, it all just feels lacking in energy. Here’s to hoping it can turn around!
Final grade: C
Past days of the wrap: