The existence of streaming TV is a glorious, glorious thing, allowing us all the ability to plough back through old favourite shows at a phenomenal rate for a fraction of the cost of buying the DVD box sets. It’s a good time to be on the couch, really.
Case in point: Over the past month (or, really, month-and-a-bit) I set upon the journey of tearing back through all 9 seasons of The Office – the US version, of course – which arrived on Stan not terribly long ago.
That’s 9 seasons, 201 episodes, shitloads of hours spent delving back through the lives of those humble Dunder Mifflin employees in Scranton, PA. A rate of just under 5 episodes per day.
Did I cry at the finale once again? Sure did. Did I walk around for three days after completing the task with the smell of paper weirdly embedded in my nose? Absolutely. Did I come out of it having realised things about the show I didn’t see the first few times around? You bet your ass.
It’s a revelatory show at the best of times, but here are the big, main takeaways I gleaned from marathoning the entire show in a short amount of time. Other than the fact that I can’t seem to stop answering the phone with “Dunder Mifflin, this is Cam” now.
CREED IS THE BEST AND FUNNIEST CHARACTER
The funniest character to appear on The Office is Creed Bratton. Not Michael Scott, not Dwight Schrute, not even Stanley Hudson, for god’s sake. It’s Creed. Creed is the winner. The weirdest, most absurd, consistently funny character on the show, by a mile. The real MVP of the series. From stating “that’s really, really good timing” after turning up to Halloween splattered in blood, to rocking a boater hat while playing a little hooky from work, Creed rules, and is directly responsible for the best gag the series ever put to air: B.O.B.O.D.D.Y.
All other jokes suck by comparison. Sorry if that offends.
JIM IS A WELL-MEANING ASSHOLE, BUT AN ASSHOLE NONETHELESS
This isn’t to say that Jim Halpert isn’t a fundamentally good person; he is, absolutely. But he has an asshole-ish streak in him that leads him to do some really shitty things; be they kissing an engaged woman, mentally torturing multiple co-workers over many years, doing things behind his wife’s back belying a trust that was quickly fraying, and generally engaging in selfish conduct; there’s countless instances where Jim thinks he’s being selfless, but the only real beneficiary of his actions and grand gestures is himself.
Jim seldom felt the full brunt of his own missteps; a fact that rang true right up to the point where it nearly cost him everything. So much of the show’s early, “golden”-era story focused on Pam changing and sacrificing on her path to Jim. In reality, it was Jim that had to do the most work in order to truly deserve Pam. He got there, ultimately. But christ almighty he takes his time.
VAL ABSOLUTELY SUCKS
Val. Good lord.
There’s a little late-season bias to this one because, good lord, a woman does not have to disclose the fact she has a boyfriend just because some bloke she works with is hitting on her.
And truth be told, Val is fundamentally fine until season nine.
But then she turns a blind eye to a blatant episode of vandalism in the warehouse – one where one the employees she manages defaces Pam’s mural – and the resulting escalated conflict ends with a man almost assaulting a woman until the film crew intervenes.
That’s pisspoor management, Val. The warehouse isn’t a secret club that must be protected from upstairs at all costs. You are the Warehouse Foreman. Tell your goddamned crew to pull their ass into gear.
I HAVE NO IDEA HOW A DOCUMENTARY THAT AMBITIOUS WOULD EVER GET FUNDING
Think about it, the entire show is one long documentary filming. That means cameras were rolling on this nondescript paper company for nearly nine years. Nine years of meticulous, full-time filming to produce a documentary series of only a handful of episodes. The damned thing only wound up airing on PBS as well; it’s not like they had HBO money behind them. What absolute lunatic thought it would be a good idea to fully fund a documentary series with a NEARLY DECADE-LONG production schedule?
It boggles the mind, I tell you. It’s not bloody Boyhood. The juice ain’t worth the squeeze.
ROBERT CALIFORNIA SHOULD BE IN JAIL
I absolutely refuse to believe Dunder Mifflin stockholders (it’s a publicly traded company, apparently, if Dwight’s great radio “meltdown” is to be believed) would have taken one cursory look at the performance of Robert California – not even his real name – and done anything rather than see right through it.
A career criminal and conman whose litany of crimes committed blatantly on the show included fraud, sexual harassment, workplace harassment, workplace bullying, entrapment, blackmail, and an outright admission of plans to commit probable statutory rape.
Jail. Jail for the bad man.
THE ONLY PURE CHARACTER ON THE SHOW IS KEVIN
Throughout nine seasons and over two-hundred episodes, the only crook thing Kevin Malone actually does is spill a metric tonne of chilli onto the floor of the office. And even then his only real crime there is caring too much about his co-workers.
Kevin is a virtuous, kind-hearted man thrust into an accountancy role he was woefully under-qualified for by a boss making fairytale-like managerial decisions; any mathematical errors he makes through the course of his employment are rendered null by that fact. He is faultless, and it’s a miracle he got any actual accounting work done at all.
Consider his track-record: He keeps Oscar‘s affair with the State Senator secret. He bonds with Angela‘s child in a time where she needs help the most. He almost single-handedly helps Andy achieve a quarterly sales target for the entire office by winning pub trivia and giving the cash prize to the office. He is perfect and good and lovely. Thoroughly under-appreciated by his co-workers at best, and mercilessly bullied by them at worst.
ACTUALLY, KAREN AS WELL
No one on the show gets dealt a rougher hand than Karen Filippelli: An otherwise bog-standard sales rep in Stamford who has her life turned upside down after getting caught in the pull of Jim and his lovesick bullshit after he doesn’t immediately get what he wants from Pam – which he deals with by leaving the state instead of, y’know, FINDING SOMEWHERE ELSE TO WORK IN SCRANTON – has that job go up in flames after her shit of a boss sells all their jobs down the river, uproots her entire life to follow Jim back to Scranton after he tells her what he thinks she wants to hear instead of just being honest about his own goddamned feelings, THEN ultimately gets dumped without warning when he ABANDONS HER IN NEW YORK CITY without so much as a goodbye.
And yet where’s HER bloody spinoff. Honestly.
HEY, KIDS! IT’S TV’S CHRIS GETHARD!
Find a way to watch Gethard’s Career Suicide HBO special. It’s insanely good.
NELLIE ABSOLUTELY KIDNAPPED RYAN’S BABY IN THE FINALE
We all saw this, right? We all saw this happen. Nellie Bertram stole a baby. That’s exactly what she’s hinting at there. She took the baby, which was not hers, and left the country.
You can’t just whisk the poor kid off to Poland, Nellie. Adopting a child isn’t a matter of finders keepers. There is paperwork to be done.
THE BEST RELATIONSHIP IN THE SHOW IS BETWEEN PAM AND MICHAEL
Oh sure, the show was *built* around Pam & Jim. But the best relationship in the whole thing is the one between Pam and Michael Scott. It’s why Goodbye, Michael – Steve Carrell’s last episode as a series regular – is the best episode The Office ever aired.
Much of Pam & Michael’s relationship was built around tensions and emotions that arose whenever they were thrust together (that’s what she said), but what Goodbye, Michael explores best is what happens when they’re apart.
Together, they are the beating heart of the entire show; the manager and the receptionist. A purely platonic, wholly beautiful – if not fraught – friendship that endures more than its fair share of ups and downs and ebbs and flows. And it’s at its best right at the end, with no words, rounding off with a silent embrace.
The two characters with the biggest hearts, capping off a friendship for the ages with a simple hug.
The Office always was, at its core, a show about friendships. That we got a handful of incredible romantic pairings and rollercoasters out of it is just drug-laced icing on a particularly delicious apology cupcake.
But without the interplay of Pam & Michael, and the enormous capacity to love that both exuded, the show wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near the heights that it did.
I watched all two-hundred-and-one episodes of The Office in just over a month, and the biggest thing I could ever take away from it is that I’m just bloody glad there’s stories out there with characters like Pam Beesly and Michael Scott.
They’re the best. And so is The Office.