By Kate Emswiler
The end of a beloved TV series can be deeply disappointing or sometimes bittersweet, and I responded accordingly to the news that some of my favorite shows like “30 Rock” would be ending after this upcoming season. However, I had a strangely relieved reaction to the news this week that Dunder-Mifflin will finally be shuttered after this upcoming ninth season of “The Office”. After all, it’s easy to understand why the show is ending. I no longer consider “The Office” to be a great show, or even a very good show, as over recent years it seems the characters have devolved into caricatures, storylines have weakened and the actual office itself just feels sad and boring.
Some of the seasons have been better than others, and season eight over 2011-2012 was especially uneven and bizarre. The show went on a plummeting nosedive with occasional bouts of outrageous, triumphant hilarity from some of the weird newcomers like James Spader and, of course, fellow “Kate” Catherine Tate. And yet, every single week, I put myself through the grinding task of watching “The Office” — even making a point of watching it before I watched drastically higher quality shows like “Community” and “Parks and Recreation”.
Indeed, there are plenty of other shows that I like and, frankly, respect more than “The Office”, but I don’t watch those shows nearly so regularly. Why? I don’t know. I can’t explain it besides that there’s something comforting and familiar about “The Office” and checking in with it each week (or watching a whole slew of episodes in a row on a lazy day off) feels like visiting my old neighborhood or checking in on a relative whom I might not like very much, but whose company feels homey.
Or in other words, I love “The Office”, but I don’t really like “The Office”.
You know that phrase “you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family?” (I think there’s a “you can pick your nose…” portion of that saying, too, but that’s gross.) That’s how I feel about certain TV shows, even though obviously you can choose which shows to watch and which to ignore (not always true of embarrassing relatives). Watching “The Office” sometimes feels like a familial obligation, but at the same time, it’s weirdly heartwarming to just take a peek and make sure that everyone’s still around, still doing alright. Andy is still a little unstable, Kelly is still self-absorbed, Angela still has major issues in her relationships with both humans and cats (remember when her “Cat Cam” caught her “grooming” her cats — with her tongue?). It’s soothing. Everything else in the world might be in shambles, but I can rely on the fact that no matter which episode of “The Office” I watch, everything will be pretty much normal and right. “Normal” in Dunder-Mifflin terms, anyway.
At the same time, just like when a relationship ends, there are some aspects I’ll wish good riddance. Kevin’s character is like a ham-fisted parody of Kevin’s character, at this point. Toby has crossed over from being a hilarious sad-sack to being a horribly depressing sad-sack. Jim and Pam and their kids are uninteresting, to put it mildly (as mildly as the characters conduct their lives). What’s complicated and sad about the whole thing is that some of the things that I’ll be glad to be rid of are the same things I’ll miss seeing during my weekly check-ins.
But now that there is a definite end in sight for the Dunder-Mifflinites, I look forward to a much tighter show this final season. It happened when “Lost” announced its end date and — for the most part — the episodes that aired between that announcement and the series finale were much more carefully and economically executed. Hopefully over this next and final season, “The Office” will provide more genuine laughs and less random time-filler nonsense. Now that I know our time together is limited, I want to cherish each final moment of this relationship with my irritating yet beloved show.
What shows are you stuck in a relationship with?