Revisiting The Office's Final Season Dos and Don'ts

The Office's double-header last week (and sitting on the eve of Andy's return, which happens tonight) brought some explosiveness to the series. Some of it not exactly welcome.

"Junior Salesman" and "Vandalism" gave us a peek into Dwight's friends (Mose sighting!), some Jim and Dwight antagonism/teamwork, and a crazy-eyed Pam (my favorite Pam), but the clear focus was to establish a new point on what had traditionally been a straight line between Pam and Jim. I don't know if we should call it a triangle yet, but the introduction of Brian the Boom Guy surely does give Jim and Pam another obstacle to overcome in the event you didn't feel the tension of stress and distance were enough. That's a check on our list of The Office's Final Season Dos and Don'ts.

Yes, before this "farewell season" began, we made a few, uh, suggestions for how the show could wrap things up with dignity and class. Those were the halcyon days, before Nellie grew bland, before Andy was villainized in absentia, before we were encouraged to 'ship Erin and Pete. One of our directives was to test Jim and Pam so that we could fall in love with them again, even going to so far as to propose an affair, either real or imagined. It looks like that was already on the agenda.

And now that the show has entered the homestretch of its final season—in fact, the series finale has just been set for May 16—we've decided it's time to revisit our list of demands humble decree and assess how closely the show has followed along. Overall, it hasn't. At some points, we've been outright defied. So we've also provided a few amendments in light of what we have left.

Original: DON'T explore every permutation of intra-office coupling.

With Kelly and Ryan gone and all the other women in the office tangled up in stable relationships (doomed as they might be, Angela), Nellie and Erin are left to bear the torch of dating nuttiness. Erin and Pete have emerged as an unforeseen pairing (Pete was apparently added to the series just for the Jim jokes and to provide new meat), and Nellie has teamed up (sort of) with the Scranton Strangler. I mean, Toby. Man, that guy's really taken a turn for the weird, right? He's always been awkward and a tad creepy, but when he brushed Nellie's hair off her neck during "Customer Loyalty," I got the bad kind of chills. And then, of course, there's the whiff of a pairing between Pam and Brian (see the item below about the documentary crew).

Amended: DON'T let Toby kill every woman in the office.

Original: DO let us fall in love with Jim and Pam again.

Jim and Pam needed a hardship to overcome in order to show us how strong their bond is. Complacency is an enemy on television and Jim and Pam, being as close to television soulmates as we've ever seen, don't have much to contend with besides the quirks of their coworkers. I suggested a real or imagined affair and, initially, it looked as though the show would be going a different route. While I argued that the fight they had in "Customer Loyalty" was petty and didn't deserve the attention it received from the documentary crew (a point of debate), it doesn't mean Jam isn't having any less of a hard time. To me, that's mission accomplished. This thing with Brian adds a wrinkle and makes the molehill of general, distance-induced tension into a possible mountain of marital fidelity, whether or not Pam or Jim do anything about it. We have our obstacle. I'm ready to fall in love again.

Amended: DO finish this thing with Jim and Pam out right.

Original: DON'T make me watch any more scenes in a maternity ward.

Not a single pregnancy to end out the series! Unless the Erin thing takes a crazy turn and Pete is able to impregnate women by touching their hands while watching Die Hard (admittedly, a movie that'll get your testosterone up), I think we're in the clear here. We did get a scene to open this season with Dwight and Angela finding out the father of her baby isn't Dwight, which took place in a clinic, but the jury's still out whether Dwight got the right baby's DNA to test. I wouldn't mind if the kid turned out to be Dwight's. While I'm exhausted by so many of the characters on The Office pairing up, there are worse things than letting Angela and Dwight find each other. They're the non-Jam OTP.

Amended: DO make that baby a Schrute baby!

Original: DON'T make Todd Packer your Janice/DO bring people back with style.

The show has done a great job with this so far. Todd Packer hasn't been around much (at all?) and other major characters like Roy and Jan have had episodes where they contribute to the plot and aren't reduced to small quips just to get them in. Roy's wedding was the catalyst that provided us with Jim and Pam's current hardship and Jan gave Clark something to do for a while (PHRASING) while Pete shifted from being Clark's reluctant partner-in-crime to an instrumental fork in the Erin/Andy relationship. More of that please with Karen? And how are you going to do Michael Scott at the end without Steve Carell around to defend himself? Make him evil like Andy?

Amended: DO get creative with Michael (you'll have to).

Original: DON'T show me who is making the documentary.

Well, this was just a slap in the face. Outright defiance. After Brian first made his appearance, it was easy to see that revealing the documentary crew was a moment that was simply burning a hole in the writers' pockets. I wished they would've stayed out of it and remained objective. But now we have a name and a face, at least to the boom guy (and faces for few others, now that we've witnessed Brian's tangle with Frank). I'm torn on this situation: making the documentary crew a visible character on the show (rather than just a suggested character that shapes our perspective) is not ideal but, if you're going to do it, now's the time. The idea of Brian falling in love with Pam for the same reasons Jim did—her siren call of being looked at in a closed environment—is not a bad one. I just wish the show had executed it better.

Amended: DO make this breach of structure and formula worth it.

And one new one in light of recent events:

DO give a nod to the U.K. series finale with the American season finale.

Roseanne Barr was recently cast as an agent for Andy's show business career. Dwight in "Junior Salesman" was at his most Gareth. Jim and Pam are suffering a division and static like they've never experienced before, one that could escalate into some very tough conversations and a fight heretofore unseen between two people on this show that are destined to be together. The Office looks like it's setting the table for a U.K. series nod, which could be a beautiful thing. The first season of the American version closely mirrored Ricky Gervais's original vision, but diverged in Season 2. From that point on, partly out of necessity since a single season of American television is almost twice as long as the entire run of the U.K. Office, the series stepped away from it roots and became an animal of its own. It's hard to even compare the two anymore since the casting, writing, and direction of each show are so different. But as we close in on the end, I wouldn't mind seeing a small nod or even a grand curtsy to the show's lowly beginnings by putting the American counterparts in positions very similar to their U.K. ones. If Jim gets Pam a set of oil paints with the words "never give up" written on it, I'll fall out of my chair.

At this point, what are you hoping to see happen by the end of the season?

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