The folks over at Slate think that this season of Office has been little short of a disaster. As I read their critique and suggestions for improvement, I had to ask myself: What the heck are they smoking? The Office is better than it has been since Season 2, which may be one of the best seasons of any comedy ever made. If anything, Season 3 represented a backslide and Season 4 is a recuperation. Further, some of their complaints are some of the best things about the show.

Their first complaint is the (temporary) one-hour episode structure. Watch carefully and you will see that these are not hour-long episodes, they’re a combination of two-part episodes that break pretty evenly about the middle (for syndication purposes, most likely). As someone that plowed through the first two seasons in the course of a week, I don’t have a problem with back-to-back episodes. This might have presented a problem last season when the show was not at its best, but I’d take two hour episodes of the stuff they’re putting together this season.

The most puzzling thing, though, is their disappointment at the relationship of Pam and Jim:

PB & J are a disappointment for those of us who saw the couple as a worthy successor to Ross and Rachel, NBC’s will-they-or-won’t-they couple of yore. But their relationship is also a bad sign for the show. Jim and Pam’s thwarted love gave The Office a narrative arc that transcended the episode-to-episode hijinks of the other Dunderheads. Pam and Jim provided emotional ballast for a show that has always been in danger of keeling over into the absurd. Now, especially with these first episodes running to the hour, the show feels adrift and, at times, pointless. When Michael finally learns that Jim and Pam are together, he malaprops that “this is a day that will live in infamy.” Let’s hope that doesn’t turn out to be the case.

Good grief, the last thing I wanted was for Pam and Jim to devolve into a Ross-and-Rachel situation. Ross and Rachel were, though likable, vain and rather self-centered people. Part of the magic of Pam and Jim is that they have never, ever been that way with one another. Their hurdles were not indications of character defects, they were external. They were the perfect couple-in-waiting. It would be beyond disappointment if they suddenly decided to start screwing it up. It’s quite possible that it will happen in future years, but I hope not. Tim and Dawn in the British Office had two seasons and a movie and their happy ending. The concept behind Jim/Tim and Pam/Dawn simply wasn’t meant to go on forever. I for one am very glad that the writers recognized this, made it happen, and are moving on. Problems will surely arise as they do in any relationship, but I am glad that they didn’t leave them twisting in the wind forever and I’m going to be pretty pissed off if it devolves into a drama-fest.

Besides, their partnership gives room for the Dwight/Angela/Andy situation, which even the Slate people seem to be liking. It also gave room for the last episode with an extraordinary scene with Michael and Jan that was both heartfelt and funny. If Pam and Jim were still hovering about, that would have been a lot more secondary than it was.

The verdict for Ryan’s new position at corporate seems to have a lot of people nonplussed and thus far I’m the only person that likes it. I thought that the entire reason for putting Ryan in New York was to make him a foil for the gang and that’s exactly what he’s been. Yeah, it doesn’t quite have the chemistry of Michael and Jan, but it works to me.

The overarching thing is that the Slate people apparently wanted The Office to stay frozen in amber at about the second or third season. They’re complaining about the jokes that they can’t do anymore, but like the Budsweiser frogs sometimes it’s best to move on before something got way too old. I want movement and development. It makes the characters more relatable and it makes the jokes more new.

Category: Theater

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