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Why Jim and Pam’s Struggles Didn’t Bother Me

When I read the criticism of Jim and Pam’s relationship, I shake my head. The Office‘s perpetual sweethearts, who moved seamlessly from crush to couple to married couple over the shows nine seasons, spent the better part of the show’s farewell season fighting over Jim’s absence, in direct contraction to their relationship over the previous 180-some episodes, where they moved on from fights in a heartbeat.

This is, America what you expect have in your relationships. Don’t be surprised when you see this generation’s Harry and Sally come close to calling it quits. It speaks to how the concept of marriage being a stable and permanent institution in our culture is long over. But I digress.

Jim and Pam Halpert just go to show how much even secularists want to believe in marriage, even when they find the institution “unrealistic.” Yes, Jim and Pam’s behavior this year has not as consistent with what they have been, but Jim undermined Pam’s engagement with Roy, and Pam proclaimed her feelings for Jim while he was in a relationship. The show has never dealt with their emotional infidelity.

And to be fair, it wasn’t just Jim and Pam fighting. One of the best episodes this season was “Junior Salesman”, that took place after the Halperts had a huge fight on the phone. Instead of just throwing Jim and Pam back into bliss after that fight, the show did something more realistic: they showed Jim trying to do the right thing for Pam on that day. When two people are having fights as big as they were, you can’t just go back to happy bliss without some work. It goes one day at time.

I’m actually glad that The Office went the way it did with Jim and Pam, and I’m not a fan off TV relationship drama for the sake of drama. Unlike the storyline with Jim being tempted with Cathy last season (oh please), this storyline was believable. And honestly, what could the show have done that would have been better?

Almost happily ever after...

Happily ever after…

The Office’s Man Behind the Curtain

One of the most shocking, out-of-no-where moments for me on The Office (US) broken into one of its most sentimental. When Michael Scott was at the airport and telling the documentary crew “I guess this is it”, I thought “Wow, that’s right. If you had this documentary crew in your office for as long as Michael did, you feel very sad to see them go.”

But when Michael added “Hey, will you guys let me know if this ever airs?”, the show acknowledged something it almost never did: that the documentary crew was compiling a lot of footage for some reason. I wondered why, after six full seasons, the producers of the show would bring something that had only been acknowledged in passing, to the center of the discussion. But it was there and gone, until this past summer.

That was when Greg Daniels said we’d get to met the documentary crew, and again I wondered about this. Granted, at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t as invented in the because of how bad season 8 was (James Spader, really?) When I heard it, I thought “Why?” If the show didn’t improve creatively, no one would care.

But the show has improved creatively, in no small part because Daniels is back running it. Surprisingly, Ed Helm’s absence hasn’t hurt the show either; if anything, his absence kept show from making bigger mistakes. Daniel wrote big, multi-episode arcs for his characters, the thing that made the show successful back in the day. Even the Jim-Pam marriage strain is believable, and good.

So that brings up the question of whether or not revealing who is behind the documentary is relevant to the story. The fact that Daniel’s is going to reveal it all speaks to how television has changed since Lost. Ten years ago, people would have cared who was filming the documentary because, in the eight seasons the show has aired, the crew has barely impacted the story of the characters. When The Office first came on the air, I heard of people who watched the show for three or four years and didn’t know there was an unseen documentary crew filming the characters. In fact, it was a while until I realized that the crew was asking an unseen question to Michael, Pam, and Dwight during the talking head-cut scenes.

The American Office has sought to be less of a documentary than its British counterpart. While it ignited the ire of TV critics, Daniels went for a brighter look and a more buffoonish boss, which gave the show a longer life and more appeal. On the original British Office, the characters were people who you believed actually worked in an office called Wernham Hogg Paper Company. The characters on the American Office are like the people you believe work at Dunder Mifflin.

So that leads to the question of the barely-referenced documentary crew, and whether or not it should be revealed. While the British Office didn’t reveal its documentary crew, it did show the fame David Brent gained from the broadcast of the documentary in the Christmas special. While I have reservations, I think it could be done, and done in a way that’s interesting and that makes sense. Whatever way it’s done, less is more because it’s back story, and, as Stephen King wrote On Writing, the key word with back story is “back”. We don’t need ten episodes devoted to who the documentary crew is, but it could be interesting, as long as it’s not sold as this huge “reason for the series” (ALA Lost).

I do think that there could be a mockumentary that is the opposite of what The Office is: a show that brings the documentary crew into the foreground of the show, and lead cameraman is a series regular. The Office choose to be a different kind of show, and for its sake, let’s hope it knows how to break the fourth wall.

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