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‘Office’ joins short list of classic TV shows

Opinion Column

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

How bitter will be this last farewell. For you are beautiful, and I have loved you dearly, more dearly than the spoken word can tell.

— Roger Whittaker

A two-hour retrospective/final episode of NBC’s “The Office” ... talk about huge!

That’s what she said.

No one in their right mind would have thought that a ratings-hungry re-imagining of a quirky British TV show that sprang from the evil-genius mind of Ricky Gervais, had characters directly addressing an ever-present video camera and focused on the ho-hum everyday life of office drones in one of the most boring businesses imaginable — a paper company, for heaven’s sake — would turn out to be one of the six or seven best TV shows ever, ranking with the likes of “The Wire,” “Seinfeld,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Sopranos,” “Hill Street Blues” and other such classics.

Despite an opening season that nobody watched, making cancellation all but a foregone conclusion, “The Office” escaped the early ax when NBC executives, starving for any kind of good news to bolster their sagging network, got wind of the DVR replay numbers the comedy was generating. Hoping against hope that a following was growing for the sitcom, they gave it a second shot.

The reward for NBC was comedy genius. Led by Steve Carell, so long banquished to second-tier TV and movie roles that forced him to steal any scene he was written into (“Anchorman” anyone?), the borderline psychotic alpha-male dufusness of Rainn Wilson’s Dwight Schrute and the amazingly real romantic chemistry between Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) — with Pam’s Roy and Jim’s Karen prolonging the on-again, off-again nature of their relationship — the large “Wire”-like ensemble of characters in “The Office” clicked because these were people we all knew, people we all worked with at our own office.

Much like any memorable TV show, there are whole episodes and individual scenes from “The Office,” which centered on Golden Globe winner Carell’s bungling regional manager Michael Scott and his relationship with his employees at the Scranton, Pa.-based Dunder Mifflin Paper Co., that will be just as funny 20 or 30 or 40 years from now as they were when they first aired.

The YouTube-inspired dance down the aisle at Jim and Pam’s wedding, Michael and Dwight visiting the company president’s home to save their branch from closure, Angela (Angela Kinsey) grooming her cats while her disgusted co-workers watched on nanny cam, Michael espousing diversity at one of his ubiquitous staff meetings by kissing gay staffer Oscar (Oscar Nunez), Jim’s series of practical jokes (stapler in a jello mold, desk in the men’s bathroom, faxes from the future, “gaydar detector,” gift-wrapped desk) that drove Dwight to the brink of madness, the Dwight-Angela-Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) love triangle, the staff’s 5K run for rabies, the unforgettable office Olympics that featured events like “lunkerton” ... All are classic.

“The Office” hit its stride in the middle of Season 2 and kept reaching new heights through the third, fourth, fifth and sixth seasons. The short stay of Will Ferrell as Michael’s replacement offered some series highlights, as did the episodes featuring Idris Elba as Michael’s supervisor, which led the bungling boss to start his own paper company, enticing Pam — a la “Jerry McGuire” — and former temp Ryan (B.J. Novak, one of several cast members who wrote, produced or directed “Office” episodes and was Michael’s man-crush) to come with him.

But the tearful — and amazingly touching — exit of Carell in 2011 (Michael went to Colorado with the love of his life, Amy Ryan’s Holly Flax) took most of the magic out of “The Office.” Even so, holdovers Jim, Pam, Dwight, Oscar, Angela, Ryan, Andy, Kevin (Brian Baumgartner), Phyllis (Phyllis Smith), Darrell (Craig Robinson), Creed (Creed Bratton, who played in the ’60s rock group the Grass Roots, a fact hilariously written into the series finale), Stanley (Leslie David Baker), Meredith (Kate Flannery), new-girl Erin (Ellie Kemper), hired when Pam left to work for the Michael Scott Paper Co., which had an office in the Dunder Mifflin basement, and Kelly (Mindy Kaling) all stuck around and managed to generate enough laughs to take fans through a two-year victory lap.

While the memorable episodes and scenes from “The Office” are what fans will remember most, little things like Michael’s “World’s Best Boss” coffee mug, Dwight’s beet farm, Andy’s a capella group Here Comes Treble, Jim and Pam’s poignant “mental pictures,” Michael, Dwight and Andy’s various song takeoffs, Kevin’s Police cover group Scrantonicity, the Dundees ... well, those are the personal touches that made “The Office” staff, and their everyday foibles, as much a part of fans’ lives as their real co-workers.

Carell’s surprise return for Dwight and Angela’s wedding in the finale — Michael’s take, while glancing over at Jim, Pam, Dwight and Angela with genuine tears in his eyes: “It’s like your kids have grown up and they married each other ... which is every parents’ dream.” — certainly added a touching bit of warm-and-fuzzy to the Dunder Mifflin group’s swan song. We’ll miss them all; thankfully, that PBS camera crew was there all along to preserve their actions on video.

In the case of “The Office,” the characters may have had their annoying habits, but they never wore out their welcome. They always left us wanting more.

That’s what she said.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

Comments

Cartman 1 year, 3 months ago

Never heard of it. But Longmire is back on beginning the season tomorrow night. And the great news is that they will revive 24 next year.

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agirl_25 1 year, 3 months ago

I have watched the Ricky Gervais program THE OFFICE by getting the DVD's from Netflix. Tried to watch the American version and if you have ever seen the British series you will not waste your time watching the NBC version....well I wouldn't. Bored me to death and I knew right away it was a loser. Kind of like talk shows...once you have watched The Graham Norton Show on the BBC our talk shows are boringggggggggg. As far as Gervais goes, I agree he is a genius when it comes to writing hits. AN IDIOT ABROAD is one of the funniest series I have ever seen, and EXTRAS had me in stitches the whole time. Remember I am entitled to my opinion. I kind of like racing...I don't like NASCAR but do love Formula One racing..........varooooommmmmm

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