"The end of a thing is better than its beginning;..." (from Ecclesiastes 7:8 New King James Version)
I missed the final episode of the NBC sit-com "The Office" a few weeks ago, but was intrigued by the number of comments posted on Facebook about how much fans enjoyed and were moved by this final episode. It seems to me that after nine years or so, "everybody" has watched "The Office" and is familiar with it, but I know that's really not true. I'd say that when it comes to "The Office" there are three types of people: 1. Those who absolutely love the show. 2. Those who can "take or leave" the show and don't get it. 3. Those who have never seen it.
The original television show known as "The Office" was on British television and ran for only a year or two. (Sit-coms don't usually run for much more than a year or two on British television.) The British show was run on American PBS stations for a few years and I've seen a number of episodes of the original British program. I think it was my son Jon who first introduced me to "The Office" in its first year on NBC. For those who are unfamiliar with it, "The Office" is what's known as a "mock-u-mentary", that is, a fake documentary. The viewer sees what appears to be just a film of real life situations. Interspersed among the "real life situations" are short interviews of the people commenting on what's just happened in the previous scene, their opinions about it, etc. I know. If you've never watched a "mock-u-mentary" this sounds really stupid and you can understand why some people don't get it! "The Office" struggled in the ratings for its first year and could easily have been cancelled. I'm glad the network gave it a chance, because it slowly built ratings and after three years or so was a big hit. Currently, there are reruns of "The Office" frequently popping up on independent and cable channels. I have the feeling it will be around in reruns for at least another decade.
I liked "The Office" right from the beginning. The characters have exaggerated traits for comedic purposes, but each of them is like someone we've known in real life. "Michael Scott" (the office manager) was played by Steve Carrell. That character really "made" the show. Then there was "Pam" originally the receptionist who later became a salesperson, and an accomplished artist outside of her job at "Dunder-Mifflin paper company". The big plot of the first year was her "friendship" with "Jim Halpert" a young Dunder-Mifflin salesman with a warm and friendly personality who was also quite the prankster. That year, Pam was engaged to "Roy" a big oaf who worked in the warehouse and had nothing in common with Pam. Jim was secretly in love with Pam and devastated that she was marrying Roy. I will never forget the final episode of that season which I watched in a hotel room on the Ohio/Pennsylvania line on my way back to Massachusetts from Missouri. Jim takes Pam aside and tells her he is in love with her. Initially, this goes over like a lead balloon. I felt so bad for Jim, as I suspect all viewers did. That Fall, however, fans were delighted to learn that Pam called the wedding off. It took time, but Jim and Pam began dating, and ultimately married. One of my favorite episodes was their wedding at Niagara Falls, NY which included a ride on a "Maid of the Midst" boat. (That happens to be one of my favorite places, and I've been on one of those boat rides.) Back to the characters, there's "Dwight" who comes from an Amish family background. He's one of the most paranoid, nerdy, and intense people you'd ever want to meet and the victim of many of Jim's pranks. There's "Angela" who is very self-righteous, critical, and unfriendly. Early on in the show, she lets it be known that her two favorite books are The Bible and Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life". Yes, I think she's supposed to be an evangelical Christian. Sadly, Angela sometimes engages in premarital sex and can have a foul mouth. I suppose it might have been a motive of the writers to use the "Angela" character to slam evangelical Christians, but the character "Angela" can also be used to instruct evangelical Christians in how not to behave! As a committed evangelical Christian, it really saddens me that there are plenty of "Angelas" out there who do a great disservice to the Kingdom of God. In their wake are scores of people saying, "If that's what a Christian is, then I want nothing to do with it!" Sadly, that character is nothing like a born-again Christian is supposed to be, and I hope no Christian would ever want to be like "Angela". Still another character is "Kevin" a bookkeeper who seems kind of dumb and mediocre in so many ways, yet in his own way is likable. There are many other characters; I just don't have room to write about them all!
Another of my favorite episodes is when Michael and Scott are on their way to visit a client and Michael is dutifully obeying his GPS. The voice from the GPS instructs Michael to "turn right". Dwight yells and protests, but Michael insists on obeying the GPS no matter what, and drives right into a pond!
This brings me to write something about the character Michael Scott that I have never shared with anyone until now: I saw a lot of myself in that character. I was hesitant to write that, because in the show Michael Scott is in some respects a racist and a sexist, and at times is an absolutely clueless fool. I want to make it clear that I am not a racist or a sexist, and I sure hope I am never a clueless fool! What I did identify with in Michael Scott is that he is a guy who absolutely "thinks outside the box". He's not a good office manager or administrator. One wonders what he's doing in that roll. Yet, serious fans of the show know Michael got that job because he was and is an outstanding salesman. And, much to the amazement of the Dunder-Mifflin higher-ups in New York City, Scranton (Michael's branch) is usually the top performing branch in the country! Michael tells them it's because he makes the office a fun place and has a family relationship with the workers. Yes, he's a terrible administrator, but there's something about that personality of his, because for whatever reason, that office produces! There's one episode of the show where Micheal is taking to Erin, a new employee at the time. He encourages her and tells her he has "a good feeling" about her and her future prospects. It's in that episode where we learn how Kevin the bumbling bookkeeper ever got his job. "Kevin originally applied for a job in the warehouse," Michael tells Erin, "but I had a feeling about him and I made him a bookkeeper- and I have a feeling about you, too". After Pam takes some art classes and gets to be pretty good she is featured in a show at an art gallery. Pam eagerly invites her coworkers to come to her art show. They all give her lip service, but at the show, Pam is very disappointed that nobody from work has come to her art show. At the very end, Pam is almost in tears, and who shows up? Michael Scott! He warmly compliments Pam's artwork. She gives him a big hug and cries. Yes, Michael is a friend and an encourager and a good salesman, and also loves to get up in front of people and perform. Michael believes he is a great businessman and administrator, though he isn't. At one point, he is told he is being "considered" for a big promotion in the company. He really isn't. It's just a bone that the big-shots from New York throw at him to make him happy. Much later in a deposition at the corporate headquarters in New York City, Michael boasts that he was seriously considered for that big corporate job (that ultimately someone else got). In that deposition, one of the big-shots is asked point blank if Michael Scott was really a serious candidate for that big job. "David Wallace" the corporate guy fumbles around, hangs his head, and says, "Michael is a nice guy, but no, he was never a serious candidate." You can see the hurt and surprise in Michael Scott's face. Later in that episode, Michael goes up to David Wallace, a bit nervously, and tells him how much he appreciates that David called him "a nice guy" and says "I think you're a nice guy, too!". That episode means a lot to me, because it frankly reminds me a lot of some real life disappointments that have happened in my life- and Michael's "nice guy" statement to David Wallace is very much like something I would have done.
I missed the final episode of "The Office" but I was delighted to "accidentally" stumble upon it being re-run this past Tuesday night. In the final (one hour) episode, Dwight marries Angela; and "The Office" is running on PBS- all of them have suddenly become little celebrities. I was both happy and misty-eyed watching that final episode. I haven't quite felt that way watching a television show finale since the final episode of "Northern Exposure" in the summer of 1995. Maybe this piece bored you and meant little, but watching on Tuesday night was very special for me and something I felt I had to share with you!
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