There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?
For a long time, I didn’t know why I liked The Office. It was funny, there were some great running jokes, and I had (have) a major celebrity crush on Jenna Fischer. But last night, at the very end of the series finale, it hit me. This show, for all of its humor and over the top awkwardness, celebrated the ordinary in ways a lot of shows just don’t do.
As I think back over the run of the show, the best moments were the ones that dealt with ordinary things. The Jim and Dwight practical jokes. The awkwardness of the dinner party. The crazy building tension between Jim and Pam. Andy’s desire for approval from his father. Michael’s genuineness. I’ve seen every episode (besides season 9) multiple times, and though the show post-Michael clearly went downhill, it was a show that celebrated a bunch of ordinary people doing ordinary things.
Everybody knows a Dwight. I feel like, at times, I’m related to about 15 Michaels. Jim feels like that guy I’ve been friends with since college, but I can’t really remember why, when, or how we met. Ryan, though over the top, is that annoying hipster kid that really is that big of a tool. Not because he’s a hipster, but because he’s just a tool.
The only other show I can think of that made me feel this way is Boy Meets World. That show hit me as I was growing up, and in a lot of ways, I felt like I grew up with Cory, Topanga, Shawn, and Mr. Feeny. And if that show kind of walked me through adolescence, The Office took me in to my adult life. That statement is a bit of hyperbole, because there are a lot of really important things (like…the Bible and the ministry of RUF), but the show did play a part in it.
There were times that it really, I mean really, felt like a reality show. I remember watching as Andy punched a hole in the wall and thinking “…wow, I could see myself reacting that way.” I hurt for Jim during season 2, and I hurt for Pam in season 3, because it really did feel so real. Same for Michael when Holly came back.
As ridiculous as some of the show was, it never really felt like the characters weren’t real people. I think of just about every other show I’ve ever watched and the people don’t feel real. Jack Bauer is a guy I wish was real and was out there stopping terrorism. The Bluths are a hilarious group of people, and there are definitely people out there that are so rich that they are that clueless. Dr. House, maybe my favorite TV character of all time, is exactly who I’d want working on me if I collapsed with some inexplicable disease that brought me to the brink of death. But none of those people feel real. They were too awesome, too clueless, or too smart.
For whatever reason, I never felt that way about the characters of The Office. Jim and Pam’s relationship is a great example – they were great together, and it was a great love story. But it never seemed to go quite the way they wanted it to. There was no grand gesture when they finally got together, Jim’s epic proposal got hijacked, Pam got knocked up and the wedding went wrong, and Jim didn’t get to just go off and chase his dreams how it felt like we all wanted him to. It was a great love story because it was flawed. I think you can say a lot more about it than just this, and I’m sure someone has. Maybe I will later.
It’s a weird thing to feel like TV characters are your friends, but that’s exactly how I came to view Jim, Pam, Michael, Dwight, and the rest of the crew. And I’m aware that I’m probably over-romanticizing the show. Full disclosure, the whole time the cast was sitting around in the office at the end of the finale, I was an emotional wreck. As weird as the finale felt at times (although it was a great episode), I can’t imagine a more perfect ending to the episode.
9 years. They weren’t all great, but what is great every single time? Even the not-so-good times felt like bad pizza – it wasn’t very good pizza, but it was still pizza, and I’m always OK with pizza. Since 2005, (I was a year late to the party), my Thursday nights have been consumed by the show. Everybody had some great lines, but Pam’s I quoted above and the following by Andy nailed it for me:
I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.
So thanks, NBC, for 9 great years. Thanks for giving me one of my 5 favorite shows.
And thanks for reminding me of the beauty of the ordinary.