Strange Brouhaha

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

"The Office"

My friend Chris has the DVDs of "The Office," including both complete seasons and the two-part reunion special. I warn you now that I'm including spoilers in the upcoming paragraphs. If you haven't seen "The Office," and you're planning on seeing it, then maybe you oughtn't read any further.

I liked the series, as a whole. It was very well-written and nicely underplayed. The main difference between (good) British comedies and (most) American comedies is that our shows follow a rigid formula and most of the time err on the side of "laff riot." It seems that our comedies echo our national characters much better than our dramas do; American comedies are big and bold, while British comedies, even wilder fare like "The Young Ones," are a lot more understated and calm--the belly laugh versus the slowly burning fuse.

(Digression: Realize that what we get over here, on PBS and BBC America and on videos and DVDs, is the cream of the crop. We're not getting the British "Dharma and Greg," here. Also, the British format of having a single six-episode "series" lends itself to tighter construction and better writing than a roomful of people trying to come up with laff riots every week for six months, which is what he have on this side of the pond.)

The more I think about it, though, the unhappier I get with the resolution of the reunion special. I liked that they continued with the humanization of David Brent, the smarmy office manager. I think Ricky Gervais played the end of the second series really, really well, giving him just that little touch of humanity and vulnerability that he had been missing, and the blind date he had in the special really continued that trend nicely. I also liked that they humanized Gareth a little bit: remember, he was supposed to be boss only temporarily, and yet two years later, he's still in charge and nothing much has changed. (It's a testament to office ennui as much as anything else, I suppose, but I still see it as a compliment to Gareth.) What I didn't like...was Dawn and Tim.

How to explain Dawn and Tim? Dawn is the office receptionist, Tim is a salesman. Although she's engaged to one of the warehouse workers, Dawn flirts with Tim and he flirts back. It's basically a big "unrequited love" story across both seasons: Will Tim ask Dawn out? (Yes.) What will Dawn say? (No. Twice.) In the special, Tim gives Dawn a very sensitive gift that proves his love (yes, sorry, I'm gagging just typing that sentence) and she leaves her fiance and she and Tim get together.

I don't like it.

The problem is, as much as I don't like audience pandering--of which this is a perfect and blatant example--there's no other possible resolution. It's written so tightly that that pandering solution is also the only solution. I don't like it, but it happens to be the perfect ending. That's really strange, or at least I think it is. You can't change that ending without changing one of the other characters. The only, only thing you can do is film that car driving off and end it there, have Tim deliver another blatant lie about not being in love with her maybe, have David deliver his last line and close it right there. That might have been good...but it wouldn't have been better, which is so rarely the case that I'm a little surprised. It just seems more right, usually, to let unrequited love remain that way.

Overall, I highly recommend "The Office." It's funny in that great "oh my GOD why am I laughing at this?" way. An absolute and utter gem, as the gushing critics are apt to say.


  • dpb: Jesus Robert, The Dawn and Tim resolution is nearly the only bit of hope in the whole the series and you don't like it. I think you're picking nits. I've rolled my eyes over more happy endings than I can count, but this one time--this ONE time--you know, I was kinda teary.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:42 AM  

  • Yes, but where writing is concerned, my husband has the instincts of an artist (make 'em SUFFER! Make 'em SUFFER SUFFER SUFFER!) as opposed to an audience member. Notice the detached and highly analytical way he talked about all of it. He had his writer hat on.

    I would add that it is probably the very astringent tone of the show that permitted the "pandering" to happen. It's ironic--you love a show because of how bitter it is, and then they use that to pull off stuff that would otherwise be sentimental. But in context, they've earned it, because they've toed the hard line in every other respect. In fact, you can argue that you actually need it. Squishier shows need to toughen up at the end and bring in some hardness, but it works the opposite way for shows like "The Office."

    By Blogger Savannah, at 9:14 AM  

  • "Always leave 'em wanting more."

    I am picking nits, it's what I get paid to do. Besides, I didn't say it wasn't emotionally fulfilling--it was. I just like to ruthlessly squash that in favor of a more open, bittersweet ending.

    By Blogger Robert, at 9:26 AM  

  • dpb: oh pooh. You get paid to pick software nits.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:04 AM  

  • See? "A more open, bittersweet ending." Artist hat!! It's not about nitpicking at all, it's about taste.

    By Blogger Savannah, at 12:45 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home