This post is about the American version of “The Office,” not the smuttier British version.
I was never a huge fan of NBC’s “The Office” when it was in its prime-time prime. I’d tried watching it once or twice at some random mid-season episode and couldn’t quite understand the hype.
The funny thing is, my husband (then-boyfriend) Luke did like it, and he is often a harder viewer to please than I am. As it was ending its epic nine-season run, he got me somewhat hooked on the last few episodes to air. But it was only a few years later, when we watched all nine seasons on Netflix (over the course of probably a good few months…), that I came to fully appreciate the show in all its glory.
It’s a show about people annoying each other in their work day at their office job. Doesn’t sound very exciting, right?
I think the reason I had a hard time getting into it when I tried watching it the first time is because the hilarity, and I daresay the beauty, of the show comes from the relationships of the strange characters to one another and all the inside jokes they share with the audience. So to really appreciate it, you have to have enough knowledge of the intricacies of the characters’ relationships to understand those inside jokes; you have to watch a few episodes, if not start from the beginning, to really get it. Only then can you begin to see the comic genius the show often contains.
Fools, Weirdos, and the Normal Guy
I’d say the selection of characters in this show is a little more eccentric than you’d probably find in an every day office, but it’s kind of balanced out by the Normal Guy, Jim.
Now Jim, besides being pretty much every viewer’s favorite character (maybe I’m biased? He was definitely mine…), serves such an important purpose in this show, because he’s essentially us, viewing all these weirdos from the perspective of a normal person. Of course, he’s also half of the show’s great love story, which gives us something to root for, just when it seems that the show might be a pointless conglomeration of weird people doing annoying stuff.
But I think the most depth and meaning in this show actually comes from the foolishness of Michael Scott (Steve Carell). He is racist, sexist, politically incorrect, selfish, juvenile, and kind of pathetic. But so, so funny. And because we have Jim to help us view this guy through a “normal” lens, we can see Michael Scott’s folly for what it is.
For example, Michael likes a new female co-worker, is trying to be friends with her, but as is his tenancy with women, he is reducing her to her looks; and he says to Jim, “Did you see Holly’s butt?” Jim replies, “Nope, I didn’t. You know why? Because most of the time, friends don’t talk about other friends’ butts.” It’s a wonderful scene, because it directly comments on how it’s not okay for Michael to reduce her to a sexual object, but it is so hilarious that we kind of don’t even realize we’re being given a moral truth.
How Smutty is it?
Now this show is based on a British sitcom of the same name, which I haven’t actually seen. But I’ve heard that the British version is rather on the dirty side. This American version, however, is by and large pretty clean. Does it occasionally devolve into raunchiness? Yes. But the good news is that it doesn’t get raunchy very often.
Mostly, the problem is sexual jokes, though there is also a couple having a mostly off-screen secret affair in one season, and a homosexual character whose relationship issues do become a temporary plot point in a later season. There were a couple instances, over the course of the nine seasons, where Luke and I chose to fast-forward scenes because of raunchy dialogue that goes on for a bit. But in my opinion, the vast amount of content that was good artistically and even morally outweighed these problems.
It wasn’t always perfect, but a show has to do something right to last that long.
And this show not only lasted that long, but it thrived through nine seasons in such a way that, when we finally reached that last episode, I wanted to cry. In a good way. Truly a feat, for a comedy.