THE POP CULT is a Young Mary’s Record series dedicated to observing the very best ( and worst, when bad is oh-so-good) of current and retro pop culture. Provided from the brains of our wise and completely enigmatic Pop Cult leader Kyle Sanders, this post is dedicated to the end of the popular, much-loved television series The Office and it’s finale.
You know how some people refer to “historical events” when discussing a particular moment in their lives? Well, I refer to television series when detailing the many chapters of my storied life. I was born when Hill Street Blues died on the air. My first year of grade school witnessed the last-year runs of The Golden Girls, Cheers, and The Cosby Show. My teen years weren’t as funny without the likes of Roseanne and Seinfeld. I was saying goodbye to Friends a year before I’d say goodbye to my own friends when I graduated high school, and I was finding my way through graduate school as I bid adieu to LOST. In other words, I see the end of a television show as an end to an era. I recall particular times in my life based upon the TV lineups of yesteryear. When you spend five plus years or so welcoming characters into your living room on a weekly basis, it’s hard to watch them leave. It’s perhaps the closest thing I’ve come to “empty nest syndrome” (and yes I DO recall the series finale of Empty Nest!).
So it’s no easy transition to witness the series finale of The Office. The Americanized version of that saucy Ricky Gervais show from England made its debut mid-season in the spring of 2005, right before my transition to college life. Much like my first experience at WKU, the first season of The Office was awkwardly funny and did not see much action. Like most freshmen seasons, the cast of characters needed some time to grow, including Steve Carell’s in-the-history-books-of-television character Michael Scott, the “American David Brent” if you will. He was certainly a buffoonish jerk, but had yet to gain the lovable persona his character would evolve into. Even the supporting cast was a little one-dimensional. The will-they-or-won’t-they relationship between Pam and Jim (Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski) was sweet but not sizzling, and the bizarro Dwight Schrute (the incomparable Rainn Wilson) was just that: bizarre. But like all green sitcoms, these characters would ripen into fully developed personalities that would eventually gain my love and support.
And this is where it gets good. As I finally busted out of my teen years into my twenties, The Office was at its humorous peak. My Thursday nights, while expected to be reserved for “Thirsty Thursdays” and late-night trips to Waffle House, were (at times) replaced with NBC Thursday night comedies. Of course, the nineties brought an end to “Must See TV,” but this was the 2000’s, the era of “Comedy Done Right.” I’d set my VCR (because a DVR was still about TWO YEARS away from taking over) for My Name is Earl, 30 Rock (another show that took its final bow a few months ago—STILL getting used to that absence), and The Office. I had my own dorm room at the time, so I could watch these shows over and over without any lip from an annoyed roommate. It probably seems pathetic and a bit sad that my Thursday nights relied on watching TV, but it didn’t matter to me because this was what made me happy. Yes, of course there would usually be a visit to the local bars from time to time, but regardless I would make time for The Office.
By the time I was getting ready to graduate with my Bachelor’s, I’d come to love ALL the characters on The Office: Phyllis, Angela, Creed, Toby, Meredith, Kevin, Oscar, Stanley, Kelly, Ryan, Daryl, Gabe, Erin, Karen, Jan, and Andy were ALL irreplaceable to the show. Each was special and unique to the status quo of the office and provided personalities that can be found in most office workspaces (I’ve worked with a few Angela’s and Creed’s in my days of part-time job living). I couldn’t imagine the show without either of these characters, so when it came time for Steve Carell to leave the show, as you can imagine, I was livid.
Of course, Steve Carell had been starring in some big-hit comedies while on The Office. His career was blowing up so fast that his time spent with the sitcom was holding him back. Yes, some actors on television unfortunately can’t make the big jump from TV to films (Paging Shelley Long and David Caruso!), but Carell was a different story. It was inevitable, but still heartbreaking. As I was wrapping up my second year of grad school, and about to pass a quarter-of-a-century on this earth, I (along with the rest of the world) had to say goodbye to Michael Scott. Carell’s last episode marked the second time I cried at the ending of a TV show (the first being the final episode of LOST a year earlier). After all the unsuccessful pranks, the rude remarks, the inappropriate gestures, and after all of the sub-par “That’s what she said’s,” I found myself weeping over that pompous bastard. But you know what? I had grown to love him.
With Carell’s departure, most viewers like me were left wondering “what’s going to happen to the show?” Well, as expected, The Office suffered. They replaced Michael Scott’s position with the intimidating Robert California (played by the sexy/scary James Spader) who was eventually replaced by the buffoonish Andy Bernard (the-truly-funny-but-only-in-supporting-roles Ed Helms). The chemistry between the characters ran a little colder; the atmosphere seemed to have taken a dark side. But like any loyal, doting, Tammy-Wynette-of-a-housewife, I stood by my show. Yet while I watched with dedicated eyes glued to the screen before, I now sort of watched the show as white noise, recognizing the television was on but not entirely paying attention. While the show had grown stale, I must admit some of the storylines were still bitingly funny. The whole Angela-Oscar-Senator love triangle was quite fun to see unravel, and the addition of Catherine Tate’s Nellie Bertram brought a little British pizzazz to the cast. But without the glue of Carell, The Office was falling apart and indeed looking at termination.
And now it’s happening. We are down to the last few episodes and I’m finding myself in my late twenties and at a crossroads. With the end of this show, I’m saying goodbye to a near-decade of my life filled with quirky network comedy TV shows (yes, there’s still Parks and Recreation and Community, but they are just successors to the kingdom that The Office built), as well as to my twenties. Yes, I still have a few years left, but I’m approaching the dawn of my “thirties” when most people my age have found their niche and have married and started families and settled in for adulthood. I’m not ready for that and don’t plan to be for many years to come. Yet with the end of The Office, I do find myself taking the next big step to finding my calling. Perhaps the end of The Office is the beginning of a new chapter for me, of moving on and starting over. I’ve had so many good memories with The Office: I witnessed Michael’s “acceptance” of Oscar’s homosexuality with that forced awkward kiss; I was there for Pam and Jim’s YouTube-inspired wedding; I anxiously awaited the premiere of “Threat Level Midnight”; I remember Michael serenading Toby on his (supposed) last day at the office; and I was there when Michael proposed to Holly, whom he left Scranton for. There are so many memorable moments from this show, it would require another blog to list them (which some have already jumped the gun and have provided you for your perusal). I’m not exactly sure how NBC will say goodbye to the folks at Dunder Mifflin—it’s already been confirmed that Steve Carell WILL provide an appearance though no word on exactly how—but I’m sure it’ll be bigger than I could possible imagine…annnd that’s what she said.
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