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burn this office to the ground
all it takes is horrible writing
by joe procopio (@jproco)
5.2.12
television

I can't understand how something could go so bad in such a short amount of time.

Don't get me wrong. I've been in relationships with seemingly unpsychotic women, I've had an eighth or ninth drink that I felt pretty good about before it delivered poison into my bloodstream, I've left milk out on the kitchen counter on a hot day. So I know how something can go from dream to nightmare within an extremely small window.

But what the shark has happened to The Office?

The Office wasn't always a great show, but it was the most consistently funny show from its second season until Steve Carrell left, with an incredible amount of realism that was never overshadowed by the comedy or the brief moments of excellent drama, most of which had to do with Jim and Pam and their non-romance.

Within the space of half-a-season, The Office has devolved from an honestly funny and relatable workplace comedy to a ridiculous circus of unbelievable setups and dick jokes, including a five minute conference room discussion on impotence.

My point is this never should have happened. And here's why:

Five Things That Should Have Already Killed The Office

The American version of The Office had ominous beginnings based solely on the fact that it (1) was a British export at a time when American networks were regularly buying the rights to whatever BBC series they could get their hands on, shows that are usually dry as a three-day-old scone (I don't know, is that a thing?), and then filling them so full of AMERICA that even the You Might Be a Redneck Guy is like "Yeah. Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. Total guilty pleasure."

Remember Coupling? Neither does anyone else except for the mother of the guy who brought it over while she begs him to get out of bed and go re-apply at Taco Bell.

Of course, exporting doesn't always fail, just look at American Idol and its never-ending run of clones. It's like Satan had an everything-must-go sale on souls. And why we're not constantly stealing from the Japanese is beyond me. I think they have game shows where people are naked.

Emboldened by their success in doing the next-to-impossible, and by the way, Extras is three times as funny as the British Office, the writers dared the shark again by (2) bringing Jim and Pam together in Season 4.

If there's one good way to make a show better, it's turning the sexual tension between the leads into arguments about which way the toilet paper should turn.

HOLY SHIT SHE DID NOT JUST BURN THE MEATLOAF AGAIN!

Most famously, this killed Moonlighting, which just set up the Die Hard movies so, you know, thank you. It also apparently killed Cheers, which opened up the door for Ted Danson to star in every pilot that has ever been written since.

Well now the writers are stuck, because everyone's favorite episode is ALWAYS, without question, (3) the Wedding Episode. However, everyone's least favorite episode is usually every single episode after the Wedding Episode until the show moves to Friday nights and is cancelled.

And then, like putting a fourth bullet in a zombie's skull, the writers, whom I'm assuming at this point are just coming to work every day and staring at each other in disbelief, decide not just to bring on board a baby, but (4) two babies.

I believe this is where Carrell catches wind of the fact that the writers are killing the show on purpose, because you don't leave a franchise after Evan Almighty and Get Smart. It's the Shelley Long Syndrome, just write me the hell out and let Steve worry about Steve.

Especially when NBC then produces an entire show that circles around two first-world-problem characters having a baby. That's what I want after putting three kids to bed, let's watch that.

For a little while, the (5) departure of Michael Scott even looked like it couldn't take The Office down, because Spader came in and stole Carrell's moment. And when it was announced he would be the replacement, there was hope.

Then they went and changed his character completely.

You tell me that's an accident. Or gross incompetence.

Screw that, IT'S A DARE!

And my proof is Nellie, another addition to the show that... it just has to be an attempt to turn off every viewer left and see if they can just hold it down until it sinks.

If that's the goal, then well played, Office writing team, well played. If it's not, just pull the show now, don't release the Season 8 DVD, and for the love of God, give Community a shot in the nine hole.

Quickly, before the writers come up with (6) The Office: Interns!.


ABOUT JOE PROCOPIO

Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.

more about joe procopio

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COMMENTS

joe procopio
5.2.12 @ 11:20a

Not enough room in the column, but here's how to fix it:

1. Take the focus off of Ed Helms – Steve Carrell got a movie career from his work on The Office, and the corollary, The Office did not become bigger because of Steve Carrell's movie career. Ed Helms is the Hangover guy, but he's not holding up as the lead. The show survived Jim and Pam's marriage and baby, so put the focus back on them and their struggle as a couple and as parents in the workplace. Make it funny, not vacuous like Up All Night.

joe procopio
5.2.12 @ 11:21a

2. Get rid of Robert California, Nellie, and anyone else who shouldn't be in Scranton full time. Or move Robert California to Scranton, make him the manager, chalk up the last few months as depression, and bring his bite back. He was an evil genius and it worked really, really well. But get rid of Nellie, fatally, now. Don't bother writing her out, she just doesn't show up one day and no one ever speaks of her again. It's how she came in anyway.

3. Get off the relationships. Even Ryan and Kelly is grating. Allow them to date other people outside of the office for God's sake. Stuntcast the hell out of this.

joe procopio
5.2.12 @ 11:21a

4. Stop making everything nuclear. Make the situations more realistic and skew them funny. America will follow you. 95% of America works at jobs they hate. They relate. It's why they watch.

5. Stop trying to make everyone equal. The background characters should be background characters. It's an ensemble show. No one really cares about their private lives, and this includes Craig Robinson, who is brilliant, but is being wasted by suddenly becoming as passive-aggressive and goofy as everyone else now seemingly has to be. The characters outside of Jim, Pam, and Dwight are one note. Deal with that and write funny stuff for them within their range.

reem al-omari
5.4.12 @ 8:27p

I started watching The Office in chronological order on Netflix maybe 5 or 6 months ago, and I'm already feeling it deteriorate as I get further into season 6. I think Dwight's character is probably the only thing holding the show together, otherwise, I don't think it would've survived a season without Steve Carell like it has, even with James Spader.



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