Saturday, April 19, 2008

OMG You Guys Jim and Pam Squeeeeee!!!!

When the American version of the British series "The Office" was concocted, I wasn't terribly optimistic at the notion of NBC developing a show that was tone. When I say "British," I think I mean "soul-crushingly hopeless." Check your thesaurus.

The BBC "Office" was more tragedy than comedy. It mined its jokes from the exhausting futility of day-to-day existence. No good deed went unpunished, no character ever really won. For example, when Tim (Jim here in the states) professed his love to Dawn (Pam - but you probably figured that out) in the series finale, she shot him down. It was only in the concluding Christmas special that they threw fans a bone by getting them together.

How to get romantic leads together without killing dramatic tension has plagued TV writers since "Moonlighting." This season, the American "Office" seems to have found the answer: shift the focus away from the romantic leads, onto the unspoken agony that is Michael Scott's life.

This is the first time since the opening six-episode season that the series has summoned up the bleak nature of the original. Now that Jim and Pam are together, we don't really have to worry about them - we can look at other things. Particularly, how fucking awful it is to be Michael Scott. Meaningless job, cruel lunatic girlfriend, and the inability to really make it better, because despite his best efforts, he has no idea how to effectively interact with other people.

Some of the most recent episodes have been the darkest in tone, but not just because they showed how bad Michael's corporate and work lives have gotten. They also showed that just because Jim Got The Girl, didn't mean his life was automatically great. His stint as substitute boss in "Survivorman" implied that without a certain level of self-awareness, he actually could become Michael. And in "Dinner Party," when he seriously pondered abandoning Pam at Michael and Jan's psychodrama of a get-together, 'shippers everywhere got a sign that Jim might not be the perfect boyfriend.

But it also made the couple that much more realistic.

If this were a shitty TV show, Jim would be in the doghouse with Pam and have to make a grand gesture to win back her trust. But it's not. At its best, "The Office" does its best to mirror reality, and so we saw that the two worked it out like they actually would - through playful ribbing, rather than a Big Important Fight.

And yet this past episode, "The Chairmodel," where Jim revealed that he bought an engagement ring "the week [they] started dating," all I could think was, "Oh fuck, they're going to break them up." This is Ross-and-Rachel disease - the (often network-generated) notion that to keep the high drama going, you need more ups and downs in the relationship.

But "The Office" isn't about high drama. It's about little victories, a series theme echoed in the last episode by Kevin - who had recently been dumped by his fiancee (off-screen, which should piss him off, considering all the time the documentary crew devotes to Jim and Pam) - successfully reclaimed the staff's parking spaces, and sheepishly admitted, "It's nice to win one."

So I'm really hoping that the writers think of Pam and Jim together as just a little victory. It won't change the world, or even their workplace, but it would be a rare case of something going right for a change. Like Kevin said. It'd be nice to win one.


tad said...

Wasn't the episode where Jim was turning into Michael the "survivorman" episode? I remember Michael singing the harmony to happy birthday at the same time as Jim was combining all the birthdays.

Not that it changes your point, though.

Anney E. J. Ryan said...

what a great blog!!! you echoed all of my recent thoughts about the office over the past two weeks. I gasped when Jim nearly left Pam at the party, and felt rather indignant that she didn't let him have it. But after a minute, I thought about it. It wasn't the end of the world. I started to wonder if maybe I'VE been too hard on boyfriends in the past.

The Kevin moment was really great. I like how you are basing your Pam and Jim future on those tendencies in the writing. I'm like you, hoping that they don't screw with this whole Jim and Pam engagement thing. They've done the see saw crap for the last three seasons... and not being like other shows is what makes the office stand out from the british office.

ISTV Global Stronghold said...

Oooh, look at Tad, all "Mr. Continuity Cop."

Yes, I screwed up. It SHALL BE FIXED!