Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow-Goodbye to The Office

Early last decade a couple of British sitcoms were available for viewing in the U.S; “Coupling” and “The Office.” “Coupling” was 28 episodes over four seasons. Six single people in their 20s and 30s, sound like “Friends” yet? It was. But they had their own style and chemistry and if it was a U.S. show with 100+ episodes, it would be considered a classic. They tried a U.S. version of “Coupling.” Hyped by NBC as a sexier version of “Friends” it might have been one of the least successful sitcoms in U.S. history. It was on maybe three or four weeks. You can’t invent chemistry like that. What is Jennifer Aniston and/or Matt LeBlanc had not been on Friends? Wish they had just used the U.K. cast.

“The Office” was 12 episodes over two seasons. With Ricky Gervais as the world’s worst boss who thought he was the world’s best boss, it had a cult following. Gervais wrote & directed the show and gave the rights to the people who wanted to bring it to the U.S. When word came that it was coming here, it seemed like a far worse idea that even “Coupling.” I liked the show, as did others, but it did not seem like a mass appeal network sitcom. Quite the opposite! And what would they do if it went past 12 episodes?

It debuted in the spring of 2005. The themes and scripts seemed reasonably close to the U.K. version just slightly Americanized. Ricky Gervais’ character of David Brent because Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott. Tim became Jim, Gareth became Dwight and Dawn became Pam. Initial ratings were awful, it was a close call but NBC miraculously decided to go with it for a second season.

Something happened in season 2; it became a great show! It was mischievous, hilarious wild, great chemistry and you cared about the characters. It was never a Top 10 ratings smash but it got good-enough ratings and it got the right demographics, according to advertisers. As a sign of success, there were bobble head dolls for the characters. Ricky Gervais said he knew the show was catching on when people callled him the U.K.’s Michael Scott character. Ricky Gervais had a title in the show, said he hardly watched it but loved cashing the checks. There was also a scene in Steve Carrell’s last year when Michael Scott met Ricky Gervais’ David Brent for about a minute and each thought the other was a great guy!

Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott transformed from a person who took himself too seriously to a really loveable guy. And no work ever got done in the office. Yet, you could see yourself and everyone else you knew from work in the show. There are such few shows about work, where we all spend some much of our time, it was Must-See-TV.

As late as November 2008, I was telling people on Facebook that I did not want to go to visit my wife’s family and friends in Holland because I did not want to miss a week of “The Office.” I used to feel I could know someone, and how much they were similar to me if they watched the show or not. For those who didn’t watch it, if I suggested they must watch it (and I never suggest to people what they must watch), they never did. Well, I thought so!

Then something happened. The show wasn’t funny anymore. How could that be? I laughed at Friends and Frasier and Seinfeld from the first show until the last. It went from one “did they really just say that?” moment after another to not laughing once during the show. Starting in the fall of 2009, I rarely watched it. I did watch Michael Scott’s farewell episode and once on a flight from Amsterdam to New York, my wife got me to watch an episode featuring a guest appearance from Georgette Engel.

Last night I watched “The Office” finale and one hour retrospective. I don’t think I missed much the last few years but the storylines were wrapped up nicely and reminded me for the first time in several years what a great show it had been and why I had cared about the characters so much.

I don’t watch a lot of network television anyone and The Office might be the last sitcom that I’ll ever really like. If it is, it’s a great way to go out in style.