Character Development in The Office S07 E16

 

"Holly and I are like Romeo and Juliet and this office is like the dragon that kept them apart."

 

This post will be brief because I’d rather be watching Grey’s than writing about a slightly-better-than-mediocre office comedy. I don’t love The Office the way I love Community, Parks and Recreation, and Toddlers and Tiaras. I think the setting is bland and the plots are often convoluted and tedious. What I do like is the faux documentary formal elements, especially the intermittent talking head interviews, and the zany ensemble cast.

Like many of the other comedies I watch, I like The Office for its idiosyncratic characters. I’ve caught most of the episodes of the first few seasons here and there, but I started watching The Office weekly and sequentially probably about four years ago. In that time, I’ve seen far less character development than in the first season of Community alone. When I watch The Office now, I see characters who are so secure in their own erratic mannerisms that they’ve changed little from the same eclectic bunch I encountered years ago. This isn’t exactly a problem, provided that scripts are still funny and characters engage in the same crazy antics, but I feel like it’s a missed opportunity for depth.

I keep talking about character development because it feels so lacking in many of the shows I watch. This is an incredibly strange phenomenon when you think that many of these comedies air, or have aired, for several years. Wouldn’t this prolonged encounter between viewers and characters be the perfect scenario for a deeper look into motivation and behavior? I’ve been watching Michael, Dwight, Jim, Pam, Oscar, et al for a while now, but I still feel like I don’t know much about them.

A friend of mine once related a critical article he’d read about The Office positing that Jim is the most compelling character because he is the quintessential white-collar office worker who bought into the American dream, but now works at a job below his intelligence and aspirations so that he can support his family. Well yeah, I guess I can see how a viewer might extrapolate that information about Jim, but when you’re actually watching the show, that kind of backstory just isn’t there. Maybe Steve Carell’s departure will be the impetus this show needs to add some substance to its remaining cast? Or maybe The Office will finally be euthanized after a mostly successful run? Stay tuned!

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