By staff writer Chris Phelan
February 21, 2007
In my opinion, there are only two shows that come even close to the greatness that is The Office, and those shows are Arrested Development and Scrubs. The first one for being the funniest pure comedy I’ve ever seen, and the latter for being just a perfect blend of oddball humor and “coming-of-age”-type drama.
Just a quick warning: this column won’t be for everybody. So to the readers who aren’t fans of this show: please spare me the “you’re so gay for writing about this gay TV show, gaywad” comments on the feedback page and stop reading now. I mean, I’m sure Gaudio has something hilariously funny going on in his column right now that will keep your attention… right?
Wait for it….
Aaaaaaand, welcome back.
“Just a few weeks ago I had the long-awaited Pam sex dream. Does this make me some sort of psycho freak?”
So what I’m going to do here is simple: I’m going to attempt to explain exactly why The Office is the best show on TV. I’ll also be breaking down my own personal favorite Pam and Jim Moments which are going to be interspersed throughout the column. I’m expecting this to end up around 3000 words, which will be insanity.
Come to think of it, this one might be a “print out and read while you’re on the can” type of column. Good luck.
Reason #1 Why The Office is the Best Show on TV:
It’s Freakin’ Hilarious
This one seems like a no-brainer, but so many shows like to think they’re funny when they absolutely are not (any CBS comedy, I’m looking your way). Not only is the writing clever, but it comes at you as a two-pronged attack via dialogue and subtle nuances by the cast. Plus, there’s no laugh track, so the jokes and wit are free to fly by at a thousand miles an hour. I’ll take Jim giving his deer-in-headlights look to the camera over canned laughter anytime. On that topic, I think there’s something to be said about a show that doesn’t let me know when something’s funny. And you know what? I think that’s part of the main reason why fans of The Office are also huge fans of shows like Scrubs.
At this point, I’m going to restrain from writing down countless hilarious quotes because any true Office fan has invariably read through all of them on the internet already.
A TOP PAM AND JIM MOMENT: The Kiss
“Casino Night” (S2E23)
Well, fans of the show finally got what they wanted: the inevitable kiss between Jim and Pam. And I thought it was—
(Note: Let it be known that I, Chris Phelan, am a straight white American. My favorite shows do not include Grey’s Anatomy/Sex and the City/The Hills/Maui Fever/Sex in Maui/The Girl AIM Profile Quote Show/The Anatomy of Sex in the Hills or any other combination thereof. I enjoy beer and sports and boobs and I cringe at the thought of going to a Broadway show. However, I will go into excruciatingly gay detail of many Pam and Jim moments during this column. Don’t blame me, blame the show for making me addicted to any singular scene devoted to them. I mean, I’m absolutely giddy right now just thinking about them. So fuckin’ sue me.)
—a pretty damn good first kiss as far as television kisses go (but keep in mind I’m only judging it against first kisses from shows like Boy Meets World and SportsCenter… and I’m pretty sure SportsCenter has never had a kiss on it).
Reason #2 Why The Office is the Best Show on TV:
The Realism Factor
Despite the fact that it’s a television show and it’s hysterical, The Office really stays grounded in reality in my opinion, and that’s what has helped it become so great over the years. Say what you want about the characters, but they are all realistic. We all have run into people like Stanley and Phyllis in our own lives. Say what you want about the sometimes-ridiculous plots of the show, but we all know of a Dwight in our lives and we really wouldn’t put it past him to recite a Machiavelli speech at a large public function.
It’s gotten to the point where if you were to introduce a friend to the show, he or she may believe they are watching an actual reality show. I don’t know if it’s testament to the realism of the show, the superb acting, the editing or what, but the bottom line is that you can’t point to any overlapping story arc or non-throwaway gag and say “that’s not realistic.” Pretty much every joke told on the show is believable. (This coming from a guy who lamely tries out the “it smells like updawg in here” joke on people and ends up looking like Michael Scott 90% of the time. And yeah, I know it’s pathetic. But it’s hilarious.)
In fact, I think the only misstep the series has ever had is during the recent wedding episode that aired in early February. I don’tcare how eccentric and desperate for attention the writers have made the Michael Scott character, I still maintain that there’s no WAY any human being would do that. That was totally unrealistic for me and I think a lot of the comedy fell flat because of the over-the-top nature of Michael in that episode. It was pretty ridiculous, when you think about it. I mean, Michael trying to push Phyllis’ dad back down into his wheelchair? Laaaame. And stupid.
That being said, that was the one time the show turned a little ridiculous. But other than that, the realism really enhances every other aspect of the whole show.
A TOP PAM AND JIM MOMENT: The Booze Cruise
“Booze Cruise” (S2E09)
The entire episode is by far my favorite episode of the series, and its no surprise that it has many memorable Pam/Jim moments occurring during it.
– Jim declaring “You know what, I would save the receptionist. I just wanted to clear that up” after Michael asks him who he would save if the office was a sinking ship. To my knowledge this was the first time he actually acknowledged to the camera that he was in love with Pam.
– The conversation between Pam and Jim where Pam realizes Jim may be in love with him. (This scene was perfectly done; not many words were spoken yet the emotions were palpable during the whole conversation. We’ve all had conversations like this with our crushes, and Jim and Pam just nailed it.)
– Jim’s hilarious dumping of Katie
– The final scene of the episode, where Michael gives Jim some advice on Pam: “Never, ever, ever give up.”
Probably one of the single best things The Office does is that it manages to convey and portray real-life emotions through the action taking place on camera. It’s really uncanny how we manage to feel Jim’s pain as Pam and Roy finally set their wedding date in front of everybody.
Reason #3 Why The Office is the Best Show on TV:
The Superb Cast
To put it simply, every character on the show has been fine-tuned and perfected to the point of… well, perfection. Would it have been seemed stupid for Dwight to take Ryan along on a hazing of sorts at his beet farm during Season One? Absolutely. But as the Dwight and Ryan characters became more and more fleshed out, by Season Three it was all very believable that Dwight would go through with something so creepy and weird.
See, every character, from Bob Vance to Meredith to Jan is a complete character no matter how minor they are. This factor goes hand-in-hand with the realism element ofthe show, too. Without an ensemble cast of actors that stay true to their characters, the realistic, gritty, documentary-feel of the show would be lost.
Coincidentally, that’s something that shows like Arrested Development did so well—the characters were all so perfectly fleshed out that there was never a point in an episode where you’d think, uh I don’t believe he would do that for one second. (And I could write about 2000 words on how hilarious the Michael Scott character is. Steve Carell deserves about 50 Emmys for his performance over the years.)
A TOP PAM AND JIM MOMENT: “I just needed you to know. Once.”
“Casino Night” (S2E23)
(all dialogue taken from twiztv.com)
Jim: Hey, how's it going?
Pam: Good. Especially after I took all your money in poker.
Jim: Ha-ha, yeah. Uh…hey, can I talk to you about something?
Pam: About when you wanna give me more of your money?
Jim: No, I wa-
Pam: Did you wanna do that now?
Pam: We can go inside. I'm feeling kinda good tonight.
Jim: I was just, um…
(Pam smiles, and waits for Jim to say something funny in response)
Jim: (honestly) I'm in love with you.
Jim: I'm really sorry if that's weird for you to hear. But you needed to…hear it.
(Pam breathing starts to pick up)
Jim: Probably not good timing. I know that, I just–
Pam: What are you doing?
(Jim gives the slightest head tilt/shrug as if to say, ” Come on, you know.” )
Pam: What do you expect me to say to that?
Jim: I just needed you to know. Once.
Pam: Well, I, um- I…(inhales deeply)…I can't?
Pam: You have no idea…
Jim: Don't do that.
Pam: …what your friendship means to me.
Jim: Come on. I don't wanna do that. I wanna be more than that.
Pam: I can't.
(Jim's eyes start to tear up)
Pam: I'm really sorry if you misinterpreted things. It's probably my fault.
Jim: Not your fault. I'm sorry if I misinterpreted that…our friendship.
(Jim walks away)
(Pam stands there, shocked, fiddling with her ring)
Wow. This moment would’ve been the absolute peak of their relationship in Season Two if we hadn’t been spoiled—
(Note: I, Chris Phelan, regularly rent Ford F150s and go about running down deer and other small animals.)
—with the kiss that occurred a few minutes after this conversation. See, the beauty of the Pam/Jim thing is that their relationship has always been grounded in reality. As teenagers and twentysomethings we can all relate to the extreme awkwardness combined with the brutal honesty of telling a crush how we feel about them. This isn’t a complex dialogue, yet the words combined with what we watched… well, it didn’t feel like a TV show, it felt like voyeurism. Almost. I mean, I didn’t touch myself. Much.
Reason #4 Why The Office is the Best Show on TV:
No Gimmicks Necessary
It’s a straightforward show. It doesn’t have to rely on stupid storylines that string the viewer along and never get paid off. It markets itself as a comedy about office workers. Nothing more, nothing less. The show doesn’t need to be gimmicky; at the end of each episode we all know every character on the show will leave the office for the day and go back home for the rest of the night.
I mean, I don’t watch Lost, but just based on people’s complaints about the show this season, I can assume the following:
There are people stranded on an island which may or may not be an actual island. There are other people on the island too. How did they get there? Nobody knows. There is some sort of fog that confuses not only the characters on the show but the viewers too. It may all be real, it may be some alternate dimension, or it may be somebody’s lucid dream—but it’s all ball-numbingly frustrating to follow, apparently.
I really feel bad for people who swear by Lost. If I get jerked around that much watching a TV show, it better be by a girlfriend, you know?
Even Arrested Development relied on a gimmick: nearly every single episode ended up with all of the storylines of the episode crashing together in the finale. Sure, they milked that gimmick to perfection and episodes didn’t suffer as a result, but it was a gimmick nonetheless.
The beauty of The Office is that it doesn’t need a single gimmick. They’ve got these great characters, and the episodes basically write themselves.
A TOP PAM AND JIM MOMENT: Desert Island Movies
“The Fire” (S2E04)
Jim: Pam, get us back into it. Five movies, go ahead.
Pam: Okay, um, Fargo, um, Edward Scissorhands, Dazed and Confused…
Jim: Oh, definitely in my top five.
Pam: Yes, in my top three, so suck it.
Jim: (surprised at Pam's insult, but amused) What?
This is just a quick, blink-and-you-miss it great moment between the two. With just a few seconds of dialogue Pam and Jim’s chemistry is clearly defined: it’s fun, it’s flirty, it’s back and forth. And most importantly, the dialogue itself is pretty much ripped out of every single one of our flirting sessions we have with our own crushes.
Reason #5 Why The Office is the Best Show on TV:
Pam and Jim
What drew me into the Pam/Jim relationship was the familiarity I had with it. The flirting, the awkward conversations, the bad timing, the unrequited feelings, the “we’re just good friends,” the way they make each other laugh—it really brought me back to those times when I found myself in Jim’s position at various points in my life, and I really could associate with it.
I don’t know, maybe it’s because now the whole courting/flirting process is a thing of the past in my life. At 23, the only courting I do is at the bar or at parties—and courting is the wrong word; “shamelessly hitting on girls in hopes of a brief makeout session” is probably more accurate. But I miss those days when I just wound myself smitten with a certain girl and was just lovestruck whenever I was around her. So yeah, it’s safe to say I’m living vicariously through Jim.
The camera work in The Office is incredible and a perfect example of how great it is can be seen in pretty much any scene with Pam and Jim. Notice how the camera is always hiding behind walls or behind desks in order to catch the latest Jim/Pam conversation, presumably so they’ll keep on thinking the camera is not on them. On the flip side, many times Jim and Pam have noticed the camera during a particular moment (Pam’s drunk almost-confession after the Dundies) only to panic and quickly change the subject.
It also doesn’t hurt that the actor who plays Pam, Jenna Fischer, is absolutely gorgeous. If I somehow meet a girl who is essentially the real-life version of Pam, I’ve gotta be honest, I’m probably going to immediately fall head over heels in love with her.
But yeah, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if Pam and Jim don’t get together by the end of the season, I’m going to take people hostage or rob a bank. I’m just letting everyone know now.
(On a semi-related note, just a few weeks ago I had the long-awaited Pam sex dream. Does this make me some sort of psycho freak? I don’t know. But it was one of those dreams where you wake up and you’d give your big toe just to start the dream over again from the beginning. Okay yeah, psycho freak is probably the right phrasing.)
A TOP PAM AND JIM MOMENT: The Dundies Bar Interview
“The Dundies” (S2E01)
(Jim is talking to the camera and Pam is sitting beside him, staring at him)
Jim: We got to see Ping. (Pam nods)
Jim: And we learned of Michael's true feelings for Ryan. (Pam nods) Which was touching. And, we heard Michael change the lyrics to a number of classic songs. (Pam nods) Which for me, has ruined them for life. (looks at Pam, who is staring at him, nodding)
(Jim looks at the camera, then back at Pam, who is still nodding)
Jim: (to Pam) What?
Jim: (to camera) Okay.
Pam: (giggling) What?
Jim: (to Pam, humored) I don't know, what?
Sure, Pam’s drunk. But watch her during this scene. I don’t know how she managed to do it to perfection, but Pam 100% captured the “drunk girl enamored with her crush” mannerism. Has any show on TV so successfully recreated a moment that all of us have witnessed firsthand in real life? I don’t think so.
(Note: I, Chris Phelan, once successfully ripped a bear’s arms completely off its body while it was in mid-attack. Then chugged a beer in celebration.)
Which brings me to another point: there is no WAY neither of those two didn’t develop real-life feelings for one another over the course of this show. Nobody on the planet can act as well as they do. I’m willing to bet money that over the course of filming the show at least one of them fell for the other. (I’m actually going to be unveiling a theory I have about this subject in a future column, so I’ll just stop here.)
Overall, The Office is television perfection. It’s hysterically funny, it has its moments of drama that only add to the overall tone of the show, the camerawork and art direction are flawless, the storylines are well-written, and you can relate to most, if not all of the characters. Can you think of any other current show that does this?
Oh, and I just want to briefly touch upon the whole British version of the show versus the American version. Here’s a typical conversation between two Office fans:
Douchebag: What’s your favorite show?
Me: The Office.
Douchebag: The British version or the U.S. version?
Me: The U.S. version.
Douchebag: It sucks compared to the original British version.
Me: I’ve actually seen some British epi—
Douchebag: You’re an idiot if you think the U.S. one is better. The British version is FAR superior, you just have no clue about what makes a TV show
Me: You’re a pretty arrogant douchebag snob, aren’t you?
Douchebag: Yes. Yes I am.
Why is it that people have some sort of superiority complex when it comes to arguing the British version against its American counterpart? I just don’t get it.
And you know what else? Thanks to this show I no longer fear working in a cubicle for any future job.
See, I must have watched the movie Office Space about 400 times in my life, and that movie did nothing but make me absolutely terrified of the monotony and general suckiness of working in an office environment. But thanks to The Office, the notion of slaving away behind the desk doesn’t seem as bad anymore, you know?
I mean, sure, working in an office may still suck for me in the future…
But at least I’ll look forward to meeting the receptionist.