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This week, I was able to piece together what's changed about The Office over the past several years. Removing Jim and Pam from the office just put it so plainly in my face that I can't believe I didn't realize it fully until just now. Or maybe I did, and I kind of didn't want to admit it.
When it started, The Office was a show about regular people like you and me working in a dead-end job at a generic company. We had the folks upstairs representing the white collar workers, and the folks in the warehouse downstairs for the blue collars among us. They were eccentric and funny, but they were us. Yes, Dwight was a bit more out there, but even he was still somewhat believable back then.
Only Michael, really, was too much to take right from the beginning. But wasn't that the whole point of the show. Here's these regular people working in this regular office with this outrageously clueless boss. And there was Jim and Pam. The most normal of the bunch, the ones we truly connected with.
Now, it looks like Jim and Pam are the only normal ones in the bunch. Aside from Oscar, every other character on the show has turned into an over-the-top caricature of those personality quirks that used to make them relatable. Even Toby has gone from being a voice of reason, to being solely defined by his sadness and loneliness.
This week's episode was a perfect example of what I'm talking about, and it was made possible by the absence of Jim an Pam. I know it was only Michael, Dwight and Andy that were in on the insurance salesman mafia storyline, but it exemplified what I'm talking about. It was absolutely fine to have Andy show up in a mechanic's outfit, and then go out and destroy a woman's car because of his ineptitude.
The characters have no roundness to their personalities anymore. I remember when Creed was the only character who was defined solely by his wackiness. Kelly and Meredith and Angela and Kevin all felt like real people with real lives and real problems. When did everybody become so exaggerated, and more importantly, why?
Is it harder to keep coming up with stories for these characters without stretching their plausibility beyond the breaking point? Don't get me wrong. I'm still enjoying the show. It just sometimes feels like I'm enjoying Scrubs in an office, rather than the show The Office used to be.