The Office Season 7: Proves the Magic is Still There -- Most of the Time

I wanted to chime in with a few thoughts on this past season of The Office-- mainly in regards to the final few episodes. I've been a fan of this show since the (almost) beginning, and though I am a huge fan of the British version, I've never agreed with the folks that argue this series fell short. I also don't think it is really fair to compare a series that has gone 7 seasons with about 24 episodes each (except for the first season which only went 6) to a series that had a total of 14 episodes. Yes, the British seasons always delivered gold, but that is much easier to do when you keep the series really short. The Office, Americanized version, has done quite well for a series that has had a 7 year run and had to come up with a mass collection of episodes (since that is what they expect from major network series). I am the first to admit that this series did hit a few bumps during the fourth and fifth season, but think it has returned to respectable comic form these past two seasons (and still rivals almost any sitcom on television). Now, I realize The Office has slid farther and farther into the land of the absurd and no longer can be viewed as a show that is an actual slice of work life. Many of the characters have either become ridiculous parodies or no longer resemble the character that was initially introduced into the series. The documentary aspect has got a little silly with the camera showing up in places that it never should be in such as a grocery store or a little boy's bedroom. If you look past some of its growing flaws, you still realize the writing is pretty strong and it usually delivers two or three laugh out loud moments an episode. A season may hold a few stinkers here and there, but when The Office delivers a good episode, it usually borders on a legitimate comedy classic. The Office still has the ability to make some of the best single episodes in television, and though Modern Family has pretty much taken the crown as my faovurite sitcom, The Office is still the king of creating the best single episodes when it is in the right groove.

The Office really was hitting its groove at the end of this season. I am sure the writers felt they needed to step up in order to properly send off Michael Scott (essentially the main character of the show) because Steve Carrell (the actor who plays him) has decided to pursue his film career instead (based off his upcoming line up of films, it looks like the right choice). The last half of the season was a great combination of heartfelt sentimentality and gut-busting hilarity. The Michael and Holly storyline was a terrific combination of awkwardness (The Office speciality), outright humour and legitimate sweetness. The chemistry between the two was excellent and their budding relationship allowed for lots of great funny storylines. Though Michael Scott is the worst boss ever, you had to grow attached to the goof after 7 seasons and be happy that he was finally finding the love he always wanted. There were moments that this storyline provided some real emotions like sadness and joy (just like a real relationship). I felt for the character and was glad he got his rightful happy ending.

The final episode with Steve Carrell was one of the best episodes of the entire series. It had the perfect combination of sweetness, drama and comedy. In many ways, it would have been the perfect Series Finale to wrap up the entire show, but the producers have decided the series still has at least one season left. The final scene where Pam stops Michael Scott at the airport was a great TV moment and the perfect way to end the Michael character (after all, Pam and Michael always had a special type of connection since the beginning). I felt Michael's final day at the office played out perfectly with his growing jealousy of the new boss and the classically awkward exchanges with his employees. It also was a great showcase of why the Michael Scott character was so endearing. He proved that he really did love his staff and in the end, he started to selflessly show affection (in his own way) to every final staff member. You had to feel some happiness when Michael was moved by the staff’s sentiment of giving him a ‘Best Boss’ Dundie and he finally decided to replace the best boss mug (he bought), which he had sported for 7 seasons, with his new award (and then laugh really hard when he realized he still needed something to drink in for the last few days of work). I really liked the final exchange between Jim and Michael as it the exact type of final moment you'd expect between those two characters. Michael's reference letter for Dwight was also the right combination of funny and sweet. It really was a great way to write out Michael Scott, and I am pretty sure this was probably the way the show should have been sent off.

The Michael Scott episode wasn't even the season finale, and The Office actually delivered three more great episodes after that. I really thought Will Ferrell nailed his four episode guest appearances, and delivered the type of humour that we had expected from The Office after all these years. He really fit into his role nicely and part of me wishes he was a full time replacement for Carrell, but I can also see where he would likely have ended up being nothing more than a tired clone (but they avoided that by only having him around for a short time). Will had great chemistry with the staff and created some great Office moments like his insistence on Andy being the funny guy, showing off his juggling skills without any juggling balls, and his final moment where he tries to show off his slam dunk skills. His stretch of episodes where easily some of the funniest stuff The Office ever produced and showed it still had the potential to be the best show on TV.

Of course, the episode that Dwight finally got to be office manager was as funny and awkward as you could ever hope for. I loved his justification for carrying around a gun in the office was that he didn't have anything else to put in his gun holster (because it is perfectly reasonable to have a gun holster as part of your office uniform). Then there was the priceless moment of Dwight firing off the gun in the office, and then trying to get everyone to cover for him (I especially loved when he ran the meeting and tried to do a Michael Scott like character). It was an episode that finally paid off the long running arc of Dwight trying to prove he would be the best manager for the company (and he failed spectacularly just like we all wanted him to). Though the episode did end in a sweet way, when Jim essentially tried to encourage Dwight and acknowledged Dwight did do some good things during his one week of terror (like making sure all shipments got out on time).

The season finale proved to be packed with humour but also provide the intrigue expected in a season finale (I think every The Office finale had some type of cliffhanger except for Season 1). Creed as interim manager was absolutely hilarious, and even though I partly wish it went on longer, the short stint provided enough laughs and avoided running the joke into the ground. It looks like they have written out the Gabe character, which is a good thing because he started to become irritating (the show has enough characters that do that) and a little two one dimensional (plus the cast is bloated as is and it needed to do some trimming of minor characters). Kathy Bates provided some great cameos in the final few episodes, and is definitely one of the best new characters (though since she has her own show, her recurring appearances will likely continue to shrink). The best part of the finale was the search for a new boss, which allowed for some great guest appearances by some great comedians (Ray Romano, Jim Carrey, that guy from Arrested Development, Ricky Gervais playing David Brent). I think every single one of the prospective bosses knocked their roles out of the park and provided some hilarious moments. If you've stopped watching The Office over the last few years, I'd definitely recommend you to try to snag this finale, because there was some classic stuff during the interviews with the prospective new bosses. Considering all the actors are rather big names that are likely pursuing their own television vehicles or films, I am pretty sure the boss won't end up being any of the guys interviewed (thought it might end up being the lady, since the character had a friendship with the CEO, Jo – plus not sure what the actress does outside of this cameo). The episode left on a great cliffhanger and I am sure will cause many fans to debate all summer over who will get hired for the position. I am interested to see if one of the current characters will be pushed into the spot (like Darryl) or if it will be an entirely new cast member. Whoever ends up getting the spot, I really do hope it is a character that is very different than the Michael Scott character or otherwise, he'll just end up being a cheap imitation.

The Office proves it still can deliver some of the best laughs on televisions. That is pretty impressive for a series that has run for 7 seasons, since usually by that point most series are either cancelled or just asking to be put to rest. I do think they should have ended the series with Michael Scott leaving, because it essentially wrapped up every major story arc that the show started with. The final few episodes did prove that it can still deliver the funny and it will be entertaining without Steve Carrell. I also think the show needs to start focusing on an end point and not try to drag this thing out for several more years. If they decide Season 8 is the final, then I think it has potential for being a really strong season to wrap things up. If they want to continue beyond that, then it has potential for becoming a bit of a disaster that just happens to stumble upon the occasional laugh (also see The Simpsons).

I do think Season 7 was one of the best of the series, and I am satisfied with how they resolved major story arcs. I think there is potential for Season 8 to be fairly interesting. I'll stick with this show, and keep the faith that it will eventually end in a rather satisfying manner.