Somewhere in the middle of season 8 I quit watching The Office. I loved the show and consider it the second best sitcom of the decade after Arrested Development but had grown tired of it. The writers made former likable characters annoying (Andy and Kevin), gave annoying characters a bigger role (Erin and Robert California), and repeated a bunch of plot lines. The Andy-Erin romance was just a dull retread of Jim and Pam but not even a hundredth as interesting.
The main problem was the show had lost its ambition. Even in seasons 6 and 7 The Office gave more to the audience than it does today. But after Michael left the writers had no idea what to do. Now that NBC has announced that The Office will end after this season, I decided to check out the show to see if it had gotten any better.
So when I watched “New Guys,” I was pleasantly surprised to discover how funny the episode was. This makes total sense because Greg Daniels wrote and directed it, who developed the show for US audiences and has written many of the show’s best episodes (he’s also one of my favorite TV writers). Daniels hasn’t written an episode since “Goodbye Michael” and it was the best since then. Obviously he knew the faults of the show and fixed them. The episode was better than all of season 8 combined in my opinion, not because it was funnier (though it was) but it wanted to do more.
Daniels did the smart thing and focused our attention on the show’s two strongest remaining characters Dwight and Jim. Jim has always been the average guy who is stuck in the office. He likes it there but we get a sense that he wants to be away. So by the end of the episode he takes a new job and runs off.
That’s original. That’s what viewers wanted to see last season but they didn’t get. The Office is a comedy but also works as a drama too, and the show succeeds because of that.
And then there was Dwight’s relationship with Clark aka Dwight Jr., leading Dwight to treat Clark as if he were his son. Dwight is the show’s strongest character after Michael, and plays well when he is put next to an ordinary guy like Jim.
And the chemistry between the two worked completely. The way how Dwight seemed completely concerned and then tried to outmatch Clark on the trapezes by bicycling across a high wire. It was funny and clever, something which I have missed from the show.
Daniels has returned as the show-runner, and I think I’m going to watch a few more episodes to see how it turns out. If there are a few more episodes like this then I think I’ll start watching The Office again.