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The "We've Jumped The Shark" Season
, October 24, 2012
This review is from: The Office: Season 8 (DVD)
You know, I hate to be that guy who points out that Steve Carell leaving the show was what killed it. And in some ways, this isn't even accurate. While Michael Scott was a driving force behind The Office, the show COULD survive without him. It's just too bad the writers and producers never really figured out how.
This entire season was one big clusterf--k of 'What the hell is going on?' So, without any on-camera buildup or true explanation, Andy becomes the new boss and replaces Michael Scott. Now, it seems to me, the creators of the show should know how their own show is scuccessful. Especially if you're going to replace the STAR of a show. (This is the case, even if the star is no one that important, such as Topher Grace leaving "That 70's Show"; it still went downhill from there). As much as Ed Helms' character of Andy Bernard is so much more likable than he used to be, the key to a successful Dunder Mifflin boss is that you can't really respect them. Or think that they could really be a regional manager in real life. Andy fails with this as he IS smart enough and restrained enough to be a real life boss. Granted, not of a company the size of Dunder Mifflin(/Sabre), but Ed Helms' character is still too believable to fit this role, here. Which results in BORING episodes. Stuff, where they literally had to find something for them to do. Like Andy getting a tattoo to win his co-workers respect. ...What was this? The fact that writers were so lost even BEFORE the season began is not a good sign.
Oh, and let's talk about the Black Hole of comedy that is James Spader. I mean, don't get me wrong. Spader is good when he has his moments, like in Boston Legal. But just like Nic Cage, basically, James Spader only ever plays himself. Only, as Robert California, he now plays himself saying weird and inappropriate sexual things. I also assume the writers couldn't balance his Crazy/Genius act for too long and just decided to make him an Eccentric Con Artist and master manipulator rather than a barely sane Mad Scientist/SuperGenius. But the point is, James Spader in The Office makes about as much sense as Rainn Wilson playing a new forensics expert in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. ...Wait. No. I take that back. Rainn Wilson actually has the acting range (and believable nerd-isms) to pull that off. James Spader just doesn't fit in The Office as much as James Spader doesn't fit in ANY comedy, anywhere. What's worse is, his highly unlikable character whose only redeemable quality is that he's too confusing to fully dislike. Robert California scams influential people and knows much less than his air of confidence exudes. Regardless of all of this though, he's just simply NOT FUNNY.
Okay, so halfway through this entire mess, things start to slightly show a glimmer of hope with the Sabre Store arc, which brings back Nellie Bertram, played by Catherine Tate. The arc itself shows promise, but the writers drop the ball on this one, pretty much only getting Stanley's "wild Florida persona" right. But they also introduce a very confusing storyline where adorable Erin decides to stay in Florida in order to run away from her feelings with Andy, and Andy abandons his job to go chase her, despite not knowing what's going on with her. Before all this, though, we have the return of Todd Packer (who was great years ago, but his character is long past his prime at this point) who establishes a rivalry with Dwight in who will head the Sabre Store project. A lame storyline that's only trumped by a super-weak attempt to introduce a seductress into Jim's life, and try to throw a wrench in his happy marriage. Of course, the whole Cathy Simms plot was so rushed and poorly done, it might as well have never even been attempted. Eventually, Jim saves Dwight from heading the Sabre Store project, which was all a scam and destined to fail anyway, and Packer becomes the scapegoat and gets fired for it. Now, all of this could've worked if they had 1) Not made such a chaotic mess with it all and 2) not treated the Scranton branch during all of this as an afterthought. Just a lot of stuff going on and not much of it with any value. The only important things here that happened is the Sabre Store arc was a waste of time (in-universe, and in real life) and Andy reveals his true feelings to Erin, despite already having a girlfriend... who we are never given any reason for her existence or reason for liking a goofball like Andy, despite her drull, real life personality.
So after this whole confusing, muddled Tallahassee mess, Andy, while shirking his manager responsibilities to get Erin back, loses his job in an elaborate coup perpetrated by Nellie Bertram (who avoided going down with the Sabre Store disaster). And so NOW, after an entire Summer and much of the end of last season, the writers STILL don't know who should be manager!
[* In my opinion, bringing Melora Hardin back as Jan would've worked out best, as she's an already established character, has been proven to be funny, and would have no bad blood with the company since it's Sabre now, but I digress.]
Now, Nellie Bertram is manager. And although many will be mixed on this, I feel she actually WORKED in the role! Just like Michael, Nellie is barely competent, highly appropriate, and would never be a believable regional manager in real life. It seems like the spark is back and the potential for comedy on The Office has returned, only the writers never know what to do with Nellie! And after more confusion, she eventually loses her job again to Andy, after he hits rock bottom, gets fired by California, and does some 'soul searching' to grow a spine, man-up, and take back what's his. This leads into the Season Finale, where Andy Buckley returns as David Wallace, who inexplicably gets rich again, and is able to orchestrate a buyout of Dunder Mifflin with major help from Andy. Nellie is de-throned (which personally, I feel was a horrible choice and makes the writers look even more like they're as confused as a bunch of headless chickens, as Jo Bennett might possibly say.) This supposedly sets up the return of the "old" Sabreless Dunder-Mifflin for Season 9, only most of this never comes to fruition and David Wallace, as well as the pre-Sabre Dunder-Mifflin, never really return.
And what did Pam and Jim even do this entire season? I'm pretty sure it must've been something, but the fact it can't even be easily remembered just says enough about their characters, at this point in the series. I'm petty sure they just had another baby and that's it. The only character who had any kind of decent potential storyline this entire season was Dwight, possibly knocking up a now-engaged Angela. Only, the whole Dwight/Angela romance seems so dated and "been there, done that" now. It's really boring, at this point.
[* Not to play writer myself, but what ever happened to the amazonian dentist friend of Pam, Isabel Poreba? It would've made more sense for her to be happily in a relationship with Dwight, and Angela, having falling out of love with "The Senator," engages in an affair with Dwight, which is very much in line with her hypocritical character, gets pregnant. Dwight could've argued Isabel is "bad in bed" or "not as petit and dainty" as Angela or something like that, and it would've better set up the whole Baby Daddy Mystery storyline. But you're not here to hear my What If's. Just saying, that would've made more sense and worked better, IMO. It also would've gotten rid of the need for Cathy Simms' stupid Mistress storyline with Jim.]
I've been a big Office fan since it's initial run in 2005 and own every season on DVD. However, this will be the first one I won't own. This season was so terrible, it needs to be de-canonized. As in, no one ever mentions anything that occured in this season, ever. Just a big, giant confusing mess for the writers and stupid storyline after the other. Again, I don't think Steve Carell's absence is a major factor in why this season sucked so badly, but it sure seemed to trip up the writers pretty badly. Not to mention, 2013's Season 9 (which again, introduces two annoying, very unlikable characters no one asked for, just when we finally get rid of Gabe Lewis) so far doesn't seem to be much better. While seeing the show end before we get sick of it would've left us wanting more, I'd much rather have the show end on top than slump into embarassment like Season 8. "Seinfeld" was able to go out on top. It's just too bad "The Office" won't.
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