Thursday, May 16, 2013

Remembering "The Office"

"The Office" series finale airs tonight and I'm starting to get nostalgic.

Sure the past two seasons have been an embarrassing nightmare (I gave up early in Season 8 and haven't watched most of Season 9 until the last few eps), but we can't forget that for a few minutes in time, it was the best show on television and one of the all-time greats.

I caught on to "Friends" and "Frasier" later in their runs, but "The Office" was the first of my favorite shows that I watched the first episode live.

I just sat there thinking, "They made this for ME."

It was so quiet. So subtle. So painful. So awkward.

It was... an office.

How zany and cartoony it got over the years was my biggest problem with the decline of the series because it was the antithesis of why - and I'm guessing, so many other people - fell in love with it in the first place.

Before they lost their collective minds, the co-workers were stranded on this deserted corporate island, just trying to survive together and that's what made it work... then again, in hindsight, maybe it's why they all lost their minds.

I also appreciated the show because it served as a connecting point for me and my dad. Our tastes in entertainment have changed over the years but "The Office" always brought us together on Thursday nights. Pops visited us over the weekend and we got to watch last week's ep together (which I had recorded on the DVR) and it took me back to a special place. Made me realize how much I missed that time. And him. And what that show had meant to us.

To remember the good times, here are my personal Top 10 favorite episodes of the series. It was a legit difficult task to get down to just 10, but at the end of the day, these were all no-brainers for me.

What about you? What were your favorite eps?

10. The Convict (Season 3) – Prison Mike. Andy singing The Rainbow Connection (in Pig Latin, no less) to Pam on his banjo.

9. Goodbye Toby (Season 4) – Michael’s unbridled happiness at Toby leaving (He gives Toby a rock with the words “Suck on this” written on a Post-It note strapped around it). The trainwreck that was Ryan working for corporate was finally mercy killed. Michael meets Holly.

8. Dinner Party (Season 4) – This was the return ep after the 5 month writer’s strike back in 2007-08. It was almost as if they had been saving up all the uncomfortable crazy they could and it eventually exploded in the form of this episode.

7. Christmas Party (Season 2) – This episode gave us one of the greatest punch lines ever uttered on any sitcom of all time: “So what line of work are you in, Bob?”
6. Michael’s Last Dundies (Season 7) – “Nine million nine hundred eighty six thousand minutes. That’s how many minutes you’ve worked here.”

5. Niagra (Season 6) – Before Parks & Rec, The Office was the first great show at handling typical sitcom clich├ęd disasters like weddings. I remember thinking in the moment that this episode could have been the series finale and I would have been ok with it.

4. Casino Night (Season 2) – This ep established The Office as masters of the season finale. Jim professed his love to Pam and they finally kissed.

3. The Job (Season 3) – The greatest season finale of any show ever and also closed out one of the best seasons in network television history. The stakes were high and I remember having NO idea who was going to get the job at corporate. Jim finally asked Pam out on a date and Ryan takes the gig in the closing tag. My jaw was on the floor all summer.

2. Diversity Day (Season 1) – Maybe the best episode on a technical level of the whole series. The Chris Rock routine, “Oh man, am I woman??”, and “Diversity Tomorrow, because today is almost over.”

1. Sexual Harassment (Season 2) – The 2nd episode of the 2nd season and the episode I will always remember as the moment "The Office" really started firing on all cylinders every week. The episode featured
my favorite moment from the entire run of the series. Regardless of content, the moment is perfectly played by Michael (Carrell), Jim (Krasinksi), and Todd Packer (Koechner). Here are the ingredients: 1. Michael’s over the top, petulant retirement from “comedy”, 2. Jim baiting him, 3. Michael’s mind boiling at the opportunity, 4. Packer nudging him with a wry smile, 5. Michael’s explosion of “THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID”, 6. Jim's satisfaction. 7. Michael’s genuine pride with himself.  


Monday, April 29, 2013

How Mad Men Will End

Haven't been able to stop thinking about last night's episode of Mad Men all day today (minor spoilers ahead). Been almost a full day and can't stop thinking about it.

Some random thoughts, I just had to get out:

1. Starting to really realize the show really isn't "about" anything that's going on in the actual story we are watching. Don's marriages, Peggy's career path, Pete's jerkiness, etc. Doesn't really matter (more on this at the bottom).

The whole episode I was going nuts trying to realize the significance of Bobby ripping off the wallpaper in his bedroom. So mundane. But then I realized that he had to get grounded by Betty for something so that he couldn't watch TV so that Don had to take him to the movies so that Bobby would say one of the most profound things ever so that Don would have the biggest catharsis he's ever had on the show.

Jon Hamm's performance sitting on the bed talking about faking it as a dad was (A) an acting CLINIC and (B) so comforting to someone like me that is freaked out about faking it as a dad. If you don't inherently love children then you just have to wait for these little people to have a profound moment for you to respect them and feel proud that you influenced them. I completely get that. I'm on board with kids now. Actually feel a little relieved.

2. I love how they didn't even acknowledge that Megan won the award, other than a throwaway shot of the award sitting lopsided on the couch. I know that MLK's assassination was of greater import, but it also jumped out to me that Megan's just good at everything she does. Copywriter? Awesome. Actress? Awesome. Winning awards? Awesome. Wife to a crappy husband? Awesome. Mother to crappy husband's kids? Awesome. Sexy singer and lap dancer for crappy husband in front of his friends? Awesome.

Megan Draper is LeBron James-level otherworldly right now.
She is just good at everything. Crazy Betty may not have deserved Don but now Don doesn't deserve Megan. Love that we have gotten to experience this dichotomy.

3. MLK's assassination must have been WEIRD to live through. Joan's awkward hug of Dawn summed it all up. Joan felt like she needed to do something but Dawn was like "Uhhh... thanks?" And brilliantly played by both actresses. Pretending to be awkward doesn't always work. Awkward is such a pure state of being, it can be hard to replicate. But they nailed it. Strange times for sure.

4. Biggest point I can't stop thinking through: now that we are in Season 6, everyone is talking about how the show is going to end/what's going to happen at the end. Based on last night's ep, I am now convinced that NOTHING is going to happen in the end. Do we really think Weiner is going to tie loose ends up in a tidy little bow after refusing to do that kind of nonsense for 6 full seasons? That would be completely contrary to the spirit of the entire series.

I can't even tell you any other specific events that transpired last night (other than the character's experiencing the news of MLK) but I have spent an entire day thinking about being a dad and what it would have been like to navigate race relations in the 60s.

Isn't that what Mad Men's always been "about"?

In that regard, it's the most "what's life all about" show of all time. Our real lives don't happen all at once in dramatic season/series finale fashion.

It just happens.

That's what Mad Men does. Sure, Don went from creative director at Sterling Cooper to founding partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce but it didn't happen in grand guest-star-sweeps-week style.

It just happened.
So I don't care what "happens" to Don or Peggy or Roger or Pete, etc. to me anymore. I'm just enjoying watching the camera roll the footage of these people's lives during this era. I essentially consider it to be a documentary at this point.

Don will cheat on whoever he is with at the time. Some major cultural even will be taking place that will affect the characters. He will step outside and smoke a cigarette and take a confident sip from a tumbler. We will see the back of Don's head. There will be no answers because there were no questions to begin with.

The end.
I will almost be disappointed with anything else.