That is not to say that Dunder Mifflin, the paper company in whose
Still, anything can happen in 75 minutes. (The extra-long, "supersized" finale that will end the series makes a total of 201 episodes –13.4 times as many episodes as the Ricky Gervais U.K. series upon which it was based.)
The ninth season has been at times a strange and ungainly one, due to the mechanics of winding things up; to the somewhat forced (though not implausible) friction between Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (
It is not quite the same show as the one that debuted in March 2005, but it has continued to be a show I watch, grumbling occasionally, with great and in many respects increasing pleasure. It has become more fanciful -- closer in tone to "Parks & Recreation," which was co-created by Greg Daniels, who adapted "The Office" for American television -- while remaining true to its emotional core. (And it does have one.)
For some, the series might as well have ended with the departure of
Still, Michael's loud neediness consumed a lot of oxygen, and his departure -- to a happy ending with his one true love, Holly (
Along with Michael, the show has most heavily depended on
Krasinski and Fischer and the writers who created Jim and Pam knew the characters well from the start, and even though they were put through their share of hoops -- though one was always in love with the other, they were kept apart until season four -- they have remained consistent, and constant, through the years. Although they were pushed apart in the current season in the name of narrative tension, their reunion last week redeemed all that felt artificial in their separation.
Situation comedy is almost always about family, whether or not the characters are related: "A lot of these people, this is the only family they have," Michael says in an early episode, showing the camera a mug that reads "World's Best Boss." "So, as far as I'm concerned, this says 'World's Best Dad.'"
You can think of it as a sort of popular-art "Waiting for Godot," in which the characters irritate and entertain one another to pass their blurring days. They pull pranks, play games, plan parties and throw parties. ("When do people work?" Phyllis is asked. ""We find little times during the day," she responds.) But in this kind of comedy, there is also the possibility for change, for advancement, for meaning, for love.
Love. It's one of the things we come to TV for: Not only for the love one character might bear another within an ongoing fiction, but for the perceptible love between the real people who play them. Even children know that there is a difference between an actor and the person he plays; and even adults feel that they are somehow one and the same. It is true, of course, that actors have to pretend to love people they don't actually like, or to hate people they care about it.
So it is gratifying to learn that the note Jim gave Pam in last week's episode, which put the seal on their reconciliation -- its contents were unrevealed to the audience -- was in fact a note that John Krasinski wrote Jenna Fischer, and that she was reading it for the first time as the cameras rolled, and that what crossed her face came straight from the heart.
When: Retrospective: 8 p.m. Thursday; Series finale: 9 p.m. Thursday
Rating: Not rated