Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jumping the Shark and the Bear Market: NBC's The Office as an Indicator of Some Stuff about the Collective Attitude-Change toward Work


Zach said...

I once worked in an office setting and found the business attire to be dignified, as you suggest, and there to be some comfort in the job's grinding stability. It was indeed the people, or person, who were (was) there that made this job worthwhile for me. If I had had a fear of not having a job, I would certainly, I think, have viewed my possession of it more gratefully than I did. However, this is a hollow comfort and one that won't last very long. I can chasten myself into appreciating my forth straight night of chili left overs (that would be five straight nights total) by remembering the difficulties many people have in eating that well. But it's not like the chili tastes any better.

If Pam is happy to have her old job back, then I doubt she will be for long and I wonder, then, too, if the "work doesn't suck so bad" ethos might be either more sly or less ingenuous than you suggest. (I haven't seen the show.) Perhaps the real message is that at some point a person needs to get herself some ambition and it's the feeling of control that makes a person happy. Pam didn't like art school because she didn't know the game and didn't have the patience to figure it out. So, back to the drawing board, as it were. Back where she did have some control, or safety, and was then able to take some chances to get some more without actually risking all that much.

Lots of people have crappy jobs and lots of people hate them. But the people there can make the jobs tolerable, or, as you say, enjoyable, which is what the original Office handled so well (at times, explicitly), and that it's all such a coincidence that a person ends up around the people she/he does, attractive or not. This doesn't make the job any better, really, but perhaps the experience of it (an ambiguous distinction) does improve, and that's what actually happens.

Joe said...

Also, on a pragmatic note, it seems necessary to soften the edges of the "work sucks" stuff in order to make the show last for six seasons. Watching people be miserable for a couple seasons is cringe-worthy entertainment, by six it becomes redundantly, superfluously depressing.

What it has become instead, which is maybe the only thing it could become, is a family sitcom. The office family, forged in the fires of shared adversity, is both dysfunctional and unbreakable. There is, at the bottom of all their disdain for each other, a loyalty that is the redeeming value in family sitcoms from I Love Lucy to Arrested Development.