The Office Finale: Saying Goodbye…For the Fifth Time

If only because I’m tired of seeing my terrible mock draft at the top of the page, I’m going to reflect on the series finale of NBC’s The Office tonight. Spoilers on the series will be included, so read at your own risk.

In some ways The Office has become the Brett Favre of comedies. It’s been around forever, but every time you think it’s gone, it comes back.

But no more retirement games as tonight’s episode is indeed the series finale. While some people have followed the show since the British original from 2001, my experience with the show has been very unique, and I just wanted to share it on this day.

This is going to feel like the fifth time I have said goodbye to The Office ….all in a span of six months, and yet it feels like 12 years.

Back in 2001 I was more likely to think “BBC” meant something vulgar than its real meaning. I didn’t know who Ricky Gervais was. So it was a happy time, you could say.

By the time the show was developed for American television in 2005, I was hardly watching any TV series not named 24, which oddly enough was announced this week that it is coming back. I did not have a DVR until 2007. Netflix was not streaming on my Playstation 3 until last April.

Frankly, I thought the show looked stupid. I didn’t care for the mockumentary style, as though I am a fan of narration, breaking the fourth wall and talking straight to the camera has never been a tactic I enjoy. Technically they have an audience when they talk to the camera in these things, but come on. I can see through your parlor tricks.

So I avoided the show for quite a while, along with just about any sitcom on the big networks at the time. It did not help that I was not a fan of Steve Carell outside of Little Miss Sunshine.

Yet for some reason when I got Netflix last year, I decided to queue up both the British and American versions. It wasn’t until about September that I actually watched them. One Saturday afternoon I watched the British pilot followed immediately by the American pilot, which was basically a shortened version of Gervais’ work.

Sure, I liked that the British characters were able to swear, even if they were hard to understand at times. I sparingly watched it, though did have a wild coincidence on a Wednesday night with it.

After a caller into our Colts Authority radio show dropped “big black cock” on the air, I watched the British version afterwards. Sure enough it was the season 2 opener where there was a joke centered on a “big black cock.” The BBC was literally haunting me that night.

Initially I did like the British version more, though during football season it was hard to find time to really watch either. I did start grinding away on the American version, but it wasn’t until maybe November when I finished the British version’s 14 episodes. The good guy gets the receptionist in the end. What a shocker.

With the conclusion of the British version, that was the first time I said goodbye to The Office.

Through the holiday season I started picking up steam on the American version, watching a couple hours of episodes at a time. I thought the show was progressing well. When people live and breathe with a show each week, it is easy for them to wear down over the years. But if you watch it in mini-marathon viewings, you’ll see most shows maintain their quality for season after season, if not getting better as you grow to love the characters.

And that I did.

Carell actually didn’t annoy the shit out of me anymore (at least not that much). Rainn Wilson was no longer that “goofy looking dude who was in Super” to me. Jenna Fischer says more with her eyes than most actresses can with their mouths. John Krasinski took the bowl off his head and Brian Baumgartner started going full meathead. The less David Koechner, the better. Ed Helms was tolerable from The Hangover, while Ellie Kemper was a great addition as the new receptionist.

I wanted to kill Toby too.

My favorite episode was probably “Dinner Party” from season 4. You know, that one night?

As I was getting close to finishing season 7 in January, I was already aware Michael Scott leaves the show in “Goodbye Michael”. Normally it would be TV suicide to lose your main character, but that is why this is the second time I said goodbye to The Office as I knew it.

With a few minor changes, that really could have been the series finale right there. Hell, they didn’t even make it the season 7 finale. Bold move to continue, but so be it, NBC.

Now after seven seasons and the loss of the main character, this is when I noticed the quality of the show began to decay. They tried to make Andy Bernard, perhaps thanks to Helms’ film success, the new Michael Scott. I like Andy’s character, but this just didn’t work. Season 8 featured many scenes and episodes outside of the office, which kind of defeats the purpose of the show. About the only thing I liked in this season was more screen time for Erin.

I even had my longest Netflix marathon ever one night to finish this season, watching 15 episodes in a row. Like that I was done with all eight seasons and the 169 episodes Netflix had to offer. Usually this sense of accomplishment means you are done with a series, but The Office was still going.

Since Comcast is a joke and only had a few mid-season episodes from Season 9 available OnDemand, I ended up getting Hulu Plus in February. Annoyed with their commercial breaks, I plodded through the first 15 episodes, not particularly enjoying much of what I was seeing. The new characters were not interesting, Nellie has not been a good addition, and even staples of the show like Jim and Pam were just boring at this point.

When I finished the series on Hulu, I was finally all caught up to the live show, which some people have already been caught up on for eight (or 12) years. It took me five months.

That was the fourth time I said goodbye to The Office.

My first chance to watch the show live was missed as I had to DVR and watch it later (but no commercials is always a plus).

So the first live episode I ever watched was “The Farm”, which is literally the single worst episode ever made in the 201-episode series. Good thing for NBC they canceled this attempt at a spin-off on Dwight’s farm family, because it was horrible.

The last five episodes have largely shown a series running on fumes to get to the finale. “Stairmageddon” was another low point for the series. At least last week’s episode recalled some vintage moments from the show’s early days. Is the show even old enough in my head to call anything about it vintage?

But now here we are with one 55-minute “Finale” to go. The series finale to Six Feet Under is such a gold standard that it has ruined my lifelong expectations of all other series finales, so I don’t expect a whole lot from this one.

I think it would be a colossal mistake for Steve Carell to not make an appearance tonight. The fact that it’s a wedding for Dwight and Angela makes it extremely easy to write him in, even if it’s for just one scene.

So that’s that.

When I say goodbye to The Office for the fifth time, I know that this is the only one that counts. While it’s taken many people 8-12 years to get to this point, the show’s only been with me for eight months.

Watching it live tonight, it will feel awkward to say goodbye so soon, but that’s exactly how I want to remember this show: a daily snapshot of awkwardness.