The Office Retrospective Roundtable: Part Two

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After nine seasons, NBC’s The Office has aired its final episode but the indelible mark the series left with viewers and its place in television history will be water cooler talk for years to come.  In our first Place to Be Nation Roundtable, we asked Justin Rozzero, Jordan Duncan, Jeremy Nichols, Marc Clair, Bob Colling, Josh Richer and Jen Engle about some of their favorite and least favorite memories, characters, and storylines from the landmark series as well as the show’s impact on television in general.

Check out Part One of our feature right here.

Who should have replaced Michael?

Justin: I touched on this earlier, but sometimes the safest, predictable choice is the best one. I get why they tried to capitalize on the popularity of Ed Helms, but Dwight Schrute was the “Once and Future” Branch Manager. I feel like we were screwed out of two years’ worth of Schrute Bucks and flow charts just for the sake of a swerve. I am glad they rectified it at the end, but it was too little, too late. Dwight as manager was the way to go; it just took them two years and the death of the series to realize it.

Jordan: Dwight. Just the small glimpse we got of Jim messing with Dwight as the boss was fun and made the pranks seem new again. I would have liked a full season of that.

Jeremy: I don’t believe they needed to replace the character. Instead, they should have moved Jim up to manager and rolled with it for a season, and then they could switch it around to Dwight for season eight and save us an entire season of getting to where we ended up towards the end of the last season (back to good). At that point with Michael gone, they could have taken a few chances instead of trying to introduce new characters.

Marc: Andy was the right choice from in cast. He always made the most sense, to me though I enjoyed the teases, of Dwight, Creed and liked the Ray Romano tease.

Bob: Dwight probably should have been the first option to go with. The last few episodes he was the manager were rather funny. Darryl would have been another solid choice to take over the spot. Jim wouldn’t have been all that great. I think it boils down to either Dwight or Darryl taking over. Dwight gets the nudge for me. His erratic behavior would have kept the show on same level or at least close to it as when Michael Scott was there. Andy’s character tried, but failed miserably.

Josh: As someone who was satisfied going along for the ride, I am comfortable enough to say that I liked how things played out. D’Angelo was a treat at the end of a spectacular season, and Robert California added such a “batty-as-fuck” element when they needed the boost the most that I wish he had had been kept at the regional manager position. I blame “Harry’s Law” for that. At least that show is doing well. What’s that? CANCELLED?!?! So Andy was torn apart in front of our eyes for two seasons for nothing? Smooth move, NBC.

Jen: Michael’s replacement from a leadership standpoint should never have been Robert California. The 8th season was by far my least favorite and I almost gave up on the show then because of him. I didn’t like his personality, I didn’t think he meshed well with the chemistry of the rest of Dunder Mifflin, and I didn’t like how the other characters were with him there. I think Michael’s replacement should have always been Dwight – eventually. I think they did it right by not making him the Regional Manager until the end of the last season, which gave the writers a chance to tie the storylines up and give The Office the ending that it deserved. Dwight’s reaction when he was named Regional Manager was absolutely perfect, and nine years in the making.

Least Likeable Character:

Justin: I can’t believe I am about to do this, but Andy Bernard is going under the bus. I loved me some Nard Dog right from the get go. Whether he was reeling in the Big Tuna, punching a hole through the wall or being unknowingly cuckolded by his fiancé, Andy was as entertaining a character as there was at Dunder Mufflin. However, two occurrences at the end of Season 7 collided into a perfect storm that knocked Bernard down for the count, and unfortunately for us, he is still looking at the lights. First, Steve Carell left the show and along with that departure, Michael Scott flew off to Colorado and out of our non-syndicated lives for good. Second, Ed Helms became a red-hot movie star, with the Hangover making huge bank, Helms was in demand and became a star level name. So, with a new headman needed in the boss’s office and a well-established movie star under contract, it seemed like a no brainer to make Bernard the new manager. Well, kind of. At first he was back to being blue balled, this time by Robert California. He was a prototypical middle manager, floundering with both his subordinates and his superiors. With this change, the angst ridden, always derided Bernard lost a bit of his charm as the silver spoon fed perpetual under achiever.

By the time the last season started and Andy had ditched long time love interest Erin and started sailing the Atlantic with his brother, he had become unbearable. Maybe it was by design, but during the episodes when he was MIA, it was complete addition by subtraction. When he returned, his shtick felt played and forced and he no longer was a seamless fit in the paper-pushing world. Things got so bad that I found myself rooting against him and Erin and hoping she ended up with Plop, a guy we know barely anything about. It has been sad to watch the Nard Dog fade into Office obscurity but his salad days are well behind him and he is playing out the string in a Mark Sanchez like mire, constantly fumbling the ball, taking away the playing time of better players and surrounded by a continuous swarm of angry fans. As sad as it is to say, the time to put the Nard Dog down seemed to have coincided with that bittersweet flight from Scranton to Colorado.

Jordan: This one is easy. It’s Pam, which is a shame. Pam was GREAT as the cute girl next door in early seasons, but over the course of the show, that innocence and kindness seemingly turned into arrogance and entitlement. Pam was responsible for the following incidents:

– Roy being maced (this happened when she was GOOD!)

– Jim moving to Stamford

– Telling Phyllis she needed to buy new perfume because the smell upset her while she was pregnant

– Getting a warehouse guy fired

– Having an emotional affair with a documentary guy (and Jim of course)

– Holding it against Jim for going after his dreams, when HE SUPPORTED HER FOR GOING AFTER HERS WHILE SHE MOVED TO NEW YORK FOR ART SCHOOL

– Dropping out of art school

– Failing miserably at taping Cece’s recital and taking no blame for it

– Refusing to ask the documentary crew to provide Jim with tape of recital EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE THERE

– Selling the house under Jim’s nose and saying they should move to Austin, FOR JIM, but really because she wanted to now. What a witch.

Jeremy: When I think of a character I just plain couldn’t stand, it’s Nellie. I don’t know who to blame though, the writers or the actress? Her first appearances annoyed me, and when she showed up in Scranton taking Andy’s job, I found myself not wanting to watch because she just annoyed me too much. When Andy started being rude to the character, what he was saying echoed what I thought of the character.

Marc: NELLIE. I can’t remember enjoying her for even one second. Always thought she was a pointless character who made a cameo because she was friends with the writers or something. Then she made another cameo…and never went away. Nellie brought absolutely nothing to the table other than that annoying British accent.

Bob: I was never a fan of Gabe. I understand that he was supposed to be a geek and socially awkward, but there was never anything he did that made me laugh. His presence just annoyed me a lot and there wasn’t a storyline he was involved in that made me care about him. I recall several times zoning out from the program whenever he was on. He never captured my attention.

Josh: Oscar has continued to annoy me and every time I started to like him, he would do something else to completely turn me off. He is a know-it-all that cheated with the husband of a person who sits two feet from him every day. Of course, Angela also cheated on her fiancé AND husband with a co-worker that resulted in her raising her lover’s child in the safe haven of a loveless, sham of a marriage. Plus, she was just plain mean for the first half of the series, only to become “sort of mean” the rest of the times. Her relationship with Dwight tends to make her slightly more likable, and the finale saved her so to speak, so I’ll spare her and keep Oscar as the goat.

Jen: Robert California. I don’t feel like I need to give an explanation here.

Best Spin-Off Option:

Justin: For such a popular show loaded with great characters, you would think there would have been a successful spinoff at some point during this nine year run, but here we are. Of course, as the story goes, Parks & Rec was meant to be a spinoff show for Karen Filippelli, but that ended up going in a different direction. And of course, this year we saw the corpse of Dwight Schrute’s The Farm meet a quick and harsh burial, probably next to a dead horse. For realism sake, I won’t go overboard and say Michael Scott Paper Company should have branched off into its own show with occasional crossover. So, how about we take Jim and Pam circa season six, right after they wed at Niagara Falls, and say Jim gets roped into his sports agency company back then instead of in the final season. He successfully convinces a pregnant Pam that they need to relocate so he can take this golden opportunity to better provide for his growing family. This way there is some serious star power on the new show and we get them out of the Office, where they were really starting to suffocate things. This gives the rest of the cast some room to breathe and break out a bit without having to carry the show. Darryl can go for the ride too, stepping up into a higher profile slot on the new show. Not sure if the spinoff works, but getting Jim & Pam out of the Office right after their peak probably helps the show and their characters and gives them the best chance to succeed on their own.

Jordan: There are really only two options that have legs: Schrute Farms with Dwight, Angela and the crazy family or a show about Michael and Holly, which isn’t going to happen. Another possible option: Creed Bratton takes over as cult ringleader on “The Following”. Other than that, I don’t think many characters were fleshed out enough, and I wouldn’t want to watch a Jim and Pam show.

Jeremy: I know they wanted Dwight to have his own show, but I really think Andy and Darryl could have produced more comedy then Dwight. The two of them were really close towards the end of the show, and the dynamic of Darryl being straight laced and Andy being goofy could have made for a great show.

Marc: It’s hard to argue with the one they were planning on going with, Dwight. He’s a gimmicky character but one that always delivered and never got stale. I’ve always dreamed of Kevin & Creed spinning off to start their own accounting firm. I don’t know how deep either of these characters could get, and I don’t even see them being the absolute stars of a spinoff. What’s John Stamos doing nowadays? I could see them being brought on by some hot shot business douche played by Stamos and just getting shit on all the time. Maybe give Kevin a girlfriend.

Bob: As we saw this past season, Dwight was positioned to be getting a spin off. I’m not sure I would have been at all interested in it. The best I can recall, spin offs hardly ever work and I’d expect the same here. After all, people left once Michael Scott left the show. So, any spin off involving an Office character not named Michael Scott, would have a really hard time lasting, in my opinion.

Josh: Personally I detest spin-offs. They tend to almost always be subpar in comparison to the original show and the character(s) usually end up nothing like the character(s) that we grew to love in the first place. If there WAS to be a series spun from The Office, the Dwight option seemed to make the most sense. Jim and Pam would have been unbearable, Michael was out of the question, and do you really want to follow around any of the other characters? Thank Horus that “The Farm” didn’t pan out.

Jen: I never thought a spinoff was a good idea. A spinoff would change the way we remember the characters, and not always for the better. We’d all want the same old Jim and Pam, Michael, or Dwight and without Dunder Mifflin and the rest of the cast they wouldn’t be the same. What made the show great was the chemistry between the characters. I wouldn’t want to watch a show about Dwight unless Jim was nearby tormenting him with faxes from Future Dwight, moving his desk around and putting his staplers in Jell-O. Spinoffs rarely work. Whenever I think of a spinoff, I remember “Joey” and immediately know deep down that it’s a bad idea.

Has the legacy of The Office been damaged too much by these last two seasons?

Justin: Sure, slightly. But what show wasn’t? Very few shows that close in on ten seasons can avoid it. Seinfeld and Cheers managed to, depending on whom you ask, but those are the exceptions to the rule. I believe a lot of the backlash to the Office is unwarranted, especially since season 9 has been better as a whole than season 8 was. Is the show what it was back in Season 3? No way, not even close. Is it so bad that it means the greatness of Season 3 is diminished? No way, not even close. I think the legacy of the Office will take a short term hit but, like in all walks of life, the further away we move from its funeral, the more we will remember how damn great it was at its peak and that is all that will matter.

Jordan: Yes and no. It’s still a great show, but the last couple of seasons keep it from being the greatest show for me. I think Season 8 did more damage than anything-Jo and Robert California were both really bad for the show.

Jeremy: I think it’s easy to say that since the seasons are fresh. Going back and watching Season 7 after it hit DVD for instance I found more to laugh about then I did during the first run. I think seasons require more than a few viewings to fully appreciate the writing for each episode. I’m hoping this is the case for seasons eight and nine.

Marc: No. While the last few seasons haven’t been great, I have still enjoyed it for the sake of “checking in” with all of the characters I’ve come to know. The stories may be lacking but the huge bullpen of side characters always promises for a few laughs. It’s not what it was, and it should have ended earlier, but I don’t think it was too putridly horrible as to tarnish the legacy of an otherwise amazing show.

Josh: If the last two seasons were completely abysmal, I could understand someone saying that the legacy had been hurt, but the fact is that there were enough solid episodes and more importantly solid comedy, to preserve its legacy. The second and tertiary characters were fleshed out a slight bit more without the focus being on Michael. The bad parts were pretty disappointing though.

When Should The Office have ended?

Justin: Again, in hindsight, the answer is “as soon as Michael Scott’s plane went wheels up”, but I am not here for layup lines. I was fine with the show continuing on because there was so much talent still left inside the Scranton Office Park. I think the misfire was the stunt casting and search for a new boss. They ruined Andy by cutting his balls off, and outside of a few memorable scenes, James Spader didn’t deliver as hoped. The safe move would have been to finally promote Dwight and hire a new salesperson played by an actor on the rise. I liked the addition of Clark Duke in Season 9 but it feels like they wasted him in the intern role. Having him step in as Dwight, Jr. playing the Dwight to Dwight’s Michael could have worked well. There is also the train of thought that they should have cleaned house and brought in a host of new faces. That would have been interesting and could have worked, but the show probably wouldn’t have lived long enough to see the growth of a true reboot. I am glad the show edged along because I really like the idea of busting down the fourth wall and showing the documentary, a nice payoff for years of talking head scenes. I just wish the episodes bridging Michael’s departure and the final bell could have been a bit more risky and original instead of delving back into the caricature pool that so many comedies in their elderly years rely on.

Jordan: My knee-jerk response is to say when Michael left or MAYBE one more season afterwards, to wrap up loose ends with other characters, end the doc, etc. But I honestly think if they handled Michael’s departure well (putting Dwight in charge), you could make a case that it could STILL be going strong. Best possible scenario would probably be Michael leaves, 1 season with Dwight as boss, and a farewell season where the doc airs, and we see how the characters’ lives changed.

Jeremy: The show should have wrapped with season seven. With Carell leaving the show it was pretty clear that the show wouldn’t have much more gas in the tank. I said the cast held the show together, that they were the glue of the show, but there’s only so far that can take you when you’re missing your lead character. Sure there was work put into Jim and Pam and even Dwight to lead the show, but frankly none of them were ready or capable of following Carell’s lead.

Marc: The show should have ended with Michael Scott leaving and marrying Holly. As much as I loved the Will Ferrell stuff, I wouldn’t have even done that. Michael was the spirit of the show, and even though I didn’t hate the last two seasons as much as many did, the show has just been clinging to life since then.

Bob: I think the show should have ended the season Michael left. I really do. The show just lost a lot of its thunder and seemed to be lost once he left. So, Season 7 should have been the last time the Office was on television. However, since it made a lot of money for NBC they had to squeeze it for as much money as possible.

Josh: Keeping in the spirit of what the show is (a documentary about an American workplace) I am fine with it ending now. I’m sure a lot of critics would probably say that it should have ended when Michael boarded his plane for the Rocky Mountains, but if the show was supposed to be about a workplace, then people coming and going certainly needed to be depicted. Or, better put: beloved people that seem to be the soul of the workplace leaving and the workplace being awkward until things settle down was something that needed to be depicted. And Spader’s character was superb.

Where Does The Office rank in the sitcom pantheon?

Justin: These questions keep getting tougher. At its absolute peak, The Office has to be considered the cream of the crop. As a full body of work, it starts to slide down the list just a bit. I am going to look at this from the modern era (or, selfishly, the era that I began watching TV), so nothing pre 1988sh. I am also looking at my own pantheon. So, I put it easily behind Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Parks & Rec has been picked up for season six, giving it more than enough episodes to get into the conversation. I like Cheers a lot, but I didn’t really watch it when it aired live, so The Office meant more to me as a viewer. 30 Rock gives it a hell of a run for its money, so does Modern Family. Cosby, Married with Children and Golden Girls are in the mix somewhere as well. There are others floating around the periphery for me, but none that would strongly contend. I say overall, as a whole, The Office is a Top 5 with a shot at Top 3 depending how I feel about Cheers on the day you ask me. Outside of my own selfish view, and looking all-time, I would say it is Top 15, but that is a column for another day.

Jordan: It’s near the top for me, and for a while I thought it would be my #1. I think the first 5 seasons rank as one of the best stretches of any show, period. I would still have to put it behind Seinfeld and The Simpsons. With Seinfeld, I can watch just about ANY episode still and enjoy it. Not sure if I could say that if I caught a rerun of a Season 8 or 9 Office episode. And with Simpsons, while it suffers the same as Office (sticking around too long), I loved it for a longer period of time-I thought it was great for 13-14 seasons, while Office had 7. I would rank it right along 30 Rock, which is interesting since they ran together for so long. 30 Rock stayed more consistent during its run and maybe even provided more laughs, but I think The Office did a better job with the story arcs, so it’s hard to choose between them. And by the way, when it’s all said and done, Parks & Rec may finish ahead of it as well.

Jeremy: I think it’s pretty high when you consider how funny but how emotional it could be and still keep its organic feeling. Nothing feels forced in the writing like most standard TV shows. The actors always seemed to bring it and knew their characters.

Marc: Top Ten, but not Top Five. It can’t beat Cosby, Wonder Years, Family Ties, Cheers, or Seinfeld off the top of my head. But it’s not terribly far behind. It’s one of the shows I can watch over and over again, and the shows I just listed along with Curb Your Enthusiasm are the only sitcoms I’ve consistently rewatched over the years.

Bob: Of all-time that will be a hard question to answer. For me personally it’s in my top ten and maybe just outside of my top five. If it ended after season 7 it would be in my top five, but the last two years bumps it down a little bit in my rankings.

Josh: It’s no Cheers or Seinfeld, but it’s better than anything CBS has put out in at least 18 years.   I will say that I feel the Office had a better finale than both of those shows ahead of it.

Author: Place to Be Nation Staff

Place to Be Nation Staff pieces feature any number of our contributors who are multifaceted when it comes to Pop Culture expertise.