BY SUSANNAH CLARK
After four miserable months of waiting, tonight I will bask in the return of NBC’s “The Office.”
When a friend first explained the premise of “The Office” to me, I was more than skeptical. An entire television series based around the antics of a paper company in Scranton, Pa. hardly sounded worth TiVoing. I soon discovered that it is the very under-whelming qualities of “The Office” that make it not only hilarious, but endearing. I ended up buying all four seasons on DVD this summer, and have become completely addicted to the employee interactions at Dunder Mifflin.
The show is filmed “mockumentary” style, with no explanation as to why the proceedings at a paper company would ever be considered worth capturing on film.
The unseen camera crew serves as silent omniscient narrators, slyly guiding the viewer toward the unobvious. There is no laugh track, no background music, and no exceptionally attractive cast members. The awkward silences and shaky camera angles create a televised world that feels much closer to reality than “The Hills.”
In contrast with the over-the-top mindlessness of “celebreality” and stale sitcoms, “The Office” perfects the art of subtlety by highlighting the mediocre and glorifying the awkward. The characters are not only flawed, but are completely relatable in their naivety and desperation. It is the lack of glamour that is so comforting.
At the helm of the failing paper company is Michael Scott, the embodiment of social retardation. The regional manager is played by Steve Carell and is not too far off from a “40-year-old virgin.” While Michael’s obliviousness often sparks inappropriate and offensive behavior, his good intentions are always evident in the end. Steve Carell himself once said, “If you don’t know someone like Michael Scott, you are a Michael Scott.”
Starting with the original British version, there are now seven different versions all over the world, including the French “Le Beareau” and the German “Stromberg.”
Clearly, overwhelming awkwardness has universal appeal worldwide. But why do people subject themselves to such uncomfortable situations?
To a certain extent, watching “The Office” is painful. Many conversations that take place on “The Office” are the verbal equivalents of watching “Jackass.”
People like to watch painful and embarrassing situations in order to feel better about their own painful and embarrassing situations.
Watching the constant humiliation could be considered masochistic if it weren’t for the occasional scenes of redemption; those precious moments when the colleagues find love and entertainment within their cubicles.
The underlying message that “The Office” conveys is that there is value in the mundane. Even if you’re overweight, you hate your job and/or were raised on a beet farm, there is still so much of life worth laughing about. It is the interactions you have with people, awkward or not, that define contentment.
So as I bob my head to the synth line of “The Office” theme song tonight, I will continue to revel in the fact that my life has yet to succumb to the drones of 9 to 5.
However, if I do end up working in sterile office in five years, I have full confidence that I will be create my own comedy and drama. It won’t be that hard.
(That’s what she said.)