There’s nothing worse than watching your favorite show write itself into a corner. House in rehab? A sober House is a somber House; it sucks all the fun out of the character. Just like Jim the boss. Watching an underdog prankster try to undermine and avoid his hapless boss is a good time. Watching the same underdog become his hapless boss is a lot less fun.
Thursday’s episode had all of the discomfort The Office is known for, but none of the punctuating humor. The idea that anyone can turn into Michael is interesting, and probably valid, but it undermines the show’s premise. Michael was always a suit and tie, unable to cope with social realities or tough decisions. The lack of depth is what made him funny. He was a caricature, and the writers’ ability to flesh him out over the seasons was a testament to their skill. Caricature is at the heart of all the show’s characters. Only Jim and Pam are fully dimensional. The viewer is supposed to connect with them, and laugh while they struggle with being the smartest people in the room.
The collective intelligence must be dragging them down. Jim was naive to think that his move to give salespeople raises wouldn’t be construed as favoritism. It was also naive to think that talking straight with his co-workers, now employees, would work. He used to think they were all idiots. Now he’s one, too.
Pam isn’t any better. Her most prominent roles in the show are fretting over eating a donut, asking people for money and squealing at her new name, Mrs. Pam Halpert. She’s becoming a stereotype, just like Jim. They’re beginning to fit in with their co-workers. Without their sarcasm, the show has lost its spunk. This week’s episode was awkward, boring and mildly annoying. Just like any other day at the office.