By Chuck Barney
Contra Costa Times
---- — At nine seasons, “The Office” lasted longer than it should have. Even before Steve Carell’s bumbling Michael Scott departed in 2011, NBC’s adaptation of a British classic was showing signs of wear and tear.
But that doesn’t mean we won’t have an abundance of fond memories when “The Office” airs a final 75-minute episode Thursday, May 16. At its very best, this groundbreaking “mockumentary” cleverly captured all the drudgery, hilarity, awkwardness and tensions of a typical cubicle-filled workplace. It also rewarded fans with one of the most heartwarming romances ever seen in prime time.
So before we bid goodbye to the Dunder Mifflin gang, let’s head out on a paper trail of great moments that had us simultaneously laughing and cringing:
WHAT THE SHOW TAUGHT US
“The Office” may have been oh-so-ludicrous (how did Michael not get fired?). But amid all the absurdity, there were valuable lessons that could be applied to any workplace environment:
1. Don’t use company computers for personal matters: Michael learned this the hard way. Upon returning from a Jamaican vacation with Jan Levinson, he accidentally sent a photo of her sunbathing topless to the warehouse staff. Naturally, they forwarded it to the entire company. Oops.
2. Reward your employees for their hard work: Whether it’s held at Chili’s or elsewhere, a ceremony a la The Dundies boosts morale and allows desk jockeys to cut loose. The down side? Cut loose too much, and you might be banned from the restaurant — as a drunken Pam was.
3. Don’t sleep with your superiors: Another tough lesson for Michael. His relationship with Jan, a vice president at corporate headquarters, was doomed from the start. The power imbalance was glaringly evident — as was her condescension. After Jan got fired, she milked his savings to help pay for her boob job.
4. Don’t get mad, get quiet: When a conflict with a co-worker arises, instead of arguing with them, just “shun” them — a strategy Dwight Schrute used with Andy Bernard. “It’s an Amish technique,” Dwight explained. “It’s like slapping someone with silence.” Of course, he would “un-shun” Andy when he needed a favor, then “re-shun” him as needed.
5. Bosses can’t be overly needy: “The Office” was a textbook case of how not to manage employees. Among Michael’s many flaws was a pathological need to please everyone. “Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy: both,” he once said. “I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”
6. It’s OK to have fun at work: We all could use a break from the 9-to-5 tedium, so what’s the harm in a little good-natured Dwight-vs.-Jim-style pranking? It’s probably best, though, to avoid embedding your co-worker’s stapler in Jell-O.
AN “OFFICE” LOVE STORY
Who said intra-office relationships don’t work? Jim and Pam certainly dispelled that notion as they went from being flirty best pals to TV’s most adorable couple. Some highlights along the way:
1. Jim admits his love: With Pam and Roy’s wedding drawing near, Jim takes a big risk and finally tells Pam he loves her in the Season 2 finale. Pam initially backs away, saying he misinterpreted things between them. Oh, so awkward and tense. But his persistence pays off, and the two ultimately share a dramatic kiss. (“Casino Night”)
2. Pam spills her guts: After walking on hot coals during a company event, Pam’s courage surges. In front of everyone, she confesses her feelings to Jim, who now is dating Karen. Stunningly, she admits she called her wedding off because of Jim and says she misses her “best friend.” The ball is in his court. (“Beach Games”)
3. The proposal: Unable to wait any longer to pop the question, Jim meets Pam at a gas station halfway between Scranton, Pa., and New York, where she’s taking an art class. In the pouring rain, he drops to one knee. The look on Pam’s face is priceless. This is the kind of informality and spontaneity that has fueled their relationship. (“Weight Loss”)
4. Baby on the way: When Pam gets injured during a heated company volleyball tournament, Jim drives her to the hospital, and — surprise! — they learn she’s pregnant. Jim’s range of reactions is pure gold: First shock, then goofy giddiness and laughter and, finally, tears of joy. (“Company Picnic”)
5. Wedded bliss: Jim and Pam realize that a wedding attended by their co-workers will be a chaotic disaster. And it is — complete with a crazy YouTube-inspired group dance. But wait: We learn, via flashback, that our lovebirds actually slipped out before the ceremony to wed in secret on a boat under Niagara Falls. TV perfection. (“Niagara”)
DWIGHT MAKES RIGHT
Boastful, cocky and delusional, Dwight thinks he has all the answers — even though he clearly doesn’t. Some examples of Schrute philosophy:
1. “I never smile if I can help it. Showing one’s teeth is a submission signal in primates. When someone smiles at me, all I see is a chimpanzee begging for its life.”
2. “Whenever I’m about to do something, I think, ‘Would an idiot do that?’ And if they would, I do not do that thing.”
3. “Why tip someone for a job I’m capable of doing myself? I can deliver food. I can drive a taxi. I can — and do — cut my own hair. I did, however, tip my urologist, because I am unable to pulverize my own kidney stones.”
4. “I don’t believe in coddling people. In the wild, there is no health care. In the wild, health care is: ‘Ow, I hurt my leg. I can’t run, a lion eats me and I’m dead.’ Well, I’m not dead. I’m the lion.”
5. “Nostalgia is truly one of the great human weaknesses … second only to the neck.”
6. “Women are like wolves. If you want one you must trap it. Snare it. Tame it. Feed it.”
7. “There’s too many people on this Earth. We need a new plague.”
DUMB MICHAEL SCOTT MOMENTS
Trying to recap all of Michael’s outrageous blunders over the years would be like attempting to collect snowflakes in a blizzard. Instead, we’ve settled on a few standouts:
1. As if running over Meredith with his car isn’t stupid enough, Michael holds a fun run to raise awareness of the dangers of rabies. He loads up on carbs right before the race, barely completes the run and pukes at the finish line. (“Fun Run”)
2. Michael sleeps with a George Foreman grill next to his bed so he can wake up to the smell of bacon. Unfortunately, one day, he steps onto the hot grill and it gets clamped onto his foot. (“The Injury”)
3. Michael’s heart is bigger than his brain. To wit: He promises a group of underprivileged kids that he will pay for their college education if they graduate. When they do, he’s forced to admit that he doesn’t have the funds. Instead, he gives them laptop batteries. (“Scott’s Tots”)
4. When Michael learns that Oscar is gay, he inadvertently outs him to the entire office. Eager to make up for the blunder, he attempts to demonstrate his acceptance — but winds up making things even worse by kissing Oscar. (“Gay Witch Hunt”)
5. Infuriated when someone jokes that being in prison might be better than working for Dunder Mifflin, Michael takes on the persona of “Prison Mike” in an attempt to scare them straight. But his shtick is more ridiculous than scary. The worst thing about life in the “clink”? All the Dementors flying around. (“The Convict”)