ashleigh hill and the office are two of my most favorite things

An Abbreviated and Scholarly Essay on the Goodness of
The Office: Season 4

By Ashleigh F. Hill

Here’s the deal. A lot of shows “Jump the Shark”, so to speak. Storylines plummet; the obvious is stated in a manner disrespectful to a witty audience, characters fail to live up to their glory established in previous seasons and back-story is not taken into consideration, and minor characters are disregarded. Thus far, Season Four of The Office has dodged all these bullets, and more, which I have yet to think of, and continues to, as I have previously stated, “hit it out of the park”.

The most important realization I’ve come to, while considering the first few episodes of Season Four is that the roles of select characters have taken on new intricacies and developed, taking surprising, but not irrational (well, considering the show) turns, humanizing them, an event most real-life office workers witness after having worked with someone for, oh, say, four seasons. For example, Andy’s role as a barely tolerable Neanderthal has morphed into an almost bearable romantic and Angela’s stone-cold persona was slightly softened in her breakdown after the loss of Sprinkles. This fact is also seen in Dwight’s awkward cry and Jim passionately kissing Pam after comforting Dwight in the most recent episode.

The mix of drama and hilarity is, of course, topped off by the coupling of Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly[1]. Other shows may have reached this climax at the wrong time, too early, or too late, but not so The Office. I don’t think we could have lasted another whole season with the two of them not getting together. Plus, the contrast between their relationship and the downfall of Dwight and Angela’s romance is undertonally[2] genius and engaging. In addition to this, a third contrast, a technique rarely used well, places Michael and Jan’s relationship in the very middle of the aforementioned affairs, creating a happy medium (happy in the sense of theme, not actual feeling of the characters. Obviously.) On that note, the continuation of the downfall of Jan, which I do realize began in Season Three, creates a needed intrigue to her relationship with Michael. If the show’s writers had kept Jan in her position over Michael’s job the humor would have eventually been lost. The mastermind in tearing her down and very slowly bringing her back up, to even Michael’s level is somehow more believable, and gives the audience more reason to approve of their relationship. Jan has been given a slight softness, especially in the last hour-long episode, causing her character to grow on fans of The Office, no matter how long they mull over their feelings about her.

As far as minor characters go, let’s talk about the diversification of Darryl’s role. There is no real reason for him to still be on the show. Ray is gone; therefore the warehouse subplot is nearly void. However, holding the glue of Kelly’s jealousy and Ryan’s douche-ness together stands Darryl. It doesn’t even matter if Darryl and Kelly are ever in a true relationship, all that matters is that they continue making out in front of Ryan, Ryan keeps his facial hair, no one learns to use PowerPoint, and Toby has more reasons to stare sadly into the camera due mostly to Kelly’s presence.

Now, I realize that Season Four is by no means the best season, but there’s award in not being able to identify a high point. Popular characters are shifted into different and meaningful roles and smaller characters are placed in new and significant situations pulling them out into the light and diversifying the continuation of The Office. The fact that the show has taken a step from a half hour of witty and outlandish instances and one-liners into a comedic-semi-drama of developed situations and persons not only gives it depth but longevity as well.


[1] Please realize that, in my opinion as a female, the fact that Jim and Pam are together almost makes this explanation essay completely unnecessary.

[2] I understand that “undertonally” may not be a real word. Just go with it. That’s what she said.

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