Few people make a more convincing case for the decline of The Office than television writer Myles McNutt. I’ve known and respected Myles since before he was rich and famous (and we’ve had him on the /Filmcast a number of times to talk TV), and I’ve particularly been impressed by his work at The AV Club, as he does weekly Office recaps.
McNutt approaches the show and each episode as though it has the potential to be something transcendent, informative, and/or moving. And why shouldn’t he? At its best, that’s what The Office was, a celebration of the foibles of American working life. Lately, though, the show has been uneven and mired with inconsistent characterizations. The penultimate Michael Scott episode, “Michael’s Last Dundies,” exemplifies this. Myles writes:
I know some of you don’t care if an episode of The Office means anything and that you just want it to be funny. I also know that wanting the show to have a sense of meaning or purpose renders me pretentious for some of you. However, “Michael’s Last Dundies” obviously wants to take on a particular meaning given that final song, to be about “the best in every one of us” that Michael believes the Dundies should represent. As a result, I think it is perfectly fair to hold the show accountable for the fact that the rest of it was built around a transparent set of bits being played by two actors, not two characters, and to wish that the big picture was more than just a musical afterthought in Carell’s next-to-last episode.
As Steve Carrell wraps up his time on the show, it’s instructive to look back and see how the show has changed. Be sure to check out Myles’ other recaps of the show.
Drew Grant from Salon has a different take on this week’s episode, though it doesn’t necessarily conflict with McNutt’s. She argues that The Office can recapture its spirit if it “could go all the way back to its Schadenfreude roots and get mean.”