Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Time of the Season: S3 of The Office

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 20, 2007

“I do not fear the unknown. I will meet my new challenges head-on, and I will succeed, and I will laugh in the faces of those who doubt me. It’s been a pleasure working with some of you, and I will not forget those of you soon. But remember, while today it is me, we all shall fall.”

Season three of the most reliable comedy on TV wrapped up with an hour-long finale last Thursday. On the whole, the season probably didn’t hit the highs of the Emmy-winning second season, but that was a pretty tough sell to begin with (it being one of the first TV seasons I actually figured had enough replay value to be worth buying). Especially with Scrubs getting preachier than U2 watching an M. Night Shyamalan movie and My Name is Earl running disturbingly low on jokes not along the lines of “Randy does something stupid [Laugh],” the third season did an admirable job of remaining the Thursday night comedy anchor, while 30 Rock was (hopefully) grooming itself for A-list status. Breakdown, go ahead and give it to me:

The Good:

  • Ed Helms as Andy Bernard. A worthy adversary to Dwight, a believable occasional-psycho and a hilarious rehabilitee, Bernard made the proceedings at the Stamford branch the highlights of the early episodes (“I’m going to kill you. IN REAL LIFE”) and added a much-needed spark to mid-season Dunder Mifflin. His performance in “The Return,” the season’s best episode, alone should merit him at least a nomination for the Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Emmy.
  • The Jim-Karen-Pam triangle. Karen, played by the foxy superproducer offspring Rashida Jones, was also a worthy adversary for Pam, though the gloves didn’t really come off in their relationship until Pam revealed her feelings for Jim at the office’s retreat (“Y’know, Pam….she’s kind of a bitch”), and Jim having to choose between the two was a legitimately tough one. Props to the show’s producers for not taking the easy way out and villifying Karen–for a while she was just as irresistibly likeable as Pam, which is no small feat.
  • Possibly the best Dwight season thusfar. His feud with Andy, his quitting speech, his attempted coup to steal the company from Michael, his brief tenure at Staples…pretty much non-stop brilliance and hilarity throughout. What’s more, his business trip outings with Ryan and Jim were surprisingly revelatory–he showed himself to be a real character for once, as well as a surprisingly astute salesman. You got the feeling this season that Dwight could actually have been something of a success had he been placed in a less dysfunctional company.

The Bad:

  • Way, way too many “Michael offends minority and tries way too hard to compensate, embarrassing everyone” episodes. Black people, gay people, fat people…no one was safe from Michael’s unintentional humiliation. These episodes were pretty funny the first two seasons, and they’re still kind of funny now, but it’s getting to the point where it’s just too much. You can only watch so many episodes covering your hands with your eyes before the unwatchability just gets annoying.
  • Weird flip-flopping and ultimate dismissal of Roy’s character. Apparently losing Pam was so sobering that he switched his personality up entirely, becoming even more sensitive and nice guy-ish than Jim, but one mention from Pam that she kissed Jim before the end of their relationship and he flips back to psycho boyfriend mode. Then the next episode, he’s gone entirely. Kind of a wasted opportunity.

The Questionable:

  • Michael’s relationship with Jan (and the general weirding out of her character). At first Jan’s can’t-help-herself affair with Michael was hysterical in its inherent self-loathing and confusion, but then they turned her into a sex-fiend, near-dominatrix and semi-psychotic. Funny in parts, but generally it just made me feel bad for Melora Hardin.
  • The show realizing that Creed was probably its funniest minor character. Creed’s unfazed drugged-out weirdo schtick was hilarious the first two seasons, and most of the third as well, but the last few episodes just had too many “That’s our Creed!!” moments for comfort. Him emerging from the ocean at the office retreat with the skeleton of a fish he just caught and ate himself for no particular reason was distinctly nadir-ish.
  • Jim and Pam finally maybe getting together at the end of the season. It was inevitable (sort of impressive they held out this long, really) and could make for some sweet moments next season, but the golden rule of TV romantic comedy has always been that once the tension between the two romantic leads is dissolved, the show is soon to follow. Let’s hope it’s not the case either (and also that Jim’s leaving Karen doesn’t mean Rashida Jones is out of the picture for S4–it’d be a shame to lose her so soon).

5 Responses to “Time of the Season: S3 of The Office”

  1. my kinetic android said

    Maybe next season could focus on the bitter break-up of Ryan and Kelly.

  2. jordan said

    i think they gave the corporate job to ryan especially to keep karen in the picture.
    also, i’m not sure i agree with the idea that they are giving too much time to creed— i thought the fish skeleton thing was especially hilarious, and his response to angela when she tries to hear the dwight pepper-spray story was one of the season’s funniest moments.
    keeping it’s fringe characters relevant but not overbearing (hilarious stanley moments, meredith accidentally flashing, etc.) is one of that show’s biggest strengths, though i wouldn’t disagree with moving creed off the fringe so to speak.

  3. jordan said

    also, little known facts about rashida jones, according to her imdb profile:
    – daughter of quincy jones
    – sung backup on 3 songs on the maroon 5 debut
    – once engaged to mark ronson

  4. “You and me are done” is pretty much my TV moment of the year, even overshadowing the great Jim-and-Pam moment before it.

    And I agree with Jordan about Creed… his whole “the only difference between a homeless guy and me is this job” thing was one of my favourite parts of this season.

  5. Erick said

    “Good luck with your band. Don’t let them change you.”

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