I’ve read some comments online suggesting that the American version of The Office “jumped the shark” when Pam and Jim got together at the end of season three… but, now I’ve watched the season four boxset, I’d have to disagree. In fact, my major complaint about this latest batch of episodes would be that they didn’t focus on PB&J’s budding relationship enough! They make such a sweet, fun couple, and it’s wonderful to see them working together to cheer up downhearted co-workers, or arrange rooftop rendezvous. If it were up to me, the whole series would be a total Jimmy and Pammy lovefest, with all the other characters (yes, even Michael) orbiting their schmaltzy heart-shaped sun. But sadly it’s not up to me, and the fact that Jim didn’t propose to Pam in the season finale is a crime against Art! The writers should never have let some bullshit, barely established upstarts steal their thunder, dammit.
One of my fave developments this season was Ryan’s rise (and fall) as a corporate “wunderkind”, with his dark suits, fancy haircut and “three day growth” half-beard. He made for such a great antagonist, and I admire the zeal with which B. J. Novak embraced his character’s descent into douchebaggery. If I were a writer/producer/actor, I might push for my character to be more heroic and loveable, but all of the writers who appear in this show seem quite happy to play villains, mentally challenged beet-farmers, or shallow mean girls! Speaking of which, Kelly (Mindy Kaling) had a few killer lines here and there, but she didn’t get any significant stories to herself… and that makes me a sad panda. Weirdly, in one of the deleted scenes from ep #4.16, Kelly states that if she can convince Pam to wear her ugly “back-up glasses” all the time, then the receptionist will finally forfeit her slot as “cutest girl in the office”… but I’d argue that Kelly already holds that honour, regardless of what Pam shoves on her face. Ms. Beesly may be deeply adorable as a character, and pretty much the perfect girlfriend in most respects, but I think Kelly’s doing herself a disservice looks-wise. She’s hella cute.
This season also saw the introduction of a new female employee, in the form of perky HR Representative ‘Holly Flax’. Personally, I thought Toby was a great character, and made a perfect foil for Michael… I also thought Michael’s irrational hatred of him (even when Toby’s trying to agree with or congratulate him) was hilarious. They kinda ruined him this season, with the Ryan-alliance and Pam-stalking stuff, but I think his character played a necessary role within the show, and that it will definitely suffer in his absence. That said, Amy Ryan was very winning as Holly, and had some very funny scenes with Kevin. She also appeared in the first season of a long-forgotten sitcom called The Naked Truth (starring Téa Leoni), which I used to love, but haven’t seen in years. So yay her.
Sigh… I don’t have especially high hopes for the subsequent seasons of The Office, but I am still mighty curious to see what Ellie Kemper brings to the table, so no doubt I’ll check them out eventually…
Edit (26/7/11): This morning I was reminded that this particular season was interrupted by the writer’s strike, which may explain why certain storylines felt slightly rushed… so I probably shouldn’t get all sweary about it. My bad.