Jun 9, 2011

[TV] The Office US: Season 6

The Office: Season 6I do my best to keep this review introductions interesting and dynamic, and for the most part I manage to put something decent together when posting reviews. But when it comes to TV shows that span so many seasons like this one, you tend to run out of ideas sometimes.

Let's face it - the success of any show like this tends to rely on the reliability and consistency of the characters and the stories that they get into. This is especially true for sitcoms that typically revolve around presenting new situations to its cast but generally returning to the status quo by the end of the episode. This cycle repeats over and over from that point and with very minimal changes to the characters themselves.

Of course the really good shows learn how to balance the zany one-shot game-changing concepts with the slow gradual growth of the characters as the show progresses and matures over time. In the early days of The Office, it's clear that the writers were mainly working in silos, just coming up with crazy ideas for the cast to act out and respond to and then working from there. But somewhere along the way they found the time (and the upper management support) to finally let the characters evolve, grow and ultimately progress in their fictional lives. We saw a lot of that in the season prior, but this one marked some especially powerful developments that really needed to happen given all that had happened in the seasons before.

The sixth season of The Office still had series showrunner Greg Daniels as executive producer, although this season marked a lot less direct involvement from him given he was also busy with his other mockumentary show, Parks and Recreation. I don't think this necessarily took away from the quality of the series and perhaps in some whats it opened new doors for the creative team behind it.

The season begins with some interesting plot points leftover from last season. Pam (Jenna Fisher) is pregnant and Jim (John Krasinski) is the father. But since they're not yet married, this remains to be a bit of a complication for things. Jim also has plans of moving up the corporate ladder at Dunder Mifflin - one that results in him becoming an odd "co-manager" to Michael Scott (Steve Carell). And this season really tried to push the development between Andy (Ed Helms) and the current receptionist Erin (Ellie Kemper).

This season has two key moments for the Jim and Pam relationship, which by far remains to be the heart of the show and one of the biggest contributors to its success. First, we finally get to witness Jim and Pam tie the not as husband and wife at Niagra Falls, no less. The wedding was handled pretty well, I think, in a manner that celebrated the quirky insanity of the entire Office crew while still giving viewers the emotional pay off we all desired after six years of watching the couple get closer and closer to this singular moment.

The second bit, naturally, was Pam giving birth amidst very limited HMO benefits, all the little rings of fire they had to jump through in order to be together and Michael Scott, who manages to get involved in every little thing. I really liked how this one event was captured so well, at least in terms of how Jim and Pam responded to the various challenges thrown their way. Even the normally level-headed Jim began to become a bit unwoven as the key moment came closer and closer and it was all very believable and definitely enjoyable. I feel majority of the writing staff's efforts went into continually revising and improving on the characterization of the couple and how the work together.

yhe-officeImage by eckelon via FlickrThis season also marked the time when the impact of the on-going financial crisis was most felt in the show environment. Like the rest of the country at the time, the Scranton branch had to deal with increasing fears that the company was going on, that they were doomed to lose their jobs and other typical dark scenarios of the period. While I'm not saying everything was perfectly handled in this regard, the eventual way this plot thread was resolved remained reasonable and still pretty comical. But we have Kathy Bates to thank for that, I suppose.

I can understand why fans and critics alike had somewhat mixed reviews about how this season panned out. Apart from the wedding and the birth, the season didn't have quite as many memorable moments to really look back upon. Characters like Ryan (D.J. Novak) have been reduced to background memes with little contributing value to the plot and the one thing that had been going for Michael had already been taken away last time around so he was just wandering around this season. Still funny, but definitely a step backward for that particular character.

Still, I've made no secret of the fact that I watch this show for Jim and Pam. Everything else is just gravy for me (or pick whatever side dish or condiment works better as an analogy from your perspective). So on this track some major goals were accomplished and I'm good with that fact.

The sixth season of The Office is definitely not one of their best, but it still remains to be quite a memorable one. It gets 4 crazy roles the cast assumes in the dinner mystery game out of a possible 5.

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