"The Office," from beginning to end.

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2768397887_02286d74bf_b.jpgReal quick: I am the interim parenting editor at SheKnows for the next few weeks. And also, I wrote a piece called Can you send a nanny to do a mom's job? at For Her. Party!

This summer I watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's second season, and then rewatched the first season and the second season because I tend to fall asleep when I watch TV and night and then miss everything. Doing so made me decide to rewatch the American version of The Office, half because I wanted to revisit Ellie Kemper in her first big recurring role and also because I was curious to see how the show stood up after all this time, especially given that I used to recap it and even attended the first "Office" convention in Scranton. There were certain things that bothered me the first time around that I was more able to forgive this time, like how the show started with people barely able to tolerate their work environment and co-workers and ended up with everyone in the office being best friends and family, because you couldn't really make a show where people's lives really mirrored their work lives.

I did this type of crabby general recap two years ago for "Sex and the City." I'll steal the same half-assed caveats I used for that series look-back: Here are my takeaways and things I noticed. Please note that this is not an attempt to write some sort of grand Emily Nussbaum style overview of The Office and its meaning in the 10+ years since it debuted. It's just a bunch of things I noticed and want to talk about, in no particular order. I'm sorry this post doesn't include GIFs and slideshows. I don't get paid enough to do that here.

The first season is more dated than I remember.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I just think it's funny that for a show that was so "It's just like us!" it aged so rapidly. It's amazing to see how much work-life culture has changed since 2005, where you barely saw cell phones, let alone people messing around online or engaging in social media. Plus, it made me realize how much more people were tied to their physical desks only ten years ago. Today people can work remotely, chat with their colleagues without picking up a phone, and use more flexible hours. There's something quaint about what a time capsule it is.

Jim is...kind of a dick.
That's my primary takeaway from this entire rewatch. The Jim we're supposed to see is a shaggy-haired goof who loves Pam and engages in innocent highjinks with Dwight. But on second watch, Jim's not great at relationships. He drops both Amy Adams and Rashida Jones (whom, I now see, he never loved--we don't even see him kiss her!) like hot rocks and is at times, before they really get together, pretty cold and cruel to Pam due to her relationship with Roy. Moreover, he's an all-out bully to Dwight. I'm not sure how that one got past us as a general TV-viewing audience. Why exactly were we supposed to root and laugh for the handsome slacker who continuously torments the (admittedly obnoxious) offbeat dork? I found Idris Elba's turn as the manager pretty satisfying not just because he's a hunky man, but because Charles throws Jim off so badly, turning him, for a time at least, into a Michael/Dwight character, which was gratifying.

Old girlfriends=garbage.
I can't really criticize how much inter-office dating/flirting there is because that's just part of the show (but just for fun, there's Nellie + Toby, Val + Darryl, Dwight + Angela, Andy + Angela, Pam + Roy, Jim + Pam, Michael + Jan, Erin + Andy, Erin + Gabe, Erin + Pete, Kelly + Ryan) but it is funny to me how many times a significant girlfriend character is completely dropped and never heard from again. At one point Andy's about to propose to a girl and then he kicks her to the curb when Erin is available. Jim drops two women for Pam (at least Karen got some follow up), and then right at the end of the series, Dwight's girlfriend Esther completely disappears from the landscape without even a goodbye.

What are we supposed to do with Andy?
Someone I spoke with about this project pointed out that TV writing is done differently now than it was ten years ago because streaming and binge-watching weren't things at the time, and so television writers didn't create characters or plots with the idea that somebody like me could be watching all the episodes in order someday. This is what I think had to have gone on with Andy. His character arc flipflopped so many times it got exhausting. First, he was a privileged Ivy League douche with anger issues. Then, he became a sympathetic clown, particularly per his humiliating relationships with Angela. Then, he and Erin were supposed to be like Jim and Pam 2.0? Then, with the arrival of Nellie, he became a jerk again, and on and on. I think it would have been more satisfying if we could always find Andy obnoxious, then perhaps as a sympathetic clown, instead of having him repackaged as Romantic Fool Andy. 

The Benny & Joon effect
Speaking of Erin and Andy, there are a couple of times in the series where two characters fall in love and they're supposed to be so quirky together it's just perfect, but they end up just seeming like a couple of adult toddlers who ran into each other in the same sandbox. I'm thinking in particular of Michael and Holly as well as Erin and Andy. Erin I don't mind so much since her surreal innocence is maintained throughout the series, but it gave me weird vibes when Andy, Holly, and Michael are all written as sexual creatures (which is fine!) but then pull back into these overgrown child characters.

Speaking of overgrown children, there are a few moments in the show where Kevin Malone is essentially written as a mentally disabled horny child, and it's a real turnoff.

The weird new characters
Some people might disagree with me on this but I think James Spader as Robert California is pure perfection. He is not rooted in reality whatsoever but he's a 180 of the lost lonelyhearts who don't know what they're doing that make up so much of the cast of characters. I liked Nellie, because she brought a much needed female foil to the show. Clark brought the least to the last quarter of series, being neither likable nor funny nor consistently evil.

Pam and Jim's strange full circle
My first time watching The Office I was resistant to the charms of Jim and Pam, but I could handle it better this time around, except for the way it was wrapped up. In case you don't remember, Jim goes to Philadelphia to found a startup and it's actually successful, but when he finds out how much it's hurting his marriage, he drops the endeavor and moves back to Scranton to work on the relationship. Pam, naturally, worries that Jim will resent her for this. Jim's way of proving his love to her is to have the producers of "The Office" (the show within the show) compile a DVD of all the moments where he was totally in love with her. This bothers me as a married person. First, the documentary had already come out, so while it would be lovely to revisit the  romance of your nascent relationship, it wouldn't exactly be relevatory to Pam. But also, I don't know, after having two kids and being with someone for a really long time myself, to me, revisiting the olden days would not be proof of the love that exists now. It doesn't seen terribly helpful or relevant. If anything, it would make me annoyed--the love of two childfree 20-year-olds doesn't have much to do with the where they are now. However, I do think it's funny how in the beginning of the show, Pam is this idealized woman Jim spends so much time and energy proving his love to her, and then by the end of the show, it's Jim who's the perfect one who sacrifices his career for her and, um, has some guys make a DVD for her. I liked the show best during the few moments when they were just a couple of regular people trying to make it happen.