Last August I wrote a column here questioning whether or not The Office’s ninth season would be worth watching and if viewers would stick around to find out. Both questions have been answered, albeit with differing degrees of certitude.
Let’s start with the easy one first. The Office’s Season 9 ratings have hovered right around 4 million viewers week in and week out, generally landing it in third place among the four major networks. That’s about half of the show’s prior viewership. The comedy that anchored NBC’s Must See TV lineup in seasons past is now unable to hold its own against admittedly better-than-average competition from the other networks. The Office’s woes have been compounded by alternatives that include Glee, Grey’s Anatomy, and Person of Interest.
So while half the fans have given up on the antics of everyone’s favorite paper company from Scranton, PA, are they missing out or were they right to jump ship when they did? That question is a little tougher to answer. The Office isn’t what it once was, that’s for sure. A character like Michael Scott played by an actor like Steve Carell isn’t easy to replace. Losing a good chunk of the creative staff and a couple of supporting characters before the final season didn’t help any.
But there have been flashes of the old Office that remind us why we loved the show so much in its heyday. Jim has occasionally shown his sarcastic, trickster form that originally made the show so engaging. But he’s also spent a good amount of time as the sad sack whiner who made us consider abondoning the show back in Seasons 7 & 8.
The new wrinkle of the camera crew, so long unseen and unheard, suddenly making an on-screen appearance was something that long-term fans could appreciate, as was Toby’s continuing fascination with the Scranton Strangler.
I still haven’t made up my mind about the whole Athlead subplot. It almost seems as if the show runners have been intentionally segregating John Krasinski from the rest of the cast. Way too much time has been devoted to the drama of the strain Jim’s working situation has put on his relationship with Pam. Time that could have been spent, for example, giving Creed more than two lines in any given episode.