Office Watch: How Could You Be So Heartless?

Office Watch continues. Why this week’s Parks and Recreation made the final season of the Office even harder to watch.

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Ever since I married Kim, I literally can’t watch a wedding on television or in a movie and not get at least a little teary eyed. It’s not so much what I’m watching that gets me, but the memories it conjurers up inside of me. I can’t help it. I’m an emotional dude and I’m resigned to the fact that for the rest of my life any staged wedding- no matter how cheesy it may be, is going to effect me emotionally.

And I’m fine with that. I’m fine with it because I feel that one of the things we want from the television shows or movies we watch is a form of emotional resonance. We want it to mean something more than what’s on screen and we want it to hit home. We want what we watch to have a heart. A show or a movie with a heart is one we can connect with and in turn, is one that produces forms of emotion that resonant with us and stays with us. They care, we care- a winning situation for everyone involved.

Parks and Recreation is the reason why I bring up this idea of emotional resonance and I can totally admit that I got misty eyed watching the episode, “Leslie and Ben,” which aired this week. Leslie and Ben, two of the show’s main characters, got married in an abrupt ceremony that was hampered by the usual TV wedding hijinks and shenanigans. And like with the majority of TV weddings, it took all the characters coming together to make the wedding happen.  The episode epitomized everything that is great about Parks and Recreation– it was heartfelt, genuine and full of great, well-placed laughs. It re-enforced the reasons why I love the show so much and why I’d be willing to stage a hunger strike if NBC doesn’t bring it back next season.

Unfortunately, “Leslie and Ben” also made me realize how much I no longer really care about The Office, a show that used to have the kind of emotional resonance Parks and Recreation has.

You can find yourself asking a lot of questions when watching these last few episodes of The Office’s nine year run- when did Andy become such a douche, why didn’t they just shut it down when Michael Scott left, is Pam really that good of an artist- but the main question we could all be asking is what happened to the show’s heart? The Office drew us all in because of episodes like “Leslie and Ben,” episodes that made us care about the characters and fall in love with them even more. In it’s first five seasons, The Office was great because of the dead pan humor and the power of Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott. But what drove the bus was the heart of the show- the sweetness of Jim and Pam’s relationship, the small moments when Scott was more than a whimsical blow hard, Dwight and Angela and more. The Office was successful not just because it was funny, but because it cared. Through writing and the actors, a sweetness accented the various twists and turns the series took. It had what “Leslie and Ben” had- a live and beating heart.

But where has that heart gone?

That’s the question that sticks with me as I watch this last season of The Office. The show’s going through the motions. It’s empty and flat- two things it never was. It really is a damn shame, because I loved The Office. So it kills me to see the show limping it’s way to the finish line. And while I knew I felt like this all along, it took something like “Leslie and Ben” to make me really realize why I felt the way I did. Seeing another show demonstrate so perfectly everything The Office once was made everything the show currently isn’t that much more apparent. That emotional resonance is long gone. It left. I left with Michael Scott because when I think about, the last time I really felt something watching the show was when Michael proposed to Holly. It was the last true demonstration of heart the show produced.

And it was two seasons ago.

The laughs and humor aren’t the only thing missing from The Office– the heart is missing as well. And that what might be the hardest part about it’s final days- that in the end, I just don’t care in the same way I used to.

If emotional resonance is one of the main things we want from the television shows and movies we watch, then a sense of obligation is the absolute last thing we want. It’s the death knell of our relationship. It’s last call.

It’s The Office and it’s time to go home. Viva la Parks and Recreation!

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