Thursday, October 08, 2009

How 'The Office' learned to stop worrying and love the PB&J

Over at NJ.com, I explain why I didn't post this morning's Star-Ledger column about "Fringe," and then revisit one of my favorite topics: why keeping will-they-or-won't-they couples apart for too long is stupid, and why I'm therefore glad that Jim and Pam are getting married tonight on "The Office."

25 comments:

Tracey said...

I would trace the fear of coupling main characters back much farther than that. Get Smart. I Dream of Jeannie. Both series married off the main characters (Max/99 and Tony/Jeannie) in their dismal last seasons, and many people blamed the cancellation on the marriages. But this ignores the dynamics of how jumping the shark works: the marriages did not cause the show to fail; the marriages were a desperate move attempted because the shows were already in trouble. The same was true of Moonlighting, and many other shows that failed after pairing off their main characters. The pairing doesn't cause the failure; the failure causes the pairing.

Matt said...

While I agree that "Ed" stretched things out a season too long (much as I like Sabrina Lloyd, her whole arc and the bizarre lucid dreams episode were too much), the Principal Martino arc was just great. Sadly, I can't find John Slattery's "woo! I'm a jackass!" speech anywhere online, but it was a brilliant deconstruction of HS politics.

Norm N. Conquest said...

Not to get all thread-hijacky or anything, but I'm dying to hear Alan's take on Comedu Central's Secret Girlfriend. Best new show of the season.

Kathy said...

It can work beautifully...Nick and Nora Charles, Lucy and Desi.

Dan Jardine said...

It's not just lazy to artificially keep two fictional characters apart, it's a sign of immaturity. It's that adolescent belief that the chase is more interesting and exciting than the dance. As you note, tt shows a real lack of understanding of all the comic, dramatic and tragic realities/possibilities of being in a grownup relationship.

dyb said...

I'd put Gilmore Girls up there as another example of a show that dragged the UST on too long. Luke and Lorelei finally got together when, season 4 or 5? And when they did get together with a bright future in sight, Amy Sherman-Palladino introduced Luke's long-lost daughter April. Luke kept her existence a secret under the flimsiest in-show justification, presumably with the behind-the-scenes reason of dragging on the Luke and Lorelei will-they-or-won't-they show for a little bit longer. I think the funniest part of all of this is that when Sherman-Palladino left the show before the 7th season she complained about not getting to write the secret "final word" she'd always envisioned. Well, guess what: if you hadn't thrown a monkey wrench into the works that derailed an entire season, you could written the final word at the end of season 6.

Wow, I'm still kind of annoyed at that situation. Sorry, everybody.

Rich said...

Community is getting ready to commit that fallacy. It's been three episodes, and I'm already tired of the UST there. The writers have made it the center of every episode.

ithor6 said...

Oh Luke and Lorelei, you got together in a reasonable amount of time (4 seasons), but then the writers found increasingly stupid way to keep you apart. Emily breaking them up I dealt with because it made sense, but Luke's long lost daughter? C'mon! And I liked Luke's daughter, but there were much more interesting things they could have done with that then break up L&L.

Now that I got that off my chest, @Matt I loved the lucid dream episode of Ed. Not because of any Ed and Carol stuff, just the bizarreness of the whole thing, really seemed like a dream, and was hilarious, too.

Considering how many shows are about married couples you'd think writers would know how to write for relationships.

ithor6 said...

Seems dyb beat me to the punch on Gilmore Girls, sorry about posting basically the same thing, guess I just take too long to write comments.

vmarshmellow said...

I definitely agree with the statement "Anyone who's been in a long-term relationship knows there are plenty of things about it to make fun of, and plenty that's dramatic." Sometimes it seems that writers don't believe that when they drag out UST too long.

However, I haven't found Pam and Jim's relationship to be all that dramatic. I don't mean they need to have a major fight and storm off, but everything they've done in the past two years has pretty much been agreeable and happy. Jim bought his old house without consulting Pam-- she loved it! Pam goes away for a few months to pursue her dream and then comes back as if nothing had happened. This does not ring true for me because, from my observations, couples at least argue, even yell at each other once in a while. Maybe we don't see this happening because the structure of the show only allows us to see certain public moments, but while I agree that Pam and Jim should be together, I don't currently find them super interesting as a couple.

I'm curious if you have any thoughts on the Michael/Jan relationship. This relationship was more similar to Maddie/David in that, as you say, "they made each other miserable and probably shouldn't have been together." Ultimately their relationship fell apart, which, while realistic, in my opinion was not done well at all. I believe that, given time and care, Michael and Jan might have worked out. Maybe I'm just being delusional because I love UST couples, but Michael and Jan had moments together that showed (at least to me) that they could function as a couple.

Larry McGillicuddy said...

Great post, Alan. This is something I've always argued. I remember people argued this about Friends, saying Ross/Rachel destroyed the show. But I think it was the constant stupidity of them breaking up over and over again.

Another show I'd like to throw in is West Wing. They kept Josh and Donna apart for so long, that by the time they finally got together (in the final season) it just didn't have that same excitement anymore. Imagine how interesting it would have been if they got together in season 3, for example. The chemistry was incredible between the two actors and they could have milked alot of material out of the awkwardness of their working relationship.

Chaz said...

Great column Alan, someone needs to forward a copy to the Chuck writers. The Chuck-Sarah UST already wore out its welcome in Season 2 and it makes me really worried they plan to continue it into season 3.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Let's just say I've made my feelings about this known to Schwartz and Fedak, Chaz. (Though I don't feel like Chuck and Sarah are at that frustrating point yet, I want to make sure they never get to that point.)

Just Being Josh said...

Couldn't agree more. I love how the writers have let Jim and Pam happen organically; and other than the first kiss at the end of Season 2, it's never had to be a big production (i.e. Jim asking Pam out at the end of Season 3 and the classic proposal at the gas station).

TV writers have trained us to expect the on-again, off-again relationships and it's for that reason alone that I won't let myself totally enjoy Barney and Robin (a GREAT TV couple by the way)... yet.

David said...

I did like what they did on Northern Exposure when they finally resolved the UST with Joel & Maggie (also way too late for the series). Joel & Maggie made a point of telling everyone they'd slept together and no one cared. Would have loved that reaction (which was perfect in the show) much earlier.

Peter said...

The best part of Jim and Pam getting married and having a baby, you know there is a gold mine's worth of material of Michael and a baby.

Imamarilyn said...

I have watched The Office from its first episode, and have never felt that the Pam/Jim dynamic was a dominant force anyway. Kudos to the writers for not making the show all about Pam/Jim. It doesn't drive the show. I am not much of a romantic, so frankly I didn't care if they got together or not.

IMO it's not about unresolved sexual tension so much as it is chemistry. Married people can have awesome chemistry that keeps the relationship interesting. Kathy cited Nick and Nora, Lucy and Ricky. I would add Samantha and Darrin on Bewitched...the first Darrin, Dick York, that is. (There was imo zero chemistry between Samantha and Darrin as Dick Sargeant.)

Anonymous said...

What about Who's the Boss!!!

Anonymous said...

One example contra to your point is Frasier: the show definitely took a comedic hit after Niles and Daphne finally got together (though, in fairness, they really couldn't drag it out any longer).

Imamarilyn said...

vmarshmallow, I agree Michael and Jan could make it. They are dysfunctional perfection. They deserve each other. Which makes me remember that I miss Jan. Maybe she will show up at the wedding tonight.

SteveW said...

Seinfeld handled this brilliantly, in one of the first episodes, where it's acknowledged that they had dated in the past, thus diffusing "will they/wont" story lines altogether. (Even the early episode where they do "the that", it's clearly handled without the soap opera nonsense).

vmarshmellow said...

Imamarilyn, I miss Jan too. I think the writers really screwed up with that character. She's supposed to come back, but they said that about the end of last season also, and she never did.

Shannon said...

I completely agree with this sentiment, and have been continually frustrated by shows who keep characters apart even when it makes no sense.

One recent and extremely frustrating example of this is Bones. The writers have teased that relationship for four years, making it very clear that both Brennan and Booth have feelings for each other and are a good fit, and yet they refuse to put them together. Last year's season finale was widely hated, mostly because they faked out the fans with a "coma dream" hookup and then reset the relationship so that no further progress would be made.

Interviews with the creator and the actors have them constantly citing the Moonlighting curse and openly admitting that they're stalling because they're afraid to lose the UST. Talk about pathetic. If they can't handle portraying a realistic relationship, they should find a new line of work.

Hoosier Paul said...

This is a non-TV example, but Marvel editor Joe Quesada felt so strongly that singlehood provided better storytelling opportunities than marriage that he retconned 20 years of Peter Parker being married to Mary Jane.

End Comic-book-nerd interlude.

Brandy said...

Gilmore Girls problem wasn't putting Luke and Lorelai together. Season five's ratings were way way up it was trying to keep them apart after they got together. I didn't love the idea of Luke's daughter but I really thought there were places they could go with that, and the only watchable part of season 7 was Luke and April.

For me it was Lorelai and Chris that was when I had to give up on the show. It wasn't putting the main couple together. It was keeping them apart.

I think Coach Taylor and Tami are the best couple on television.

I could care less if Bones and Booth ever get together but the tease last season was somewhat cruel to fans.

Psych and NCIS, however, will only keep me as a viewer if they don't push their rooting couples, so, I suppose shipping is a very subjective thing.