The Rise of the American Workplace Utopia, or, The Office is Coming to TBS

This is the part where the piano plays at the end.

This is the part where the piano plays at the end.

The Office is ending! The Office is ending!

After 200 episodes, seven seasons and then two other seasons NBC’s workplace sitcom extravaganza is having last call tonight. The series finale, aptly titled “Finale,” is closing an epic saga of romances and hijinks and office supply jargon the likes of which the world has never seen and will likely never see again.

It’s pretty crazy to think that the Dunder Mifflin gang have been on television for nearly a decade, but when I think back on the life lessons and insights into the white collar American work force the show has given me over the years I’m surprised they were able to teach me so much in so little time.

When I started watching The Office I wasn’t old enough to drive and the pranks and shenanigans Jim and the ganged took part in were little more than hilarious fiction that went hand in hand with Mountain Dew fueled bouts of teenaged psychosis. Now I drive half an hour two times a day to a job where I sit at a desk in front of a computer with a dress shirt and tie and my appreciation for the show has without a doubt increased.

Sure the average work places doesn’t have the insanity of a Dwight or a Creed, or the absurdity of a Michael Scott, or the sexiness of a Toby or Stanley, but having watched The Office it’s hard not to see that the foundations and archetypes the cast is derived from are very real. Does your office have a guy with a beet farm that hides deadly weapons in nooks and crannies throughout the workplace? Probably not. But does your office have a guy who dresses a little off, acts a little off and takes himself a little bit too seriously? Full disclosure – if the answer is no than it’s you.

He could be you.

He could be you.

Through my short time in the workforce I can even begin to fathom how someone as preposterous as Michael Scott can come to exist. Workplaces are stressful. Job security isn’t always as secure as it could be and interoffice politics can irk to no end (I’m looking at you Stacy. I swear to God if you switch out your plain ass vanilla sugar-free yogurt for my chocolate/peanut butter swirl pudding cup one more godamn time I will end you. You didn’t think they were the same thing. You didn’t have a mix up. You ate my godamn pudding. Watch your back, harlot, or you won’t have a back to watch!). At some point somebody is bound to make a joke to ease the tension, and when people’s perceptions of you are entirely constructed from 5-10 minute chats around the office interspersed throughout the week it doesn’t take too many jokes to become a clown. And when you work at a paper company for twenty years it doesn’t stretch the imagination to much to see how a clown can become Michael Scott.

All the minute characteristics and quirks of a regular workplace are amped up to 10 in The Office and done so with great skill by a phenomenal ensemble cast that kept the show going (in my opinion successfully) even after its leading man moved on. After all these years at this point it’s hard not to feel like I know Dwight and Jim and Pam almost as well as they know each other, having watched them experience so much. Then I started working myself and had a horrifying realization: I don’t know shit about these people.

Unless your work is literally your entirely life, most of our lives our spent outside of work with our friends and families in our homes. Knowing someone personally and knowing someone professionally can be entirely different things. Am I a cocaine-snorting, cut-throat, devil-may-care shark from 9-5 at the stock exchange? Absolutely. But that’s hardly the attitude I bring to sitting on the couch at 5:30 free-basing off of my coffee table. And the same could probably be said for the folks on The Office.

But The Office also taught me that just because your work doesn’t define you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek to help define your workplace (see what I did there) and get the most out of your professional life. Dunder Mifflin is something of a professional utopia in that way. It’s a quirky fantasy of an American workplace that happily marries the best aspects of a successful company and a workplace family. Dunder Mifflin is an ideal workplaces can strive for. Kind of like Superman in the new Man of Steel trailer. Have you seen that thing? Holy shit. That part with Zod? Also that part with Costner. Holy shit.

Sure the professional perceptions The Office has instilled in me are romanticized and sappy but I’m young and I’m going to live forever, so I will ascribe to corny ideals all I want. And I’ll miss the wild and whacky characters that communicated those ideas to me over the course of nine hilarious seasons, hundreds of quotable lines and one giant bitch.

Am I right?

Never forget.

Never forget.

I’m sorry am I just supposed to forget about Pam destroying Jim at Casino Night in season two? Because I won’t. He loved her! He loved her and he told her and she broke his heart like it was nothing but an offering to a disinterested ice queen – which it essentially was! Yeah, yeah, she totally broke it off with Roy and then Jim hooked up with that other lady and then broke it off and then they got married and then they had a kid and then they had another kid and then they broke up or something but then they didn’t and then the end but is that really enough? Jim cried. And he’s a grown ass man. I had to watch a grown ass man cry on my television and as his tears hit the ground so too did all my teenage perceptions of love.

So thanks for that Pam. Really. Thanks.

I won’t give up on Jim and Karen yet.

Also, I love you Pam.

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