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Jim & Pam: The Rise and Fall of ‘The Office’
February 1, 2013Posted by on
Warning: Minor Spoilers for this Season of The Office.
Jim and Pam (John Krasinski and Jenna Fisher) from The Office have always been the through-line of the show. While the other characters, such as Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott, have really defined the nature of the long-running comedy, it was always the Jim/Pam relationship (also known as JAM by various online Office fans) that provided the heartfelt emotion which caused many viewers to continually be invested in the show.
I have been watching The Office since day one, and the early writers of the show did an excellent job developing Jim’s somewhat unrequited love for his co-worker. Helping matters tremendously was Jenna Fisher’s nuanced performance where Pam was torn between her then-boyfriend and her possibly romantic feelings for Jim. Though The Office was squarely a comedy, that situation was played very realistically which was likely one of the reasons the show took off the way it did in the second season.
Then, they finally got together, and it killed all sorts of reasons for caring about these two.
I hate to sound like a hipster or something, but I really feel The Office should have closed its doors after the third season. That finale, “The Job”, brought several character arcs to a natural close. Michael comes to the realization that he needs Scranton, Dwight (Rainn Wilson) takes control of the office (albeit briefly), and, most importantly, Jim and Pam get together. Granted, the show was not going to end as ratings were still high, and there was plenty more to do with these characters. But the Jim and Pam relationship came to a dead stop.
What should have been a “happily ever after” became an awkward attempt to build drama within their relationship. It did not work. First they do the whole “secret relationship”. Then they stretched out when Jim was going to pop the question. These were okay, because it kept the cutesy element.
Later on, in season five, there was the drama of Pam’s parents getting a divorce, which briefly had her question her then-upcoming marriage with Jim. The resolution to Pam’s doubts was absolutely eye-rolling (Pam’s father realized he never had the love for his wife that Jim had for Pam). This was cringe-worthy. Why should there be any doubts? I understand that this is something a normal couple might go through, but as TV characters who were written to be obviously perfect for one another, their problems make it difficult for a viewer to buy into.
This might seem contradictory to my earlier assessment that the strongest thing the early Jim/Pam relationship had going was its realistic nature. The problem is that after five years of getting to know characters as the “perfect couple”, when you try to shove some drama into the mix, it has trouble sticking, because it is in direct conflict with what has previously been established beforehand. Their greatest strength turned into their biggest handicap.
Perhaps I am being too harsh on the writers. They are just trying to tell interesting stories, and they know there is nothing interesting about a happy couple. I think some of the problem can also be placed on John Krasinski and Jenna Fisher. Their chemistry is awful when they are arguing or in a spat. It comes off forced and flat (particularly Krasinski).
Fortunately, the writers wised up and mostly dropped the marriage drama from the show during the last few seasons. The fact Jim and Pam were married became largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. It really helped the show out.
Now, The Office is in their final year, and it is clear that Greg Daniels, now show-runner again, wants to put Jim and Pam through the ringer. And, it is painful to watch. Not because I do not want to see these two with problems. It is, again, because it just does not work. It is even worse because the thing that kicked off the drama was Jim acting completely out of character: He agrees to start a new job, but does not tell Pam about it. Why? He tells Pam everything. Granted, Jim has generally been portrayed as a coward when it came to confrontation, but he has never been this way with Pam once they started dating.
As things continue to spiral downward, we discover a member of the documentary crew, Brian (Chris Diamantopoulos), seemingly has the hots for Pam. Up until the January 31st episode, we have never seen or heard about Brian, and the show just drops him in like he has been there the whole time. On one hand, I appreciate a gag like that, but on another, it is difficult to buy into considering the importance the show is placing on his apparent feelings for Pam. It is incredibly hard to care since he is largely a non-character.
Where are they going with this storyline? As of now, Brian seems totally unnecessary. Are they going to destroy the Jim/Pam relationship? That is a ballsy move if they go that route. Considering how pissed off the fanbase would be if that happened, I doubt they would. If I were to guess, the writers are planning a bait and switch: Brian is actually an audience stand-in (the ultimate JAM fan, as it were), and ultimately comes to the rescue by “saving” the Jim/Pam relationship in the end (possibly making it stronger than it ever has been).
Perhaps I am getting off topic here. While I have to give The Office credit for developing this long-ranging romance, from the humble beginnings to marriage with kids, I really feel that the show dropped the ball and did not know what to do after they got them together. And anytime they tried something, they fell on their face. This is where BBC original version of The Office succeeded. That show’s version of Jim and Pam got together at the end of the series. Then again, that show was only 13 episodes long, so perhaps it is not really fair to compare.
What are your thoughts on the development of The Office‘s Jim and Pam?