NBC’s hit, Golden Globe Award-winning sitcom “The Office” returned for its fourth season on Sept. 27 and to quote Michael Scott (Steve Carell): “There ain’t no party like a Scranton party because a Scranton party don’t stop!” Unfortunately, for fans of the show, the party had to pause briefly for summer vacation. This summer was a long one, full of questions as last season’s finale bought with it big changes both professionally and personally for our friends at Dunder-Mifflin’s Scranton branch. The good news for them is that the season four opener did not disappoint.For those who’ve never seen “The Office,” the storyline revolves around the inner workings of the Scranton office of Dunder-Mifflin, a company that sells paper and paper goods. The show was originally conceived by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant and aired over in England for two seasons. In 2005, it made the leap across the pond and has successfully managed to combine British and American humor. The cast is led by “Daily Show” alum Steve Carell as Regional Manager Michael Scott, the head of the titular office. Carell plays the role of the good hearted, yet utterly clueless boss to perfection. His dead-pan yet goofy sense of humor will often make you cringe, but it will always keep you laughing. Despite the fact that Michael says and does some truly idiotic and often insensitive things, Carell keeps him human enough so as not to turn him into a caricature. This balance between documentary-style believability and sitcom goofiness is the true genius of “The Office.” One of the best examples of this balance occurs when the reasons behind Michael’s over-the-top at work persona are revealed to be a fear of loneliness. He wants to make everyone like him and of course this is something that while not being possible, is something we all want.
Carell isn’t the only cast member worth mentioning, however. The cast of “The Office” is an ensemble in every sense of the word. Every supporting character is given plenty of background so that they become just as important as Carell and, at times, more so. One of “The Office’s” most compelling story lines since its first episode has been the will they/won’t they relationship of Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer). Since the first episode these two have danced around the idea of getting together, but as Pam put it in the season three finale: “Jim and I never quite got the timing right.”
Watching Jim and Pam feels like you’re watching two of your own friends that you know are wasting a great opportunity and looking for love in all the wrong places.
Aside from his relationship with Pam, Jim is also involved in another important office relationship, this one with Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson), the Assistant to the Regional Manager. Dwight is a character that really needs to be seen to be believed, but, among other things, he is the ultimate “yes man,” a beet farmer, bobble head collector and, of course, bear attack expert. His nerdish and uptight demeanor makes him the perfect target for Jim’s practical jokes. Jim’s pranks on Dwight have led to some of the series’ highlights.
None of the characters on “The Office” could ever be called underdeveloped as the show meticulously expands each character with every passing episode. Each character has his or her own distinctive personality and back story. An ensemble cast is only as good as its weakest link and “The Office” features no weak links. Each character from Stanley to the enigmatic Creed brings something new and different to the table.
All of these elements come together to make “The Office” one of the top comedies on TV right now. If you’ve never seen an episode, it is highly worth watching. Just one episode will win you over because that is really all it takes. For those who have never watched the show, the first three seasons are availible on DVD.
The best news for fans old and new is that season four started off with a bang, covering topics such as love, loss and, of course, what happens when you run a marathon after eating a giant plate of fettucini alfredo. The quality of the writing and character development alone puts it on par with any hour long drama series you can think of. The most impressive thing is that “The Office” usually does it in half the time and while, first and foremost, making you laugh.
Colin McGlinchey is a student at West Chester University. He can be reached at CM646588@wcupa.edu.