For the first time in eight-plus seasons, “The Office” gave viewers a look at the people making the documentary about the employees of Dunder Mifflin.
Which is good, since those of us in the audience couldn’t jump through the screen to comfort Pam after her fight with Jim at the end of “Customer Loyalty.”
The previously unseen film crew has been a character on the show pretty much from the start. Every can-you-believe-this look from Jim and every talking head in which a character responds to an unheard question has given us a sense that there were actual people on the other side of the camera (unlike, say, “Modern Family,” whose creators have admitted the documentary conceit is just the style they chose). We heard a crew member’s voice in the season premiere last fall, and Jim and Pam’s fight — the worst argument we’ve ever seen them have — felt like the kind of incident that would make Brian the sound guy (played by Chris Diamantopoulos) to ask his colleagues to stop filming for once.
That crew member’s voice in the season premiere told Jim and Pam that they were sticking around to see how their story turns out, and the two of them have engaged more with the camera crew than any of their co-workers (Michael excepted, maybe) over the years. You can’t help but get to know people after spending that much time with them, so when you see an acquaintance or a friend break down as Pam did, the natural instinct would be to drop what you’re doing and try to help.
And that fight — wow. Executive producer Greg Daniels said recently that the writers wanted to explore the difference between “the fairytale romance and reality,” and this was a big dose of reality. It wasn’t a contrived fight — Jim is stressed out at his new job and upset he can’t make Cece’s dance recital, and Pam is both feeling overwhelmed in Scranton and blindsided by the turn their conversation takes, when she was hoping to deliver her good news about the mural and get a “Beasley!” from her husband.
The rest of “Customer Loyalty” was up and down — the Dwight-Darryl story was a little flat, but the staff’s overinvestment in Erin and Pete’s not-quite relationship yielded some funny lines (Pete: “Where is this even coming from?” Kevin: “Your feelings for Erin? Probably your heart … and a little bit your penis.”). And the cold open, featuring a prank Jim staged so long ago that he’d forgotten about it, was great.
Whether we actually see the documentary this crew has been making for eight years remains remains to be seen, but with the end approaching the time was right to meet the people who have been our way into the show all this time.
What did you think of “The Office” this week? Did you like the reveal of the documentary crew?