Posts Tagged ‘The Office’

A Problem with Series Finales

The Office Finale

In case you somehow missed it, The Office aired its series finale last week. Now, I’m on the record with my problems with that show, and fans seemed to like the finale a lot, so I won’t rain on their parade with my criticisms of it. But it brought to mind a problem I have with series finales in general: It really bothers me when characters in TV finales act like they know they’re in a TV finale.

This is a very common problem, especially with comedies. Plot-driven shows can spend their finales concluding whatever series-long arcs it has been developing: (Spoilers) The Sopranos settled Tony’s war with New York, Battlestar Galactica found “Earth,” Lost explained the Island (kind of), etc. But shows that are more character-driven end up filling the time with a lot of “finale talk.” Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while Derek Jeter got even more insufferable…

Louie Louie Louie: Bummer/Blueberries

As Season Two of Louie continues on FX, John S and Josh will be offering NPI readers their reactions to each episode. At the end of the season, they will rank the episodes. Get excited Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while returning from our covert mission overseas…

Monday Medley

What we read while almost leading the Bears’ fourth-quarter comeback…

Can Steve Carell’s Departure Reinvigorate The Office?

On Monday Steve Carell restated his intent to leave The Office when his contract ends after next season. This could, of course, be a negotiating ploy, but Carell is, by pretty much all accounts, a class act—it seems more likely that he’s just being honest when he says it’s time for his run to end. He also seemed very confident that the show could go on without him: “The show is great, and the ensemble is so strong, and the writers are great, so it’s just one part of that ensemble drifting off. They’ve incorporated so many new characters and so many new, great storylines that I have no doubt it’ll continue as strong if not stronger than ever.”

Now, it’s hard to think of any examples of this actually working; that is, of a star leaving a show, only to see that show improve. Most of the obvious examples of cast replacement (Jon Lovitz for Phil Hartman on NewsRadio, Megan Mullally for Jane Lynch on Party Down, the two Darrens on Bewitched, the Tori Era on Saved by the Bell) were done with secondary characters, and even the best of these were only moderate successes. Continue reading

The Not-So-Golden Globes

The Golden Globes were last night and since, as host Ricky Gervais kept reminding us, actors are the best and most important people in the world, we here at NPI cannot let that the occasion pass without some commentary. As usual with awards shows, it was a mixed bag.

The Best Three Things:

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Brief Interviews and Long Narratives

First things first: This is not going to be a mere excuse to tell you how much I like David Foster Wallace’s short story collection, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. For one, any loyal reader knows that already. Plus, I already have one series of posts where I write more than anyone should about something you almost certainly don’t like as much as I do.

No, this is more about a more general point, specifically the importance of a narrative arc. Even more specifically, about the importance of narrative arc within the context of John Krasinki’s film adaptation of Wallace’s short story.

Last year, John Krasinki released his directorial debut, an adaptation of “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.” When I first heard about this film, I was surprised, and not just because it associated one of my favorite things with one of my least favorite things. I was surprised because the story seemed to me, as it likely did to most people who had read it, unfilmable. It is, as the title quite literally states, a series of interviews with unnamed men. If there is any connection at all between these men and the interviewer, or each other, it is not mentioned or even really hinted at. The interviewer, in fact, never speaks and is not characterized at all; there is no indication that it is even the same person in each interview (the dates and times given for each interview actually suggest that there is no single interviewer). Continue reading

Aught Lang Syne: The Ten Funniest Episodes of Television

Our look last week at the decade in television focused mainly on dramas. But the creative advancements in the medium were not limited to that genre; it’s only more obvious there. The Aughts have been a great decade for comedies as well, seeing such brilliant shows as Arrested Development, The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and many others. There are plenty of reasons why comedies have been so good during the Aughts, and we touched on some already, but the same principles that applied to dramas are at work here: The people making TV realized that there is an audience that actually likes shows that are unconventional, smart, and formally innovative. We’ve seen shows embrace the documentary structure (The Office, Modern Family, etc.), plentiful flashbacks (How I Met Your Mother), third-party narration (Arrested Development), and political satire (South Park). A slew of new comedies from 2009—Community, Parks and Recreation, Modern Family—bode well for the continued success of the sitcom.

Comparing comedies, though, is a little trickier than comparing dramas, since they don’t generally tell one consistent story. Even seasons often contain no “narrative arc,” and, if they do, it often has little to do with the actual comedy. As a result, comedies are much more susceptible to uneven seasons and bad stretches than dramas. Instead, we’re going to compare episodes. And unlike previous lists, we’re going to put a strict cap, of one, on the number of times a single show can appear on the list. Other than that, though, the parameters are pretty loose: Of any show, no matter how long it lasted or where it aired or on which network, these are the Aughts’ ten funniest episodes of TV: Continue reading

Aught Lang Syne: The Best TV Characters

John S already called the Aughts the “Golden Age of Television.” Now, he’s joined by Tim to help further justify that statement by recalling some of the most original and memorable characters the medium has produced over the last 10 years. We had one criterion: The character had to debut this decade. Some notable characters who did not make the cut include Gil Grissom (CSI), Mr. Bennet/HRG (Heroes), and Walter White (Breaking Bad).

As for the ones who did, we’re not saying we ranked them, but we’re also not saying the order is random.

Adrian Monk: The character of the seemingly all-knowing master detective has been around for some time now, dating back to the work of Edgar Allan Poe, at least. Adrian Monk didn’t reinvent the wheel on Monk, but in giving the detective a compelling backstory and severe psychiatric disorders—the latter usually played for comedy, except in the context of the former—it added a depth to what could otherwise be a stale cast character.

Furthermore, it’s hard to think of an established actor who has engrossed himself in a television role as much as Tony Shalhoub did for the eight seasons of Monk.* As the eponymous detective stricken with a severe case of OCD, Shalhoub mastered the portrayal of the neurotic genius, even if the show too often settled for being a network procedural that just happened to air on cable.

*There is one other guy on this list that has a case.

–Tim

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