Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Scott on the Office: Jim and Pam

[Guest blogger Scott, on the Office again. I make a comment below.]

(Ironically, the only clip of this I could find on youtube was a fan-made montage the sets the moment to music… there are, like, dozens of these on youtube that chronicle the Pam/Jim love story)

One of the things that I picked up on about the Office from our discussions on this blog that I found was one of the things that I love about the show is its emphasis of 'small perfect moments' over big dramatic moments (the latter often being ridiculed by the show). Perhaps the all-time greatest example of such a moment is in the final minutes of the Season 3 finale. This is the moment of the big 'breakthrough' in the Pam and Jim relationship. In any other sit-com it would have been handled thusly: after a big dramatic outpouring between two characters in which their feelings are revealed, one of the two, out of embarrassment or frustration, runs off, only to return at episode's end when we find them standing outside in the middle of a rainstorm and, finally, after 2 or three seasons Rachel and Ross embrace in a passionate kiss to the strains of "With Or Without You"…. or something like that… cue the Kleenex.

As always, the Pam and Jim relationship is more subtle. In the Season 3 finale, Jim, his current love interest, Karen (who, unlike most sit-com 'other women' is actually a fully realized and likeable character) and Michael are all off in New York interviewing for an opening at the corporate office. In the final few minutes of the episode, Pam's 'interview' piece where she wishes Jim well and hopes for the best while regretting that they 'never got the timing right' is inter-cut with Jim's 'job interview' during which he opens his resume to discover a 'good luck' note from Pam. Just as we are thinking that we will have to wait yet another season for the relationship to be resolved, Jim interrupts Pam's interview and we get the following exchange:

Jim: Are you free for dinner tonight?
Pam: Yes.
Jim: Alright… then it's a date.

Then, in an award winning moment on Jenna Fischer's part, she turns to the camera, asks the interviewer to repeat the question and smiles without saying a word as we see just a hint of the sparkle of tears in her eyes. There was no big swell of music… no standing in the rain…. But, you know what? I still found myself reaching for the Kleenex.

[I am always caught between liking the best stuff and dismissing the junk, but then having to acknowledge that without the junk for support the good stuff would not work. Case in point: that scene between Jim and Pam at the end of season three works because of the understatement -- but my criteria for understatement, as Scott suggests, has been determined by all the lame sitcoms over the years. The scene works in large part because I can see so clearly in my mind's eye how all other programs would have botched it.

Comic book tradition reached a level of density to support complex revisionary stuff like Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. TV does not seem to be, except rarely, a very allusive medium, but you can still see shows like the Office and the Wire building success by simply avoiding what we all know to be bad storytelling, but that we have just lived with for so many years.]


Voice Of The Eagle said...

This is why The Office is my favorite show.

scott91777 said...

VoE, mine too :)
... Although 30 Rock is a very close second.

Joe B said...

Geoff, you've given me a new appreciation for all the bad stuff out there. Thanks for making me look at things a little differently.

Joe B said...

Geoff, you've given me a new appreciation for all the bad stuff out there. Thanks for making me look at things a little differently.

Ping33 said...

I hate Pam.

She's whiny and ineffectual. Jim could do better.

Voice Of The Eagle said...


scott91777 said...


Inneffectual maybe, whiny? I just don't see it. But, I do think this is why the Karen character was so well done... she was very likeable as well and, if you're thinking Jim could do better, I think Karen would also have been a fine choice :)