Best Series Finale Ever?

Kish and I enjoyed the last episode of The Office on Thursday night — and I’d venture to say that it stacks up as one of the best series finales ever.

We’re all familiar with the Seinfeld syndrome, where a beloved series hits the creative wall, limps to the finish line, and then ends with an over-the-top last episode that is hopelessly sappy, or confused, or kills off (or imprisons) long-time characters.  That is the unfortunate fate of too many shows, and for a time this season, as Jim and Pam seemed to grow apart and a behind-the-scenes cameraman seemed to enter the fray, I was afraid that The Office might take that wrong turn.  I’m glad that Jim and Pam reconciled and the show returned to its first principles.

Sure, the final episode had its saccharine moments, such as where an orphan found her parents and Michael Scott returned for the wedding.  For the most part, though, I thought the characters remained true to what we’ve seen over the past years.  I particularly liked the way the last episode, and those leading up to the finale, believably sold the notion that all of this was the part of a long-in-preparation PBS documentary — and then managed to poke some fun at PBS executives, tote bags, and viewers in the process.  And while the resolutions of relationships was undoubtedly a bit too pat, and prior animosities seemed to vanish, it’s satisfying to see characters you’ve come to like have a happy ending.

Kish’s question at the end of many movies is:  “Do you think they get together at the end?”  With The Office, it’s nice to know that they did.

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The Office Gets Ready To Turn Out The Lights

The Office is counting down to the last show of the series.  Kish and I enjoy the show, and we’re holding our breath that the characters we’ve come to love aren’t ruined forever as the producers seek to build tension for a big finale.

I may be the only person in America who was happy when Steve Carell left The Office.  I thought the Michael Scott character had become so painfully awkward and outlandish that the series was difficult to watch, and the Michael Scott stories were interfering with the show’s real strength — which is the ensemble of office workers.   Every moment of Michael Scott angst took time away from a Jim Halpert practical joke at the expense of Dwight Schrute, or droll Stanley Hudson comment, or Creed Bratton weirdness.  When Michael Scott finally left it cleared the way for the other characters to shine, and they did.

Many of the great American sitcoms have been ensemble efforts, rather than solo star vehicles.  Cheers, Seinfeld, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Taxi, among many others, all have been classic multi-character efforts.  What would Cheers have been without the characters shouting “Norm!” or listening to Cliff’s latest blowhard theory?  How much did Newman bring to Seinfeld, and the Reverend Jim add to TaxiThe Office characters are similarly capable of carrying their show as a group, and since Steve Carell’s departure the show has remained hilarious without the downside of the pitiable Michael Scott storylines.

This year, though, the show seems to have lost its way.  Pam and Jim are having marital difficulties, and a lbehind-the-camera sound technician has emerged as a suitor for Pam’s affections.  Andy Bernard, who may be the most unevenly written character in TV history, has gone off the deep end.  It’s as if the producers are searching for a dramatic conclusion — and I wish they would resist that temptation. We want to remember Jim and Pam as the young lovers who finally found each other or the happy newlyweds, not as some estranged couple fighting in a way that seems inconsistent with their well-established characters.

I’d be perfectly happy if the last episode featured more of the enjoyable antics of Dwight and Angela, and Oscar and Kevin, and Phyllis and Meredith, and the show ended with a Jim Halpert prank and Pam simply turning out the lights of the Dunder-Mifflin workroom a la The Mary Tyler Moore Show, as another workday ends.

Bridesmaids

I’m sure Hollywood is forever searching for the perfect date movie:  one that pairs the rich emotional themes of love, friendship, and overcoming challenges that are found in the typical “chick flick”  with the crass physical comedy and vulgar humor that characterizes successful “guy movies.”

Bridesmaids is the latest effort in that direction, and it’s pretty good.  The ladies in the audience get to see a woman whose life has run off the rails struggle, for the most part unsuccessfully, to be a good maid of honor for her lifelong friend while at the same time trying to deal with her recent failures and choose between the nice guy she has just met and a jerk who uses her for sex.  The guys, on the other hand, get to see a distressed woman take a dump in a sink and a hyper-aggressive tennis match where the competing women are hit in tender parts by kill shots, among other instances of low brow antics.  What a combination!

Kish and I went to see the film last night, and members of the audience of both genders seemed to enjoy it.  Kristen Wiig is excellent as would-be maid of honor Annie, and she and Maya Rudolph, who plays her lifelong friend Lillie, have real chemistry.  Rose Byrne is totally believable as Helen, the perfectly coiffed, super-rich woman who becomes Annie’s arch-rival for Lillie’s affections, and Melissa McCarthy is hilarious as the plus-sized, plain-spoken, unpredictable Megan.  The other members of the bridal party are Wendi McLendon-Covey as Rita, an unfulfilled mother whose home life looks like a living hell, and Ellie Kemper of The Office fame as the repressed Becca.

Bridesmaids isn’t going to win any Oscars, but it’s worth the price of admission if you are looking for laughs on a weekend night.