Okay, I lied. I’m about half way through. But I think I’m far enough to speak a little about it.
So, bluntly: This is the first time that I actually felt the quality drop in the show a bit.
Just a bit! The show is still good. But this time I think it’s clearly not quite on the level of seasons 2 through 4 (with the exception of the semi-classic “Diversity Day” season one wasn’t very good).
And yes, I’d put 4 up there with seasons 2 and 3. MAYBE there was a slight drop-off, but it was definitely slight, and as far as I’m concerned the two part punch of the gut-wrenching “Deposition” and grimly hysterical”Dinner Party” might be the show’s all time high point. So season 4 was not the drop off point for me.
Season 5 has still been consistently good, and occasionally great. Something feels off about it. Bullet points:
- The more I think of it, the more I’m inclined to say that the Jim and Pam storyline is the big issue. I’m on the record as saying that was one of my favorite parts of the show in “The Office’s” real heyday, but this season made it way too easy. There really should be more conflict. If I were the writers, I wouldn’t have gotten the duo together yet, and instead done it like the British “Office” and made it happen in the finale. I wouldn’t want a Ross/Rachel thing (ugh, that was terrible) where it goes on again/off again, but the duo’s pre-couple dynamic was really great, and something seems to be missing.
- Come to think of it, it might even be a good idea to get the duo together but introduce some other important conflict, like a legitimately good reason to hide it from the rest of the group, or a good reason to delay the marriage that actually causes some tension. Just something to make it less of a straight line slanting upward.
- On the other hand, the issue may be Pam. She got her nice moments in the two-parter “The Lecture Circuit” (by the way, how IS Scranton doing so well? Considering what we see of them each week I’m not even sure how that’s possible. Michael’s a good delegator, maybe?), but overall the new, assertive Pam really loses some of her charm. I liked shy Pam more.
- All of this said, there were moments of brilliance nested in there as well. The cold open for “Stress Relief”, where Dwight fakes a fire, might have replaced Prison Mike as my all-time favorite scene in the show. So many great bits in that scene – Oscar trying to escape through the ceiling and falling through, Angela throwing her cat up with him,, Kevin stealing all of the candy from the vending machine, Jim using the copier as a battering ram to break the door down…absolutely brilliant comedy.
- Steve Carrell continues to be sterling, somehow managing to portrays Michael’s selfishness and childishness concurrently with his genuine love for his employees and his burning desire to be liked while keeping the characterization consistent. The roast scene in “Stress Relief” is a real highlight for him. Carrell is a master at conveying emotion through body language. He’s a terrific physical actor.
- “Weight Loss” was another great episode. “To me, you are all gigantic losers!”. Ha!
- Another great moment: Jim pretending to be “Mr. Buttlicker” in the episode customer survey. Man, that was funny.
Halfway mark season grade…I don’t like grades. They’re weirdly difficult to handle – my go-to example is that I would originally have marked season one of “Justified” an A- and season 5 a B+, except that I thought season 5 was better. So call this “Thumbs up and heartily recommended, if not the show in its absolute prime.”
Also, things can still improve or get worse. I’m only halfway through the season. So let’s see.