A Mini-Rant: What the Hell Happened to ‘The Office’?

Complaining about the quality of “The Office” is old hat. Complaints began soon after the marriage of Jim and Pam, and it’s only gotten worse over the last two seasons. I thought it couldn’t get worse than last season, though. There were a lot of times during the previous two seasons which I had hoped that the show could stop focusing so much on Michael Scott’s character, who I thought had been completely played out, having become a caricature of a parody of himself.

But, man: I miss Steve Carell. For all the problems endemic to his character, it’s clear now that he was holding that show together with spit and gauze. The first half of the first season without Steve Carell wasn’t good. The last half — since the Florida trip — has been awful. And I don’t mean “awful” in terms of “The Office.” I mean awful relative to the rest of television. At this point, there are probably a lot of CBS sitcoms that are better than “The Office.”

The current showrunner, Paul Lieberstein (who plays Toby) has made a total mess of things, and it’s a good thing he’s leaving that post at the end of the season. After spending the last half of last season and the first part of this season dealing with who would take over for Michael Scott, I CANNNOT BELIEVE the show has returned to that. This show used to mine comedy from the hilarious minutia of office-life; now, it’s like “Game of Thrones,” for Dunder Mifflin office manager, only there’s no sex, there’s no drama, and it’s no f—ing good.

Nobody cares who the manager is. REALLY. And Catherine Tate — who I love — has been absolutely terrible. She walked into Dunder Mifflin and took the manager job … just because. And when Andy walks back in and demands his job back, she says “No.” Robert California just stands by idly and watches it all unfold until Andy throws a temper tantrum, and then Robert California fires him. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED IN AN OFFICE EVER. The best comedy is based in reality; there’s a nugget of truth to it. Nothing about what’s going on is based in reality. I also cannot believe that, eight season into “The Office,” Kelly and Ryan are STILL on again, off again. That joke has been played. It has no mileage left on it. KILL THAT STORYLINE, KILL IT WITH FIRE.

There was a five minute scene in last night’s episode in which the entire office discussed Andy’s inability to have an erection. Toby/Paul Lieberstein perfectly summed up both his position as the head of HR and as showrunner during that scene: “HR is a joke. I have no control over anything.” No, he doesn’t. The entire show has spun completely out of control, and all the new characters in the world cannot salvage it. I used to be able to say, “It’s bad now, but at least it’s better than most of what passes for comedy on television.” I cannot say that anymore. It’s not just bad for “The Office,” it’s now one of the worst sitcoms on network television.