(Note: This post originally appeared on my new TV-related blog, What Is Lisa Marie Watching Tonight?)
This has been a truly depressing television season for me and it all comes down to one show. For seven season, I loved the Office. Even when it wasn’t at it best, it was still the show that I based my Thursday nights around. And yet, as I watched the finale of eighth season of The Office last night, I breathed a sigh of relief once it was finally over. Why? Because season 8 was not only the worst season of the Office so far but it was also one of the worst seasons of television that I’ve ever sat through.
Don’t get me wrong. I knew that this season of The Office (the first without Steve Carell’s iconic Michael Scott) would be a rough one. However, nothing could have prepared me for just how bad season 8 would become. Looking back over season 8, it’s a struggle to remember one memorable line or moment that made me laugh out loud. Instead, most of my memories center around being annoyed that the show that I loved could have possibly become so …. bad.
In the future, I’m going to write a post detailing how I would have handled the first post-Carell season of The Office. But before I write that post up, I want to take a few moments to highlight 10 reasons why I hated season 8 of the Office.
(And, believe me, it wasn’t easy to narrow it down to just ten…)
1) Andy Bernard
I have to admit that my heart sank a little bit when, during the Season 8 premiere, it was revealed that the show would now center around the character of Andy Bernard. Even before Steve Carell left the show, I always dreaded any episode that revolved around Andy. Andy, who started out as such a perfectly annoying villain in season 3, had developed into a rather pathetic and needy character and Andy-centric episodes were usually the weakest of their respective seasons. It didn’t help that Ed Helms — who is a great character actor — has a tendency to go overboard whenever cast in a lead role.
So, I knew from the start of the season that I wouldn’t be totally happy with Andy Bernard as manager but I had no way of guessing just how much I would eventually come to despise the character. Whether he was weakly pursuing Erin or cruelly dumping his previous girlfriend twice in one day or failing to sue Robert California for giving his job away to Nellie, Andy proved himself to be just as stupid as Michael Scott but also a hundred times more pathetic. It was impossible to root for Andy because so many of his problems were of his own creation. As needy as Andy was as a character, Ed Helms was just as needy as a performer and every time he showed up on-screen, I felt like he was begging me to love him as opposed to giving me a reason to do so. It didn’t help that the show’s writers devoted three or four episodes to having everyone in the Office basically spend half an hour tellings us that Andy was a great manager and we really should love him.
At the end of last night’s finale, Andy — after being unemployed for the last few episodes — got his job back in the least plausible way imaginable. Instead of firing Nellie, he gave her a new job and then he flashed that big, toothy grin of his.
Fortunately, for the first time during season 8, he resisted the temptation to break out into song.
Nellie showed up during the second half of the season and essentially appointed herself as the new manager of the office. It was a plot development that made no sense and it was hard not to feel like the show’s producers were trying to force the audience to love Tate as much as they did.
Yes, the writers of The Office love Catherine Tate and maybe the audience would love her to if Nellie, the character she was playing, had any real reason for existing beyond the fact that the writers wanted to work with Catherine Tate.
Since Tate had no real reason to be on the show, it was hard not to resent the amount of screentime that was devoted to her. It’s also hard to look forward to the fact that it appears that she’ll be an even more prominent character during season 9.
3) Robert California
At the start of Season 8, we were informed that Robert California (played by James Spader) had somehow managed to talk his way into being named CEO of Sabre. We were told that he was a mysterious, charismatic figure who might be a genius.
Instead, he turned out to be just another inconsistent character whose personality changed from episode to episode until finally, he was revealed to be so pathetic that he couldn’t even handle Nellie declaring herself to be the new regional manager. In his first few appearances, James Spader brought his trademark quirkiness to the role but then, once it became apparent that show’s writers couldn’t be bothered to figure out who Robert California actually was, Spader pretty much gave up on giving a performance. Instead, he just became a name actor getting paid a lot of money to do not much of anything.
And yet the writers still insisted on trying to convince us that Robert California was an interesting character. The first half of the season was largely devoted to the character. We went to his mansion, we met his soon-to-be ex-wife, and we continually found ourselves wondering why the CEO of a Florida-based corporation was spending all of his time in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Robert California (and James Spader) will not be back for Season 9. In the final episode, Robert California announced that his latest business venture would involve young women from Eastern Europe. It was an unfunny end to an unfunny character.
4) Kevin and Erin: Just How Dumb Are They?
This has been an issue for a while but it really became obvious (and annoying) as things got more and more cartoonish during Season 8. Erin and Kevin both seem to be stupid when the plot calls for it and just dumb when the plot doesn’t. It wouldn’t be so much of a problem if not for the fact that there’s no logic to their occasional stupidity. It’s never been firmly established just how stupid either one of them is and, as a result, their inability to understand the simplest of things feels more like lazy writing than anything else.
With Erin, this is an issue because this season was largely built around Andy pursuing her. For a plot like that to be effective, you have to care about the characters and to care about the characters, you have to see some sort of vague reality in them even when they’re threatening to go over the top.
As for Kevin — well, where to begin? Remember how, in the earlier seasons, Kevin seemed like he actually had the most active life out of the office of any of the people working there? He would show up with a jaunty little hat on his head and he would drop hints about being addicted to gambling. He was even the drummer in not one but two cover bands!
Now, he’s just another moron in the corner.
5) Angela and the Senator
Yes, we get it. The senator’s gay. It was funny the first four times that various characters went, “The senator’s gay!” but now, it just feels like a lazy punchline.
Wouldn’t it have been fun to see Angela and the Senator’s wedding? Seriously, this is a show that had a tradition of funny wedding episodes but, when given the perfect opputunity, the show’s writers ignored a chance to showcase one of the strongest members of the original supporting cast. Instead, Angela (and so many others) were just pushed off to the side so that we could spend more time with Robert California.
6) What Does Jim Have To Smirk About?
Seriously, the man’s stuck in a rut.
7) When Did Pam Give Up On Being An Artist?
Whenever I watch reruns of The Office, I’m surprised by how much I relate to Pam. That’s mostly because the Pam of the first few seasons seems to have very little in common with the Pam of the 7th and 8th seasons. Do you remember when Pam was an artist and, even more importantly, do you remember how great it was to watch as she finally started standing up for herself and following her dream during the first four seasons?
As I watched this last season, I thought about that wonderfully sweet scene from seasons past when Jim showed Pam the “artist’s studio” that he had set up in the garage. And I wondered if that art studio was still sitting in the garage, untouched since Pam has apparently decided to give up on her dreams and just spend all of her time obsessing on the people that she works with.
8) What do Ryan and Gabe do all day?
9) Val (and others)
Seriously, what was the point of Val’s character this season? If you’ve watched the entire season, do you know anything about Val beyond the fact that Darryl developed a crush on her? I didn’t even catch that her name was Val until around her fifth appearance. Obviously, the show’s writers expected us to take some sort of emotional stake in Darryl’s attempts to woo her but they never bothered to figure out just who exactly Val was meant to be.
The same can be said, of course, of just about every new character on The Office this season. Can you remember the name of the woman who Andy dumped so he could (finally) be with Erin? How about Cathy, the girl who, out of nowhere, tried to seduce Jim and then mysteriously vanished from the show?
Admittedly, this problem didn’t start with season 8. Starting back in season 5, the Office developed a bad habit of carefully introducing and then randomly abandoning characters and plotlines. (Remember Danny, the superhot traveling salesman played by Timothy Olyphant?) However, it’s never bothered me in the past quite as much as it did during season 8. Past seasons at least had someone there to anchor the show even when the writers seemed to get distracted.
And that leads me to the tenth reason why I hated season 8 of The Office…
10) No Michael Scott
That, I think, pretty much says it all.