Idol Chatter

I’ve been waiting for an excuse to blog about “The Office,” some religion angle to rear its satiric head in the NBC sitcom that, like its British namesake, skewers the absurdities of the typical desk job. But aside from a passing mention of one character’s Christianity, the show has steered clear of explicit faith-focused storylines. But I can wait no longer, and I’ve decided it’s time to express my love publicly for this brilliant show that suffers from perennially poor ratings.

And who needs a specific angle? The show has soul–or, most often, lack of it, exploring the emptiness and ennui of office life so accurately that it can be downright painful to watch. And through its dead-on depiction of office life and office personalities, it sends the message loud and clear that we as a society too often lose sight of any sense of meaning in our daily lives and fall into routines and roles that sap the life out of us. (NOTE TO MY BOSSES: By “painful to watch” and “sap the life out of us,” I am referring, of course, to other people in other offices, since I cannot relate to the show in any personal sense.)

But if satirizing the meaninglessness of work was all that “The Office” offered, it wouldn’t be the work of genius it is, no matter how hilarious and on-target that portrayal is. Alongside the show’s soullessness it does have a soul, and it’s got a heart. And to its credit and our benefit, this season’s episodes have displayed more and more of these elements without sacrificing laughs.

It shows in the unspoken romantic longing–expressed in fleeting glances and tiny gestures–between Pam, the receptionist who is nominally engaged to an inattentive guy, and Jim, the young sales rep who, as the one who most often points out the absurdities he sees around him and who tries to bring some levity and camaraderie to the office, embodies the series’ heart and soul. And it shows in the occasional but poignant tenderness and kindness that creeps into the dysfunctional relationship between Michael–the hilarious Steve Carrell as the clueless boss who’s never had a thought he’s left unspoken–and his often-bewildered employees.

Next week, “The Office” is moving from its Tuesday night slot to NBC’s newly beefed-up Thursday lineup. Here’s hoping it finds success there. May its ratings rise sharply so it can secure its place in primetime for years to come.

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