The final episode of “The Office” is on right now. Andy and I used to watch it religiously, every Thursday night. We stopped three years ago (Owen and James turn 3 Sunday). The show started soon after Andy and I were married. I was working at Popular Woodworking magazine at the time. One of my editors suggested we check out the British version—I gave it to Andy for Valentine’s Day (he gave me a book by David Sedaris).
I remember exactly where we sat on the couch in our house on Grant street, while watching it. The blanket I curled up under. Where Tucker slept. Thursday nights were our TV night. (We loved “ER,” too.)
Andy had this silly little dance that he used to do during the theme song—I loved it.
Before kids we routinely met friends at Arthur’s in Hyde Park on Thursday nights, for happy hour/dinner immediately after work. I always had a veggie burger, fries and a Blue Moon. I rarely drink beer and yet tonight I’m drinking a Blue Moon—I suppose my subconscious is being sentimental.
Much of the show I could relate to. Maybe it’s because my first job was writing for a business-to-business publication about, of all things, paper. Maybe it’s because cubicle work is cubicle work anywhere—so much of it resonates. Companies are companies, too. I remember watching an episode in which Michael hands out ice cream sandwiches to soften the blow of a new, expensive health care plan. If I remember correctly, the very next day the company I worked for handed out ice cream sandwiches to all the employees in an attempt to soften a different blow.
I watched episodes while pregnant. While sleep-deprived. Episodes interrupted 10 times while trying to persuade a little one to sleep. Episodes in full while thankful for routine and (mostly) guaranteed bedtimes.
And although there was the three-year-break, I’m watching now.
It’s not so much about the show. (When the last episode of Seinfeld aired I spent it sitting on top of a hill outside Ohio University, watching the sun set with a friend. And I love Seinfeld.) I think the sentimentality comes from the time that has passed. Eight years is a long time. All endings remind me of beginnings, and this is just another (small) one.
Sure, TV can be problematic. But it also allows these fictional stories to weave in and out of our lives for much longer than the length of a book or a play or a movie. I like that. Yes, there’s a lot of bad TV. But I’m also thankful to be able to disappear into these other lives and laugh, just laugh, for 20-some minutes once a week.
“When television is good, nothing is better. When it’s bad, nothing is worse.” —Newton N. Minow