Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I don't know of any show has more divided my household than "The Office". I recognized it's greatness nearly right away, but still nobody else in my family likes it, and I've never understood why. I personally believe that everybody who doesn't like something that's good, should be forced to sit through it until they like it, but for some reason, I've been advised not to do this, for several reason. Something about a Geneva Convention and Freedom of Choice, or some political bullcrap, but besides that, I've always wondered why this show in particular has caused such a split among people. Seriously, there are people who get it, and people who don't, and I truly believe that those who have chosen to not accept it until now, just don't fully understand the show.

Case in point, I talked about the show a few months back, when they introduced the Sound Guy character, Brian, into the on-camera story involving Jim and Pam's marital troubles. When I discussed this moment with my mother, who I know has seen many episodes of the show, whether she wanted to know, I then had to explain to her, that the show is being documented. It's been on nine years in America, and was created by Ricky Gervais in the UK two years before that, and she didn't figure out that the concept of the show was that, a documentary was being filmed of this office. Not understanding that, or why it's shot with the moving handheld camera from distance angles and such, is a very key aspect to understanding the show and the comedy there-in, and unless you had seen the British version on BBC America, you wouldn't have seen a sitcom with this kind of style and formula. Now, the single-camera sitcom structure's being stolen from everybody to some extent. "Modern Family" just blatantly stole it in fact. 

When it first was announced that "The Office" was getting an American version, I was skeptical at first, because I actually had seen the British version, and didn't quite get it myself. At that time, it was so unusually-structured that it took a couple viewings, to understand what was happening myself. Actually, when I was watching BBC America, way back to when I last has cable because of another show that NBC was making an American version of, Steven Moffat's "Coupling". Most of you know the name for his work since on "Doctor Who", which is still, waiting on my Netflix (I know), but the British version of "Coupling" is one of the funniest shows I've ever seen in my life. Still is. Basically, that show was "Friends" meets "Sex and the City", only it was twenty times smarter and funnier than both of those shows, and for all intensive purposes, it looks and seemed like a perfect natural fit show to be remade in America, and of course, "The Office", did not. We all know the results now, "Coupling" flopped badly, as it should have, it didn't transfer well. "The Office", wasn't an immediate hit either, but it caught on eventually, and despite bad ratings, it became a hit on itunes of all things, proving a fanbase that wasn't being counted in the Neilsen's. 

The show had things going for it. For one, it was character-based humor, not plot-based or gag-based, so they created rich characters. Very rich, and they kept doing it too. Few shows were able to be so successful by continually adding and subtracting characters. Steve Carell's departure was the biggest blow, and even during the look back, they seemed to have decided to just completely skip over the entire part with James Spader's role as Robert California, which slowed down season eight. Yet, look closer, Ed Helms became a star in his own right, wasn't on the show until the 3rd season, Rashida Jones's character came and went flawlessly before moving her to "Parks and Recreation". Melora Hardin's Jan character, change and evolved drastically from when we first saw her character. One of my favorite characters is Erin, the Ellie Kemper character, who came in after Michael and Pam left to temporarily start his own competing paper company. Temporary character? No, she became one of the show's most interesting ones, with an incredible backstory that developed over years. I can never forget the Secretary's Day Lunch Michael took her out to, where she found out about about Andy's previous relationship with Angela, and she hid her face with her hair, which she explained that being an orphan, was her equivalent of a room for her to hide in when she was a frustrated teenager. They never stopped growing characters, or introducing them even, and none of them were ever simple, and a slight nod to the camera spoke volumes.

They also, weren't all young and good-looking. I always find myself thinking about this, when I see some TV shows, where clearly, they're looking for the next "Friends", and cast all young and reasonable good-looking people. I always think of Tina Fey's observation in her book "Bossypants", that "Friends" was the exception, and that no other successful TV show, casted with that formula. Sure enough, very few shows needed a cast of irregulars more than "The Office", and then got it. Big, tall, smart, dumb, heavyset, skinny, multiple races, multiple personalities, gay, straight, etc. No show absolutely had to have a more contrasting cast than "The Office," and they did, and all of them were talented actors. Much less of the show is improvised than people think, and there isn't much harder on television than making a show that seems natural and improvised when it isn't, especially in comedy. You don't need just good comic actors, you need great actors, period. Actors, who are multi-talented as well. Many of the cast actually worked as writers and/or directors on the show. (Many of them, like Paul Liberstein, and Mindy Kaling were writers first, then became cast members.)

Another issue that had to be overcome, was the setting. Historically, TV shows and movies, set in an office, never do well, and are considered cult hits at the most. There's no real good explanation for why things like "Office Space" and "Clockwatchers", weren't hits at the time they originally came out, but the traditional thinking has been that, nobody wants to see a show about working in an office, because it usually ends up too close to their real life work. With all entertainment being escapism, why would somebody who's just been working all day in a dreary office job they don't like, with a boss they can't stand and co-workers that get on their nerves, why would you want to go home, turn on the TV, and relive it?

It's a fair point actually, but then again, if you can't find comedy in your average day-to-day life, then you really can't find comedy at all. The banalities of day-to-day life, and the things we do to try and get us through the day, whether it's meetings, or pranks, or falling in love, or whatever, it's all comedy. Thinking back on "The Office," as I've been since it had its emotional series finale last Thursday, I couldn't help but think that NBC knew enough to give this show the credit it really deserves. (Especially since, they kinda skimmed over the "30 Rock" finale, which should've been bigger than it was) In many ways, it basically rejuvenated a struggling network, as well as reinvent the kind of comedy that situation comedies can have. Based in a plausible reality, it was one of the few shows that could constantly switch from comedy to drama so seamlessly. It was consistently one of the best shows on television, even during it's worse year. The humor in the show really effected me, I'll say that. It's a different way to look at a joke. A guy, wears a funny hat, that's not funny. Guy doesn't know it's a funny hat, now you got something. That's where comedy usually starts, but where "The Office" came in was, "Can you believe this guy's wearing that crazy hat?" That where it starts, but then it goes beyond that. "Does he understand how crazy his hat is?" and then it asks, "Why doesn't he know..." The joke doesn't end, it keeps evolving. This is the real key to "The Office", like a documentary, it's not simply looking at the surface layer and letting it be, it's going beyond that, and digging in to the emotional cores of it's characters. We're discovering them, just as the workers are discovering them, just as the documentaries crew is learning about them.

Few shows are this unusually layered, or are even given the chance to evolve and grow as "The Office" did. I guess all shows that last awhile grow and change, but never has a show ever been so much about the changes over time that the people go through. Remembering "The Office" from the first episode, the unrequited love, Michael's fake firing pranks, and Jim jell-o-ing Dwight's stapler and all, it's amazing just how vastly different the lives and the characters were at the end. You see a place one day, you follow it, walk past it, go inside it, nearly every day, and then suddenly, you turn around, and it looks nothing like it was before, but it's still just as good as it was when you first see it. That's the legacy "The Office" will leave behind. It wasn't just a show where the characters changed and grew over time, it was a show about, how the characters changed and grew over time.

Actually, no, it's also about how we changed towards them as well. The audience watching the documentary's raw footage. That's the things, no previous show, so well incorporated its viewers into the show. The nods and winks to the camera, made us apart of "The Office", didn't they? Maybe I can understand why it might've been a little too much for some to comprehend, but I think the more you look, the funnier the show gets, and the more you begin to care about the people at Dunder-Mifflin, Scranton.


Anonymous said...

You took a single topic and stayed on that track for an entire entry; you broke down your thoughts into paragraphs.

This is much better and easier to read. IMO, some of the paragraphs could have used a break as some of them started to get a bit bulky, but that's just my personal opinion, and not something I'd tell someone they necessarily needed to change.

This is how all your entries should be; pick a subject and stay on that track; if you have multiple topics to cover, write multiple entries, even if they're all significantly shorter then you're used to.

The other main thing I really think you should consider revising is that bulky headline. Here is how it should read:

"David Baruffi's Entertainment Views & Reviews"

and then underneath:

"Intelligent, observant, and thoughtful analysis of the film, TV and the entertainment world."

That's all you need. You're done.

All that other information can go somewhere else; put your twitter info. on the side bar.

"The Office" seasons 1-3 is one of the greatest comedies of all-time, from any era; on-par with Seinfeld, All in the Family, etc. The series took a dip season 4 and gradually declined a little more each season, but even seasons 4-6 were still great for the most part, while seasons 7-9 were hit-or-miss. Even though season 8 was pretty bad for the most part it was still capable of delivering a classic episode any given week. It's my favorite comedy series of all-time after "Seinfeld".

David Baruffi said...

This again. (Sigh) Alright.

1st, as I've explained to you, I'm unable to put the Twitter account on the site. I had it there once, long ago, made an incredibly big deal on it on my blog in fact, comically big in fact. However, for some reason, the button stopped coming up, and in it's place on the top right-hand side of my blog, kept just saying Twitter, and "Unavailable" or something to that effect. When I investigated it with blogger, apparently Blogger had, for some reasons, stopped using the twitter button that I put on. I've inquired about it multiple times since, but last I checked, it isn't working on Blogger, at least not for me, and so far, all my inquiries have gone unanswered.

As to it being easier to read, it's certainly not my intent, it's just the way this piece was written. I write many pieces like this, when I need to, others as you know, aren't written like this, and either way, it's always, on purpose. The movie reviews for instance, are separated into one paragraph per movie, 'cause movie is a different thought, and yes, I prefer many of them, written on one post, as oppose to a post for every movie. The fact that they are one paragraph, usually, is to let you know the reader know, that they're in fact one thought. It's not a misuse of how a paragraph work, it me explaining that all these things, are in fact in elaborate train of thought. Kinda like this paragraph. Anyway, it also make those rare times, when I write a review that is separated into paragraphs, more noticeable, 'cause it means there's a reason for it. My "Rock of Ages" review, being the most recent example of me, purposefully breaking my typical structure.

There are other reasons I do that as well. One is that, I prefer promoting the blog as an, intelligent, observant... as my mission statement says. One way of doing is to not post as often, making sure that I only post things that have been well-thought out. This "The Office" blog for instance, was completed, almost a week after the finale episode, and because it's "Final thoughts", with an S, it's separated into more paragraphs, than some of my other pieces. The other reason for that it, is because personally, if I'm going to be talking about a single piece of work, for an entire blogpost, it better be something, that's worth writing about. My Canon of Film series, is the obvious example of this, one blogpost, for one truly exceptional movie. When I'm writing about a bunch of movies, I just saw, especially if they really sucked, I find it to be a waste to devote an entire blogpost to them. In the newspaper, reviews come out, usually all at once, and often they aren't distinguish by paragraphs, that's part of how I learned to write reviews, and I prefer that structure, for my review blogs, and many of my other blogs for that matter, and frankly, I don't like to waste blogposts on stuff that I don't feel is worthy of a single post.

David Baruffi said...

There are exceptions to this and all my standard practices of mine, like my Lammys blog. I like it when they stand out. That was what I was most annoyed at you for (other than the anonymity), that you went after a structure of a blog, not realizing that my blog structure on that one blog alone, not realizing that I often write posts in numerous different structures, depending on how I want to say something. You were judging me, mostly from one post that had a purposefully different structure than many of the rest of my pieces, and you told me, "I shouldn't do this?", instead of first asking, "Why am I should do this?", and then maybe recommending something to make what I'm going after better, and then maybe I accept, or reject the idea. Despite my Lammy's piece, that's actually what I tend to do when I'm giving opinions on someone else's work. (Which btw, I often write coverage for script, so I take that approach very seriously, if I didn't, I wouldn't keep getting requests to do coverage, believe me.)

As to that mission statement, I like it the way it is. Most mission statement I've seen, are an opening sentence of a paragraph to begin with, and besides that, the next parts of the paragraph, should describe how I'm going to do that, which it does. Granted, I did decide to stylize it. The title repeated in all caps, comes off better, when it's spoken allowed, preferably by a spokesperson or announcer, who's doing something comically overdone, like "Pigs in Space" for instance. Then, I describe why, in normal speech, underneath it. (I often like to write how I speak anyway, or how something should be spoken at least.) The "Check It Out" part, is also purposefully absurd in this regard, and the Twitter got added later.

Anyway, I don't believe that all entries should be written this way, and I still find that your comments are backhanded at best. It's clear that we have different styles, and that we do clash in terms of what we believe a blog should be. Your blog, whatever it is, can and should, be anything you want it to be, and vice-versa with me. The best version of ourselves, not someone else.

As to "The Office", I think actually the show didn't decline from seasons 1-7 at all. It evolved, yes, but not decline. Shows have to evolve, or else they're staying the same, which can only be so entertaining. (And if I could've taught the viewers and creators of "Two and a Half Men" understand that, I would've, I certainly tried, long before Charlie Sheen made them evolve.) That's something I've bitched about regarding TV critics for awhile, with many shows, not just "The Office", but that's a different post. Season eight, I agree, the James Spader stuff didn't work as well as it potentially could've. Despite that, I loved "The Office" as well, and was very sad to see it go.

As to favorite sitcom, I'm not sure. I have dozens of favorites, although I ranked "M*A*S*H" as the best show of all-time on my "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME!" POLL, which is still ongoing by the way, and if you ever gave me your name, you'd be perfectly allowed to participate in it, and vote for whatever TV shows you want. A few fellow bloggers have, and when they do, I post a link to their blog, next to their name when they submit. That said, I've also accepted people using a pseudonym if you insist on being Anonymous, but only if that pseudonym, was clearly associated with the person participating, such as, having that as their official name on Facebook for instance. This Poll, as well as the fact that most of them are Spam, are the two biggest reasons why, I don't normally accept anonymous posts.

Anyway, you can look up the rules of the poll elsewhere on my blog, there's update posted on it regularly, you can find them rather easily.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to say this one more time...your header is not a place to write your "mission statement". Your "about" page is for your mission statement. It's got nothing to do with different writing styles. Your header is bulky and looks terrible.

I'm going to say this one last time. Go to wordpress and find a template that works for you. This is a hideous layout that reeks amateur. You can't even get your twitter icon to appear on the sidebar? That tells the tale: "Blogger" sucks! This is an ugly-ass, plain-jane blog and that's WITH your improvements! Come to wordpress and find a layout that looks more pleasing to the eye; I promise you you're going to appeal to more readers. You may get a ton of people who click on your site here, but not many actually read your stuff and comment. I think you have a better shot at building a following community by having a nicer blog to look at. Weren't most (if not nearly all) of the bloggers who were nominated for a LAMMY on wordpress? If you ever want any shot at getting nominated for a LAMMY then you've got to ditch this crappy "Blogger" site. Most of the templates on wordpress are free, so money isn't an excuse.

Even the font on your blog here is poorly plain; it's just so dull and totally lackluster! Ditch this site, dude! Come over with the rest of us word-presser's. Reinvent yourself - and your blog.

Before you argue, just go to wordpress.com and LOOK at the layouts. Just LOOK. You don't have to know how to do graphic designs or be an artist. The layouts are already designed for you. I don't want to hear you argue. Just go to the site and LOOK and if you do that and then decide that THIS layout is better than the ones on wordpress THEN write me a reply here and I will read it, and reply if you want. But before you get huffy and write a detailed counter, simply take some time and go LOOK on wordpress.com. Get your blog looking better and maybe you WILL get your Lammy recognition. B/c I guarantee you that you will not get any consideration over here on this atrocious site and layout. Come over to wordpress and I will follow your blog and check out more of your stuff and interact with you. Your blog needs a makeover. Just trust me. You will be able to do so much more over there than you can on here.

David Baruffi said...

Reinvent myself! There you go again. I like how I am, I don't need to reinvent myself, I'm fine the way I am, and screw you too.

And I don't want an about page. I'm not gonna put an entire page for, literally 49 words. Most mission statements I prefer, are on the front page, with the title. Sometimes below, sometimes under the header like this. I understand, organizing parts of my blogs better, and I am working on that, but c'mon, the mission statement to it's own page? Seriously, that's dumb.

As to the Lammys, I really don't care if I ever win won, and I certainly wouldn't want to reinvent my entire blog to do so. If I win, or not, is irrelevant, but I'm gonna be me either way.

I can go to wordpress, but I can guarantee you that my layout would probably not be that different. I didn't notice what system most of the blogs nominated use, it seems to be about 50/50 by my account, based on how many I joined by clicking on the "Join this site" button, and those I joined by copying-and-pasting the blog address in the dashboard. Either way, I'm not going to be badgered into completely abandoning a blog, simply because you don't like the look. (And no, it is not atrocious. It may not be a lot of things, but it's not atrocious. Plain, simple, disorganized slight, I'd even say that the new grey background is rather dull, but it not atrocious.) In the future, I'll make periodic changes, as all blogs must do over time, (And BTW, I wrote that there'd be changes to the blogs appearance, long before you started making note of it) but for now, it's the look I'm going with.

Anonymous said...

If you hadn't went on your verbal rampage about how upset you were about the Lammy's then I never would have made suggestions to you about changing your blog; everything I told you was intended to help you achieve your goal of getting some Lammy nominations; go ahead and say "you don't care" and that you were only "writing an experimental blog entry" about the Lammy's to see how people reacted to your heel-intended rant on all the other Lammy nominees, etc. but I saw your twitter comment when you wrote "WTF!? Why wasn't I nominated!?" etc. You really, truly were upset about it. You can deny it all you want and say it didn't really matter, but we both know it did in-fact matter to you. No one is asking you to change YOU. I'm merely giving you advice how to change the layout not so that you can show it off, etc. but so that it's EASIER for people to actually READ and if you get more readers maybe you can get the Lammy consideration you so much desire, but are now trying to minimize it's importance to you.

You now claiming how "you don't care about the Lammy's" after you were so frustrated about it just looks immature. I'm done lending my advice. You don't think I know what I'm talking about and that your blog is so great as is, etc. then I'll leave you to it. I'm gonna go ahead and just delete this blog from my bookmark now b/c I'm tired of wasting my time trying to get you to see outside of your own narrow perspective.

David Baruffi said...

I'm tired of you wasting my time too, although the fact that you're reading my twitter, does narrow it down for me who you are.

I cared about the Lammys in the sense that I thought, correctly, that a nomination, and even a win, would help grow my audience, and in fact, it did. I'm on my way to the biggest month I've ever had, and now, I'm regularly getting 100 hits a day, even when I'm not posting that day, and I'm getting just as many positive comments as negative. Do I think I should've been nominated, and won! You're damn right I do! Do I really care if I do? No. Honestly, no, I don't. I do like to play up the frustration, and I like to use twitter often to reflect exaggerated attitudes, but honestly, I channeled the anger I had, made it into that piece, and as soon as I started posting the next pieces, I forgot about it, until you kept bringing it up.

Awards are good promotional tools, but I think we both know that they're not necessarily a reflection of greatness or quality, but a popularity contest, especially one like this. I mean, how many people are actually capable of checking out over 1500 blogs on a regular enough basis to know which ones are really the best? Bull, there's at most 40 or 50 blogs, that person goes to, a few they learn about about they become eligible and fill their ballots, and start reading more of, but mostly it's the ones that go through all those sites, and comment, become friends and participate in some of the Lambs promotions, and works with the other bloggers more, etc. It's a promotional campaign, and not really a quality campaign. That's why I don't buy that changing to wordpress is the silver bullet to getting a Lammy, why would that make as much difference and other things would. Maybe if it was a quality thing only, maybe I'd win that, maybe I wouldn't but, no, I have affection for the triviality of awards, but no real need to win one.

BTW, I went and looked at my twitter, and I found the tweet, here's what I actually wrote:

"I can't believe I didn't get one LAMMY NOMINATION! WTF! What did I do to make THE LAMBS, blatantly IGNORE, the best ENTERTAINMENT BLOGGER!"

I'm calling myself, "The Best Entertainment Blogger", and claiming a conspiracy that the LAMBS, purposefully chose to screw me over! It's a joke. I'm making fun of the process, and I'm starting to form the character that I eventually wrote my Lammys piece. I was setting up the piece, even then. I've established I'm pissed off, (Good to know the WTF part was really effective btw, thanks for that) and now, I'm gonna get even, to everyone, who screwed me over! Well, my Lammys piece didn't do that, but I acted like it did. It's fun, it's an act, it's trivial. Had I been nominated, I had plans to go on a promoting spree, proclaiming, how the award should just be given to me, because of how clear it is that I am easily the greatest of all Entertainment Bloggers! The only difference would've been that I wouldn't have written the piece I did, but I would've written something else.

Right now, I'm convince you're the one who's got narrow perspective, and can't figure it out when I'm playing writing as myself, or as a character, or from an emotion, or out of my ass. But I'll set the record completely straight for you here:

I hold my hand up, and swear that I David Baruffi, don't really care about winning a LAMMY. Cross my heart and hope to live forever. There, happy?