odds and ends: malaise, the office

These past two weeks were, without a doubt, some of the toughest weeks of comics to produce. Call it inertia from taking two weeks off for spring break, call it some kind of writer’s block… whatever. I’ve had a VERY hard time getting myself back on track; being perfectly honest with you, I’m not sure I am in fact, back on track.

I’m somewhat reassured to remember this happens to me every year, as my classes march toward the end of the school. The less time we have in the classroom, the less motivated I am to talk about my classes, lessons, and students. Having said that… last year, I did an even 100 comic strips about the 2010-2011 school year and then called it quits. Already this week, I’ve beat that “record” and have plans for about eight to ten more strips before the end of the year.

I am relatively sure this sort of process blather is of interest to no one but myself but I thought it merited writing, even if it’s only to use this as some sort of arbitrary measure of having gone over the number of teacher comic strips I did last year. Whee!

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A further commentary on my lack of motivation: my leisure reading has taken a HUGE hit in the past few months. I’m not sure when this started but sometime around March, I became unfocused and inattentive to the pile of books slowly growing on my bedside table.

Oh, I was still READING of course… I just did some comfortable re-reading of already loved novels and comics instead of breaking new ground. I’m currently working my way back through Justin Cronin’s post-apocalyptic vampire opus The Passage and I’ve been enjoying breezing through some of my old issues of Image Comics’ Invincible.

It’s not that I don’t have exciting new books to read. I have the second Jackson Brodie mystery patiently awaiting a look; I waxed rhapsodic about Case Histories back in March. I should be excited for One Good Turn. Lauren Groff’s Arcadia is another book I really want to check out; I loved The Monsters of Templeton.

I just can’t seem to work up a good head of steam. Hopefully something gives soon!

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As a guy who was a fan of the series in its’ early days, I’ve been weirdly fascinated with how unmoored and inconsistent NBC’s The Office has become this season.

Granted, with the loss of Steve Carell last year, this was always going to be a transitional season for the show.

Although much has been written about about the ensemble nature of The Office, make no mistake: Michael Scott was the lead character and most every episode of the series was built around Carell’s performance in one way or another. Replacing him has been a challenge the show hasn’t really seemed up to; after toying with several potential choices for filling the role, producers ultimately went with Ed Helms’ Andy Bernard character as manager and included James Spader as the new corporate overlord for Dunder Mifflin.

On paper, these are sound decisions. Helms is a funny comedian and thanks to his roles in the Hangover series of films, a bona fide movie star. Spader’s skewed bid for the manager role in last season’s finale were the funniest parts of that episode. Both Helms and Spader are proven comedic performers and I could see wanting to build a show around them. Unfortunately, it feels to me The Office has gone out of its’ way NOT to do this. A lot of Andy’s plotlines this season seem like they are warmed-over Michael Scott scripts. Spader’s Robert California, so funny as an enigma in that final episode of the 7th season, hasn’t blossomed into a consistent character.

Actually, that’s not truly a big deal – I don’t need consistency in my comedy. I need FUNNY in my comedy. Robert California isn’t funny to me.

What IS somewhat funny about The Office this season is how, despite it falling into pieces, I can’t help but continue to watch. I would have abandoned most television shows at this point, given the waining quality. What keeps me rooted to The Office is my sentimental affection for the characters. During the second and third seasons of the show, I was quite won over by this show; the Jim and Pam love story… the various friendships. Although those relationships have been mere shadows of what I loved back during those years, my memories of those good moments is apparently enough to keep me invested in the train wreck the show has become.

I read now producers are mulling a retooling of The Office to accommodate the potential loss of key cast members like John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and Mindy Kaling. Further scuttlebutt has Rainn Wilson a potential candidate for a spin-off of some kind in 2013-2014. I don’t know if any of those things are true or not. Perhaps a big shake-up is exactly what this sit-com needs… but considering the show didn’t do very well with the last big shake-up, I have extreme doubts.

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One Response to “odds and ends: malaise, the office”

  1. […] Two weeks ago, I pretty much buried the show, pointing out what a misfire this eighth season has bee…. I was once a HUGE booster for The Office. Nowadays, the show is so bad it feels like the writers and producers constructed it specifically to torture loyal viewers. Characterization has been inconsistent. Plot lines have been introduced and quickly abandoned. The tone of the show has gone from being painfully realistic to over-the-top painful to watch. […]

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