It's one thing to know Willie Mays is a 45-year-old with a couple of broken hips waddling around a golf course out of the public limelight; it's another to have it thrown in your face while he attempts to chase fly balls around the outfield on national television. We don't want to see greatness disintegrate. We want our baseball players to call it quits while they can still chase down a pop up, our porn stars to stop having sex on camera while they can still get a boner, and our politicians to get out of office while they can still flip us all the bird, not caring if we find out about all the shady shit later. We wanted Tricky Dick Nixon to be able to smile and say: "Peace I'm outta here" on the man's own God damn terms. We want our greatest immortals to get out before their own mortality sets in. Before we can see that everyone is in fact human. Nothing more and nothing less.
The Office's decline over the past two season has been well documented by and abundantly clear to anyone who has ever considered themselves a fan of the show. Like Willie Mays suddenly playing center field with the speed and vision of a 94-year-old who just so happens to be dumping in his adult diapers right now, at this very second, while the fly ball is in the air, soaring toward his swath of the outfield, The Office's deterioration has played out right there in plain sight, before our very eyes, making it impossible to ignore. The behemoth of modern televised comedy was suddenly a shell of its former shelf, relying on splintering marriages instead of irrational George Foreman Grill mishaps, banking more on the forced emotion of Jim conceivably leaving Pam behind than the real-life hilariousness of "that's what she said" comments causing Dundees to be flung at 14" plasma screen TV's. After Michael Scott's departure The Office no longer seemed like a real show about real people; it seemed like a caricature of real people who were trying to be funny, yet never really knew how to make people, as they say, laugh with them and not at them to begin with.
In the end, when all is said and done, The Office's plunge into borderline decrepitude will not really matter. After all what are 50 or so mediocre episodes when compared to the 150ish half-hours of pure greatness that came before them? What is a year and a half of annoying and insincere marital tension when compared to the 7 years of undeniably masterful on-screen romance that preceded it? What does 2-seasons of crappily executed character devolution really matter when all of it can be undone with one supreme hour and 15 minutes of vintage television?
Before last night's series finale the show's writers seemed content to poison the well of their own inspiration, turning Andy Bernard into an unredeamable, narcissistic, acapella singing version of a giant douche, making Jim seem like an emasculated, settling, somehow weaker version of an even more ridiculously pussy-whipped Darren Silverman, portraying Pam as a whiny, needy, selfish version of Amanda Peete's character in Saving Silverman, the one who only thinks about herself and ignores the needs or wants of the people she supposedly "loves. The construction of these characters was something that took years and years of work to build and develop and now it was coming apart at the seems mere episodes before everything on the show was to be tied up perfectly and wrapped up in a bow. The 150 episodes of greatness could not be undone, but they could be laced with a Diet-Cola style putrid aftertaste that would forever leave a sour taste in our mouths and make us gag just a little when we thought about the 2nd greatest sitcom ever shown on modern American Television (The rankings are 1-Seinfeld, 2-The Office, 3-Cheers. This cannot be argued).
Instead, as they say, all's well that ends well. At least in part because of last night, the last two seasons of The Office will be almost completely forgotten, the good times will be remember, and Michael Scott will live forever. Andy found peace and rediscovered his good heart. Dwight finally reached the throne that represents the pinnacle of Dundler Mifflin Scranton. Jim realized that there's more to life than selling paper in a midsized Northeastern market. Pam realized that there is more to marriage than fighting to simply retain a monotonous status quo. Ryan and Kelly realized that their only chance at survival was to abandoned their children and devastatingly good looking Indian, Doctor boyfriends to run off into the sunset together.
And everything felt right in the world again. If Seinfeld was an unbelievably consistent show marred by its finale, than The Office was certainly a declining show uplifted by its own. A finale that ensured that the last gulp of humor from Scranton, PA wouldn't be putrid or sour at all.
A finale that instead ensured that we would all be making "that's what she said" jokes at the very mention of the word "come" for decades.
A finale that helped me remember how I started this blog in the first place. Wanting to protect the world from being exposed to my brain I opened a word document on my computer and put an address at the top.
I've read some of it. Even for the Internet it's pretty shocking.
As Andy Bernard said last night: "I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you've actually left them."
These were not The Office's good old days, not by a long shot. This was however, perhaps The Office's finest hour.
This was when we all realized that The Office was still capable of stepping up to the plate, taking a giant hack and knocking the ball completely out of the park. This was when we realized that The Office's good old days will live on forever.
Michael Scott may be gone, but we all know that he will not soon be forgotten. Greatness may fade, but our memory of it:
That my friends will forever remain. That my friends is everlasting.