Despite another guest appearance by Oscar winner Kathy Bates, we are afraid that The Office has gone stale, at least when compared to its former self, and that tonight’s finale will lack enough of The Office’s trademark awkward moment comedy to leave its hardcore fans disappointed.  In examining recent storylines, we are called to wonder which ones can satisfy our thirst for vintage Office moments. 

 Jim and Pam (above), the parents of a newborn, are tired.  We get it.  Andy and Erin are in love.  It’s good for Andy, but how funny is it?  Or the stud contract between Angela and Dwight?  Frankly, Angela will be hard pressed to ever match the comedic gold that was season 5, episode 11’s “The Duel”, in which Andy finally learned that Angela, her fiancee, was sleeping with Dwight. 

                     I’ll respect the outcome of the duel. — Angela

In fact, since “The Duel”, it would be hard to argue that the product being turned out by Dunder Mifflin Paper Co. hasn’t slipped a notch, when stacked up against earlier episodes of the hit show.

When Michael Scott was dating Pam’s mother, we thought that storyline was extremely funny but since, The Office has fallen short of its normal mark.  Ryan now wears bowties and coke bottle glasses and Kelly is being sent for management training by the new parent company, Sabre, headed by the sassy Floridian mogul Joe Bennett (Kathy Bates).  I dare say none of it is too funny.  The Office in recent years has shown a willingness to bring aboard quality guests, especially Idris Elba (Stringer Bell, The Wire) and Amy Ryan, who also lists The Wire, as one of her many credits, but Bates in this role hasn’t done the trick for us.  We enjoyed her much more in her guest role on Six Feet Under, because her character was pivotal in Ruth (Frances McDormand) realizing her own self determination, which led to her allowing Claire (Lauren Ambrose) to go off and live her life, driving to New York with Nate’s (Peter Krause) ghost urging her on to Be My Friend by Sia (though I prefer Michelangelo’s remix), in what was perhaps the best series finale of all time.  Listen to the song at the link below.

While The Office hasn’t been afraid to introduce big names to its cast, we are missing some of the characters who are no longer working with Dunder Mifflin.  We miss Jan (Melora Hardin) and David Wallace (Andy Buckley).  We also notice that episodes go by with talented cast members such as Mindy Kaling (Kelly) and Paul Lieberstein (Toby) having little to no real involvement with the plot.  Our favorite season finale ever, coincidentally, was one in which Toby figured greatly: “Goodbye Toby”–a 2 parter that featured total mayhem, a carnival atmosphere, and even a musical number by Michael, which you can sample at the link below.

What can the super talented writing staff of The Office, many of whom also appear on camera, do to come close to hitting the notes that “Goodbye Toby” did?  Well, Dwight can hopefully be counted on for some mirth, and office birthday parties are always funny, especially when alcohol is involved.  Andy can always offer a ballad.  Perhaps David Koechner can reprise the role of Packer, Michael’s buddy, who is always good for some laughs.

But as a betting man, which I am, I’d say there’s little that they can do for us tonight that will make the true Office fan feel like it’s 2007 or 2008.  I hope I’m way off base.

–Crack (