‘Office’ Nears Closing Time

It has been nine seasons since an amazingly pervasive (and fictional) documentary crew opened the doors of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc. to the world. It has been nine seasons since we fell in love with Michael Scott and his self-bought World’s Best Boss mug, Jim Halpert’s pranks, Dwight Schrute’s endeavors as a saboteur, Pam Beasley’s quiet post at the reception desk and even Toby in his back corner of the office. It has been nine seasons since “The Office” found its way stateside as an adaptation of Ricky Gervais’ original UK version, and a lot has changed.

The reign of Michael Scott, in all of its awkward, irrational, politically incorrect glory, is long gone. After an excessive shuffling of managers and a confusing entanglement with the printer company Sabre, which brought with it a mess of politics and strange office dynamics, the office is under the helterskelter lead of Andy Bernard. The Nard Dog has always been ridiculously loveable with his temperamental antics, but in the past few seasons, the show’s writers have done an excellent job of converting him into a world-class jerk.

Maybe they’re miffed over Bernard’s Ed Helms’ commitments to “The Hangover” franchise, which results in an absence conspicuously covered by a tropical getaway, but the writers’ choice to have him treat adorable, troubled reception Erin so horribly instead killed Andy’s charm.

As solace, at least star-crossed office lovers Jim and Pam are married with two kids, but it’s not quite happily ever after — yet.

With Jim starting his dream company in Philadelphia and Pam left alone to deal with the kiddies during the week, their picture-perfect marriage is strained. If the writers don’t tie their story up with the prettiest bow ever created for television, America will never forgive them, so don’t panic yet.

On the subject of Jim’s time split between Scranton and Philly, this leaves everyone’s favorite paper salesman out of the main office loop much of the time, but the writers are managing to keep his charm alive somehow. The most recent episode opened with Dwight uncovering Jim’s “Dunder Code” — an elaborate “Da Vinci Code”-esque prank that Dwight didn’t find until now. This was a perfect throwback to the shenanigans that made the first few seasons of this show so perfect.

While things at the office at 1725 Slough Avenue in Scranton, Ohio are different, not everything has changed. The accounting corner remains intact, and although Angela has murderous feelings toward Oscar for sleeping with her closeted senator husband, the dynamic between cookie monster Kevin, Oscar and Angela is going strong.

Toby — aka writer, director, producer and showrunner Paul Lieberstein — still mopes in his HR corner. Creed never ceases to confuse the office with his anomalous behavior. Meredith is still her inebriated self, as is Phyllis her same dowdy lady and Stanley is his same deadpan grouch.

Finally, Dwight is still as maddeningly weird, narcissistic and mysterious as he was in the first season. Even without the constant antagonizing presence of Jim, Dwight still fights on.

Sure, Daryll is always funny, the new girl Nellie is good British fun, Erin is cute and quirky and we’re warming up to likeable Paul, but the fact that “The Office” has managed to maintain even an ounce of the heady charm that its original characters had in the early days is a piece of Michael Scott status magic.

So, some the enchantment of “The Office” has gone in the way of the lost tapes of Michael Scarne’s “Threat Level Midnight,” but the show’s creators still know how to charm their viewers. In a recent episode, the “film crew” finally got a face when they stepped in front of the camera to comfort Pam after a fight with Jim. This moment was a big surprise to everyone who has been waiting to see the faces on the faceless film crew for nine years. If the writers and producers keep throwing treats like this to loyal viewers, I think the last days at Dunder Mifflin will be worthy of a Dundie Award or two.

Recommended: Catch the final season before it’s over.