The Office begins its ninth and final season tonight, and while the show has been adrift for a few years, we’re hanging on to a tiny shred of hope that it will go out on top — because what made The Office great during its heyday is not impossible to recreate. The Office is about intimacy — who knows what about whom, how we set or don’t set appropriate boundaries, the harsh truth that we spend more time with our loathsome coworkers than with our loved ones. But it also relies on an intimacy between the characters and the audience: We know the Dunder-Mifflinites incredibly well, not just because of the faux-documentary format but also because the characters are meant to be regular people. The Office is set in the real world. As whackadoo as Creed and Meredith are, or as vile as Michael Scott’s behavior ever got, the show is still deeply grounded in cubicle culture. We have all worked with an Oscar. We have all endured pointless meetings and listened to corporate jargon. We have all been overserved at a work party. The Office needs to go back to basics for its final season. And we have three specific ideas in mind.
It’s time for another sexual-harassment seminar
Season two’s “Sexual Harassment” is a classic. But this well is not dry! Early seasons of The Office mined the absurdity of being a modern corporate drone. Last season, the characters went to Gettysburg, Dwight built a doomsday device, Robert had everyone over for a creepy orgy-tinged pool party, and then half the staff went to Tallahassee for an arc because suddenly their company was launching a rival device to the iPad. Go back to those simple, universal office experiences: the sexual-harassment seminar where everyone sexually harasses each other, the insurance seminar where everyone asks weirdly personal medical questions, the four people who decide to train for a marathon and talk about it constantly, etc. Fun!
Or at least another pretzel day
Continuity! In season three’s “Initiation,” we were told pretzel day was an annual event, but it hasn’t happened again. (Though Erin mentioned it in last season’s “Tallahassee.”) There are a few weird stories we’d love to see reemerge, like Creed’s blog or Meredith being sent to rehab. The Office has been on for a really long time and has some very involved backstories that we’d happily revisit.
Bring back the Party Planning Committee
They planned Nellie’s crummy welcome party last season, but we miss the glory days of the PPC, when the show focused on the weird ways we compete with our coworkers and how small things like party themes take on mythological proportions when we’re desperate for breaks from the monotony of work life. Plus the PPC emphasized the platonic relationships within Dunder-Mifflin. This show has burned through a lot of romance, but only some of it has worked: Angela and Dwight are probably the show’s best couple, which is why the Angela-Andy pairing was never that compelling. Spare us more of the Andy-Erin romance, and instead let us see Erin interact with Stanley more, or give her and Kevin a project together.