Nine years in, The Office has had its ups and downs, and while many believe the show reached its peak years ago, the ninth season has genuinely felt like a thoughtful and respectful conclusion to the groundbreaking series. Perhaps this is due to the return of Greg Daniels as showrunner for the final season. After originally adapting the series for an American audience in 2005, Daniels left the show after its fourth season to work on Parks and Recreation, leaving Paul Lieberstein (known for playing the chronically-humdrum Toby) in charge as head writer.
While Lieberstein managed to keep the show fresh for a few seasons, the departure of Steve Carell as Michael Scott at the end of the seventh season left the show in peril. While I actually enjoyed seeing more attention given to the rest of the cast, the eighth season lost many viewers due to inconsistent characterizations (particularly of Robert California), abandoned story arcs, and the show’s formula finally showing its age.
However, it is unfortunate that more people have not been tuning into the ninth season, considering Daniels has brought a breath of fresh air to the stale series, reminding viewers why they once used to watch the show almost a decade ago.
The theme of this episode is that no one wants every second of their life on camera. For the staff of Dundler Mifflin, this is especially true. With the on-screen reveal of the film crew midway through the season, the audience has learned that a group of filmmakers are planning to release a documentary called The Office: An American Workplace after ten years of collecting footage. “Promos” centers around the response from the staff after the trailer for the documentary surfaces publicly on YouTube, which sparks many different reactions from everyone, but generally a universal concern for invasion of privacy.
Oscar fear Angela’s husband, the Senator, will be outed for his affair with Oscar. Pam feels nostalgic for her relationship with Jim, and fears he has changed since the time they first met after seeing how passionate he used to be with her years ago. Andy obsesses over comments left on the video, responding positively to anyone who calls him “so hawt” or defensively to anyone who calls him “so gay”.
Meanwhile, Jim and Darryl have a big interview with Ryan Howard. No, not the character once played by B.J. Novak, but the professional baseball player. The humor of this subplot stemmed mostly around Howard’s apparent interest in initiating a film career, evidenced by a screenplay he wrote that he shares with Jim and Darryl about a superhero baseball player that randomly includes Darth Vader. While this plot may have poked fun at the fact that athletes often make for terrible actors (despite Howard’s natural performance on camera), it did little to contribute to the episode as a whole.
The other subplot centered around Dwight, and his budding romance with the daughter of a local Brussels sprout farmer. After co-worker Clark expresses concern that the farmer is using his daughter as bait so that Dwight will invest in a tractor with him, Dwight is ready to end the relationship. However, she reveals to him that she knows her father plans on conning him, therefore gaining his trust and retaining his love. With this we see a more human side of Dwight, one that has been surfacing more frequently this season. Unlike his relationship with Angela, Dwight appears to genuinely be in love, which is impressive given the absurdity of his character.
“Promos” was overall a very solid episode. With the limited amount of episodes left to air, as a viewer, one wants each new episode to be fulfilling. This episode does an excellent job of building up the anticipation for the release of the documentary in the series finale, and introduces an important new conflict. The staff of Dundler Mifflin will have to revisit ghosts of the past, including some not so pleasant, and witnessing how they respond to the documentary will undoubtedly make for a very complex conclusion. Imagine watching a documentary about the last nine years of your life, seeing everything for a second time. Very few ever have an opportunity like this, but the concept is captivating enough to warrant tuning in to the rest of the season to see how characters we have been living with for the past nine years respond to such an experience.