×

‘Office’ romance stays strong

Writers keep Jim and Pam from going stale

For years, anyone watching a program they like with a sense of TV history has screamed a warning as sexual tension between characters is about to be consummated: “Stop! Save yourselves! Your fictional lives depend on it!”

The same fear initially applied to “The Office,” which, against all odds, has managed to survive the from-afar, consummated, long-distance, on-again, engaged romance of Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Jim (John Krasinski), providing the human foundation to a series that otherwise specializes in quirks and eccentricities.

Although the British version of the program (or “programme,” as they quaintly spell it there) had its own version of Pam (actually, Dawn) and Jim (Tim), that scenario hardly offered a blueprint for adapting the story to a U.S. comedy that has now run five seasons. Indeed, the U.K. incarnation yielded a mere 12 installments before wrapping up — and satisfyingly resolving its romantic plot — in a special finale.

Much of the credit goes to the writers and performers involved, and it’s a testament to their talents that Pam and Jim have recently enjoyed a relatively stable, even happy relationship — despite her impulsive decision to join boss Michael (Steve Carell) in his stand-alone business endeavor — without sending that key aspect of the show toppling into disarray.

To appreciate that feat, a bit of history is in order. Television series have long simmered in unexpressed sexual chemistry, famously highlighted by programs such as “Cheers” and “Moonlighting.” In many instances, even when the writers insisted romance wasn’t in the offing, they ran out of options (think “The X-Files”) and eventually succumbed to temptation.

The problem — and it’s certainly not a small one — is that allowing your squabbling leads to stumble into bed with each other is, in the parlance of bigscreen romantic comedies, where the movie traditionally ends. Nobody really wanted to watch Gable and Colbert continue in marital bliss — indulging in kinky “blow down the walls of Jericho” foreplay — after “It Happened One Night.” Knowing they wound up together ever after, presumably happily, is enough.

Similarly, uniting Maddie and David on “Moonlighting” left the show fumbling for what to do next, just as “Cheers” became a significantly lesser commodity once Sam and Diane hooked up. Frankly, the latter was salvaged — and able to run smoothly for another six years — by Shelley Long’s midrun departure, eliminating what became an increasingly awkward dynamic.

“Frasier” survived its supporting-star pairing, too, but the show was never better than when David Hyde Pierce’s Niles was secretly pining for Jane Leeves’ Daphne. And one can argue that “Grey’s Anatomy” has come close to wearing out its welcome with many fans simply by exhausting (and re-

exhausting) so many romantic entanglements, to the point where the sexual history of the George character alone has become cause for derision.

In most instances — and “The Office” hasn’t been immune to this — taking the romantic plunge has subsequently required erecting some arbitrary impediment to again pull the same characters apart, usually with varying degrees of credibility. Mindful of the fact that happy couples are hardly the fixings for good drama (and can be equally challenging in comedy), writers thus find themselves dismantling romances that they have meticulously labored to inspire the audience to root for — as evidenced by the visceral thrill of the “Office” second-season finale, when Jim finally let Pam know how he felt about her.

The durability of “The Office” notwithstanding, all this suggests that producers would be wise to look and think hard (that’s what she said) before allowing their stars to leap into bed with each other. The show you save might be your own.

More TV

  • Charles Levin Obit

    Missing 'Seinfeld' Actor Charles Levin's Body Believed to be Found

    Oregon authorities believe they have found the body of the missing “Seinfeld” actor Charles Levin. He was 70 years old. According to Associated Press, Levin’s son reported the actor missing from Grants Pass on July 8. On July 12, search and rescue teams determined a search area in a remote area northeast of Selma with [...]

  • Oliver Jackson-Cohen Invisible Man

    ‘Haunting of Hill House’ Star Oliver Jackson-Cohen Returning for ‘Haunting of Bly Manor’

    Oliver Jackson-Cohen, who was recently cast as the titular character in the upcoming Blumhouse-Universal Pictures feature “The Invisible Man,” is set to haunt viewers once more on Netflix. Jackson-Cohen, who starred in “The Haunting of Hill House,” will return to star in the second installment of the Netflix anthology series, titled “The Haunting of Bly Manor.” [...]

  • Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

    Amazon to Develop 'Jack Reacher' Series

    Watch out Tom Cruise, there’s going to be another Jack Reacher in town. In a competitive situation, Amazon has won the rights to develop a series based on the protagonist from Lee Child’s novels. The series hails from “Scorpion” creator Nick Santora, who will write, showrun and executive produce. Child’s “Jack Reacher” series has sold over [...]

  • Fox News Media Taps Jason Klarman

    Fox News Media Taps Jason Klarman as Executive VP, Marketing

    Jason Klarman, a veteran TV executive who has served stints at NBCUniversal and Fullscreen Media, has been named executive vice president of Fox Corporation’s Fox News Media, and will supervise brand strategy for Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network and other assets that are part of the division. Klarman will report to Suzanne Scott, CEO [...]

  • Sean Diddy Combs

    MTV, Sean 'Diddy' Combs Reunite for 'Making the Band' Return

    MTV and Sean “Diddy” Combs are reuniting to reboot the reality competition series “Making the Band.” The show is slated to premiere in 2020. Its return was prompted by a tweet Diddy recently posted suggesting it was time for a comeback. Originally featuring the creation of early 2000s boy band O-Town (the show was conceived [...]

  • HBO Communications Chief Quentin Schaffer to

    HBO Communications Chief Quentin Schaffer to Exit After 39 Years

    Longtime HBO communications head Quentin Schaffer is stepping down from his post next month after 39 years as a key architect of HBO’s premium TV brand. Schaffer will exit as HBO’s executive VP of corporate communications next month, after steering HBO through one last Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills. He is the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content