Brian Lowry of Variety lauds the fact that the writers of “The Office” have kept the Jim/Pam dynamic from going stale.
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.
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.
Lowry mentions “Moonlighting” and “Cheers” as shows that suffered after the two leads finally got together, but doesn’t go into much detail about how “The Office” has been able to avoid the usually inevitable staleness.
To me, “The Office” is much more than Jim and Pam. I don’t know that you can say the same thing about “Cheers” (Sam/Diane) and certainly not “Moonlighting” (David/Maddie). “Cheers” featured a strong supporting cast, but Sam and Diane were still the central figures. On “The Office,” one could argue that Michael Scott is the main lead. Jim and Pam are up there, but the whole show doesn’t revolve around them. Once they got together, the writers deftly transitioned the more romantic storylines over to Michael, who continues to struggle to find companionship in his life. By doing this, the writers are able to check back with Jim and Pam from time to time and highlight the best (and funniest) things about being in a secure, committed relationship, while continuing to mine Michael’s love life — as well as the whole Dwight-Angela-Andy love triangle — for consistent laughs.
The bottom line is that, at heart, “The Office” is an ensemble comedy, and by spreading around the wealth, the writers can spread around the risk. If handled correctly, this characteristic can make a show “jump the shark”-proof (or at least “jump the shark”-resistant), which is one reason “The Office” has been so strong for so long.