Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How Could The Office Compare to Seinfeld?

There’s no need to refute or add on to FranT’s Seinfeld/The Office breakdown because it was so complete. But I could talk about this stuff forever, so I’m going to attack this from categories that immediately jump out regarding one show and see how the other holds up. Then I also will give a biased final vote.

I noticed that a common thread in Fran’s breakdown was depth vs. breadth...

On Length of Peak, Seinfeld went strong for nine seasons whereas The Office started to slide off in the final seasons. However, at its BEST, Fran says that The Office packs an overall funnier punch than Seinfeld, and I would be inclined to agree.

On Minor Characters, Seinfeld has a countless number of hilarious characters that are either semi-recurring or only appear in one episode (breadth), while The Office has fewer funny minor characters but we come to know those characters better (depth) over the course of the seasons.

This idea applies to some of the categories I singled out

Romantic Intrigue

Obvious advantage: The Office

I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the Jim-Pam romantic story line. If the writers decided that Jim was destined for a life of witty-turned-cynical solitude, my world view could legitimately be different. The fact that it played out without sacrificing too much comedy is what made those early seasons so great.

In addition, you had Michael’s relationship with Jan, Dwight and Angela, Andy and Angela, Ryan and Kelly, and more. Some more ridiculous than others, but all were hilarious while still pointing out some truths about the interactions between the two sexes.

Not so Fast: Seinfeld’s non-feeling attitude as a show pretty much negated any true romantic intrigue. Jerry never had a girlfriend for more than 2 episodes (did he ever have one for 2? I can’t remember but I assumed there had to be one). But while Jerry and his friends were all incredibly shallow, they gave us countless funny romantic moments along the way - breadth, no depth - many of which apply to all relationships, like the worlds colliding, the unwritten “rules” of sleeping over, the “shmoopy” gross public display of affection, the weekend trip putting a relationship in a pressure cooker but according to George being a “relationship killer”, and many more.

Final: Seinfeld: many shallow romatnic moments. The Office: fewer, deeper romantic moments. All hilarious.I love all the stuff from Seinfeld that applies to any relationship, and I’ll get to it next, but there’s no beating the Jim and Pam storyline, especially when there are so many other good ones and funny ones in The Office. The Office, 1-0

Stuff That Applies

Obvious Advantage: Seinfeld

I’m not talking about absolutely everything, like having summer friends and winter friends ("The Junk Mail" episode), but the concepts borne from Seinfeld or popularized by Seinfeld that we experience or think about regularly...or maybe it’s just me? Yikes by the end of this I might reveal too much. Here are just a few as I think of them:

-Worlds Colliding. Love this as it applies to introducing any two separate aspects of your life for the first time, not just girlfriend and friends.

-Wanting Someone to See your tip in the jar or else it’s meaningless
-Ya Gotta See the Baby
-The Relationship like a soda machine and the “back slide”
-The Rules
-The Weekend trips as fast-forwarding but if they go poorly, relationship killers
-The unfair nature of a cable appointment, the uselessness of mail, and how any mechanic could rip you off by telling you you need a “Johnson rod”.
-And many more..

Not So Fast: The Office doesn’t jump out as having any hilarious concepts akin to Worlds Colliding, but the set up of the show as a fake documentary with no laugh track allows for some hilarious parody that Seinfeld probably couldn’t have. Some of them are:

-Michael forwarding funny emails (we’ve all gotten them and they’re always awful)
-Michael and Jan insufferably calling each other Babe all the time
-The Office Birthday Party
-Politically Correct Faux Pas
-Corporate Ridiculousness

As I start to think of more, they start to fall more into the category of general Relatability, which I’ll get to later, and I think is different than these “concepts” that apply to everyday life.

Final: Seinfeld wins here because it actually has depth as well as breadth: each of Seinfeld’s concepts cut to the core of something in society, about human nature, or human interaction and are hilarious in doing so. Tied 1-1.

Quotes/Lines in Popular Culture

Obvious Advantage: Seinfeld. I’m talking about all the lines that have seeped into pop culture and require no lead in or explanation “like that time in Seinfeld when Kramer says _____”. People just know, or they should know. I’ll let the quotes and videos do the talking:

“Serenity Now!”

“No Soup for You!”
“Not that there’s anything wrong with that”

“Yada Yada Yada”
“People...they’re the worst”
“Ya Gotta See the Baby”
“Hello....Newman” or “Newman!” with the fist clench.

Had to stop there or it wouldn’t have ended.

Not So Fast: The Office should get a little bit of a pass because it’s much more recent and these things take time to pick up steam and seep into the regular conversation. But there’s only one that sticks out - That’s What She Said - and it might be the best one between both shows (again depth, not breadth). But at the end of the day, the Office didn’t come up with this phrase, they just owned it and mastered it.

Did I miss any from The Office? There has to be more. Another that I love is “Lord Beer Me Strength” but I just don’t know if that will live on.

Final: A runaway category for Seinfeld. But as I said, ask me in five years and maybe it will be a closer call. Seinfeld 2-1


Obvious Advantage: Seinfeld. Seinfeld seems the ultimate no-brainer - the ultimate show about nothing but really about thousands of different nuances related to modern society and the human condition. The close-talker, the chinese restaurant wait, the thank you wave when you let someone in front of you driving, etc.. etc.. I mentioned a bunch of them in the Stuff That Applies category. At the end of the day I think that’s why I love Seinfeld so much. But can we relate to a show that is so openly absurd and had a “no hugging and no learning” philosophy? And what about on a literal level? My dad loved Seinfeld but thought it was a little ridiculous that it was a “single, neat, Jewish guy in his late 30’s in Manhattan, without a normal job, who would entertain his 3 also single and late 30’s friends, along with their myriad of problems, over coffee”. That is something that he basically couldn’t relate to on any level. I’m sure there are guys out there that do that, but he certainly wasn’t one of them and neither am I. Kind of a very literal way to go about it but let’s consider the opposite:

Not so Fast: The Office is about a small paper company in Pennsylvania and its employees, but it’s more relatable - and with a deeper connection - than we might initially think.

-Romantic Interest
-Unrequitted romantic interest
-Annoying co-workers
-The bond shared beween co-workers
-Human Resources ridiculousness
-Leadership (or complete lack thereof)
-Wanting to be liked vs. doing what’s right and necessary
-Layoffs in a struggling economy.

Suddenly the Office starts to look better by this measure.

Final: Another breadth vs. depth debate. Seinfeld has hundreds of relatable moments, but The Office has more issues and themes that you can truly connect with. I’m taking the handful of deep connections by a nose. Tied 2-2

Tiebreaker: Random Episode

For my tiebreaker, I’m going to ask you this: I’m giving you an episode chosen completely at random. You’re exhausted and in serious need of some laughs. What show are you choosing? Seeing as though Seinfeld is more consistent from beginning to end, I’m taking Seinfeld if it’s an episode chosen at random. I don’t want to end up with one of The Office stinkers, even though Seasons 2 and 3 might be some of the best episodes between both of the shows.

Seinfeld wins my biased tiebreaker.

Now I’m going to watch some late night Seinfeld and The Office, go to bed too late, and I’m totally okay with that.

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