Ranking the Seasons of The Office

The Office was a weird fucking show! When it was great, it was really great! They accidentally concluded the natural narratives around the end of season 5, and they ran out of story. Then they did four more seasons. And it got really bleak! And it somehow became the most-watched show on Netflix for like a decade so everyone basically watched it. I don’t know. Weird fucking show! Here be the rankings of the seasons.

9. Season 8: OMG NO

This season really has NOTHING going for it whatsoever. It’s fun to imagine what would have happened if they managed to convince James Gandolfini to be the new boss, but other than that, this season is NO fun to think about! Andy as the boss was a catastrophe in every way. Robert California was a one-note joke which was not funny when extrapolated out to a full “character.” And everyone else but Creed and Mose basically became unfunny and uninteresting. This is one of the worst seasons of television ever.

8. Season 9: Athlead

While this season is not exactly funnier than season 8 in any noticeable way, this season does have the advantage of it being much more interesting how bad it is! Athlead! The Nelly Redemption Arc! Andy becoming the worst person in the world! THE CAMERA GUY! It’s all so bad! New Jim and new Dwight! Truly remarkably bad stuff. There was a lot to unpack here. You gotta give it the edge over season 8.

7. Season 6: What do we do now?

Season 6 was really awkward. The show had a lot of natural character arc endpoints at the end of season 5, and they basically had to toss a lot of it away to reboot the comfortable comedic areas the show relied on. Any maturity Michael had achieved essentially had to be erased. Jim and Dwight reverted back to Jim vs. Dwight. Etc. etc.

6. Season 7: Goodbye, Michael

Much like how Season 9 gets an qualified bump above Season 8, Season 7 gets the nod over Season 6 simply for being a more interesting failure than previous go-around. The show knew Michael Scott was leaving, and they decided to say goodbye narratively and then literally all season long. It was poorly executed in just about every way…but it was something!

5. Season 1: Awkward Intro

In a lot of ways, this season is more interesting than good. Unlike with seasons 7 & 9 though, it’s interesting for good reasons! It was a show struggling to be good and figure out what tone it needed to strike with each character. In some ways, this is my favorite season to go back and watch just for experiencing the growing pains process the show was going through.

4. Season 4: Jim and Pam

Due to the writer’s strike and misguided NBC directive for more super-sized episodes of the show, this season feels weird and stilted at times. With that in mind, the show was still humming along nicely at this point and features some of the best work of the entire show. “The Dinner Party” in particular is likely the best episode the show did.

3. Season 5: The Natural End

In the perfect world, this would have been the final season of the show. It was the last season that was funny from beginning to end. It featured a number of episodes that were strong in their own right. It featured the best mini-arc within a season (The Michael Scott Paper Company). It featured two of the best guest star arcs (Amy Ryan & Idris Elba). The character arcs for all the major characters all came to natural and satisfying endpoints. It was just so lovely.

2. Season 3 – Enter: Karen & Andy

In some ways, it will always feel weird how quickly the Stamford story got resolved here (it did not even last half of a season), but beyond that this was a great follow-up year to the show’s breakout season. They did not entirely rest on its laurels and instead introduced some new elements into the show that forced the show to grow and evolve. And they managed to pull it off!

1. Season 2 – Jim and Pam?

I have always had a slight bias against this season when comparing it to the other peak years because I came into the show later. However, there is no real denying that this should be considered the defining season of the show. After they got a chance to fuck around and do things poorly in season 1, they really figured out the correct moods, characterizations, and conflicts to mine as much humor and pathos as possible here. This was very good television.

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