First off, I’ll admit I am a much bigger fan of BBC’s “The Office” than its current American counterpart. I’m not going to detail my reasoning, mostly because you’ve heard it all before, but also because I realize that admitting a preference for the BBC version pretty much makes me a douchey hipster America-hater. (I don’t know why, but every mention of my love for the original series is met with indignation and cries of elitism. Why? Don’t know.) Point is, I won’t go into detail.
The BBC allegiance may account for the reason I’m increasingly bummed out at the evolution of Jim and Dwight’s characters these past couple seasons. They are almost complete departures from their original incarnations, a fact that has made me enjoy the show less and less.
Let’s break each character down individually.
EARLY JIM: Inspired by “The Office” BBC’s Tim, Jim was has always been the “normal” office worker, the only sane person amidst a bunch of crazy morons, the only worker to which most viewers can relate. He’s the voice of reason in an unreasonable atmosphere. Jim is normal. We’re supposed to like him.
Early Jim (and Tim before him) was constantly poking fun and pranking co-workers, but he offset that with a layer of friendliness to him. He may have been bored and too smart for his own good, but he was still nice. Early Jim/Tim would go out to happy hour with co-workers. Season 1 showed Jim having a house party and inviting every Dunder-Mifflin employee (except Michael, natch). He knew he was too good for his job, but he was also a bit of a homebody, a bit too content with his current situation to do anything about it. He was a wiseass, but he was also a genuinely nice fella. He seemed real.
CURRENT JIM: Current Jim just ain’t the same. He’s more aloof jackass than he is friendly, and most of his jokes are smarmy one-liners devoted to pointing out the stupidity of all those around him. There’s no niceness under that snark. Gone are the elaborate yet harmless pranks, gone is the idea that Jim actually kinda-sorta likes his co-workers. He’s above them and he knows it, and while that may be a realistic depiction of some office workers (for example, me, probably) it’s not a whole lot of fun to watch.
I still laugh at Jim, and he remains the most normal employee. But for the most part, new Jim is kind of a dick.
EARLY DWIGHT: Dwight is inspired by Gareth, the geek from the BBC version. Gareth was a blatant ass-kisser and held a hilariously overinflated view of his role at the company, and as a human overall. He was terrible with ladies and wincingly awkward in social situations. Because of his obsession with the boss and well-meaning passion for the job, however, he was a likeable character. Also, he carried his cell phone in a gun-like arm holster, which was awesome.
Like Jim’s original character, Dwight was molded to be Gareth’s American equal. Dwight hung on Michael’s every word and seemed socially retarded, in a “poor guy” rather than “what a jerk” kinda way. Through the awkwardness and over-trying, he too was a flawed yet semi-likable guy.
CURRENT DWIGHT: I think we can all agree current Dwight is a complete prick. He tried to overthrow Michael’s job, treats his co-workers like shit (and not really in a funny way) and was sociopathically proud of himself for his involvement with the Angela affair. This is not how Gareth would have behaved. This is not how original Dwight would have behaved. Remember those guys? They were clueless goons, but at least they were relatable. Current Dwight is a cartoon.
Look, I understand the need for the characters to evolve. It helps the show remain fresh. However, the ongoing transformation of Jim and Dwight’s characters has been a bit of a bummer. They’ve lost their likability (though Jim is nowhere near the asshole Dwight is), and most importantly, lost their authenticity. They are turning into caricatures of their former selves, and I for one am not digging the evolution.