While homage was being paid to the end of "30 Rock" this week, a storm was brewing elsewhere on NBC. A week after the mysterious camera crew was revealed to "Office" audiences, Brian the boom mic operator (a.k.a. the guy who came to Pam's aid after her blow-out with Jim on the Jan. 24 episode) has become a featured character. In fact, not only is Brian now getting screen time, he's been introduced as a possible romantic obstacle in Jim and Pam's relationship.
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Last week's argument between Pam and Jim painted a realistic type of relationship. Real couples argue, disagree, and work to solve problems -- but thanks to the Jan. 31 episodes, Jim has become almost a caricature of the "bad guy" partner; a guy more like Pam's ex-fiancée, Roy. After all, on top of disrespecting roommate Darryl's space, and deleting Darryl's pre-recorded TV shows, Jim opts to focus on his relationship with -- you guessed it -- Darryl. This, instead of fixing his relationship with Pam and the kids. Not even Roy did that.
Meanwhile, in Scranton, Brian (played by the admittedly charming Chris Diamantopoulos) eventually comes to Pam's aid once more after a mural she's painted is vandalized. That's when the camera crew catches their teammate in action near the end of the episode, promising Pam to "always be there for her." What?
For reasons unbeknownst to anyone, "Office" showrunners have opted -- in the show's final season -- to not only threaten to destroy the relationship they spent all series building, but to focus on a tertiary character nobody even knew about until last week. Instead of focusing on Erin and her birth parents, or Angela's life as a mother, or any number of the well-established supporting characters, the "Office" writers have created another love triangle.
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But unlike Season 3, in which Karen, Jim, and Pam were allowed to grow, this is the last season ever -- and there's no one to champion. Jim's become a glorified frat boy, Pam's stuck in an unfulfilling situation. And sure, it's understandable that under these circumstances, Pam would turn to someone that she's known for nine years (indirectly), but come on -- Brian has never been mentioned, introduced, or alluded to before.
Had Brian been slowly introduced, his "nice guy" role could have meant something. However, thanks to the rapid-fire tear-down of the fourth wall last week, he seems like a forced addition, which is unfair to the actor and to his character, who has the potential to be somebody more than "Brian, the man who likes Pam." And, really, despite the problems Jim and Pam are going through, none of us really expects them to permanently end their relationship -- Brian is a bump in the road, and we all know it.
However, it's still not too late: if writers allow characters to address the problems between Jim and Pam -- and even the obvious attraction between Brian and Pam -- they can use it as a catalyst to put more permanent endings in motion. Will Pam quit Dunder-Mifflin and move on, since leaving Jim for Brian would be too similar to when she left Roy for Jim? Will Jim be called out on his newfound lifestyle and forced to make a choice between his parenting role and his career? Or will the other secondary characters be given more realistic story lines on which to act?
Heck, it wasn't even a bad idea to introduce the behind-the-scenes crew after all these years. But a love triangle just isn't the way to do it. Here's hoping it's figured out soon, because "The Office" is literally running out of time.