Why Don't Jim and Pam Have Any Friends on The Office?

The consensus around the Internet today is that last night's wholly unfunny edition of The Office was its worst entry of the season. There's only so much you can say about an episode that so aggressively left the bounds of earthly reality (Michael and Andy on a bus to Mexico to build schools; really?), but one thing did stick out like a badly infected thumb: Why don't Jim and Pam have any friends?

"Christening" was the name of last night's failure, and (as you can guess) it centered on the christening of Baby Cece. The Office has done fine work with this potentially shark-jumping plot turn -- Jim and Pam's early stages of parenthood have been a subtle highlight of this season, and the writers have done a good job incorporating Cece into their lives (and the lives of other Dunder-Mifflin employees), without sacrificing the greater good. So consider my surprise when it was revealed that Cece's godparents were just two schmucks that Pam met during "Mommy & Me." Forgive me, but: Seriously?

For once, Michael's absurd belief that his employees are part of his family felt almost warranted: Why shouldn't he be Cece's godfather when Jim and Pam bestowed the honor upon some nobody? It's no wonder his feelings were hurt.

But there's a larger problem here -- and part of the reason why Jim and Pam have stopped being compelling characters. To counterpoint Mike Ryan's outstanding essay on why The Office isn't going to miss Steve Carell next season: How normal and relatable is Jim when he doesn't have one person to interact with outside of the office? Answer: Not very.

Sure, it's rare that isolated comedies -- whether they be of the workplace or familial variety -- have room for outside influences, but that doesn't mean they can't be referenced. I don't need (nor really want) Jim to grab a beer with some old college buddy, but I'd like to think he has an old college buddy. "Christening" shattered that illusion.

Even more disheartening and upsetting: It was easy to fix. When Michael asked who Cece's godparents were, couldn't Pam just have pointed to the pretty couple and said, "Our neighbors"? Or, "Jim's old college roommate"? (Or, hell, even Jim's jerky brothers, whom The Office forgot existed.) There was no reason for the godparents to be relative strangers, unless of course The Office was trying to tell us something: Are Jim and Pam really just as messed up and weird as everyone else working at Dunder-Mifflin? Judging from this one big character flaw, absolutely.


  • Izzie says:

    Ughh I vehemently concur! The entire episode I kept anticipating a peak, a break-through for comedy to come rushing in.... and was stranded at 8:28 when I realized it wasn't going to happen. I think the whole episode really stressed that the Dunder-Mifflin group really IS a ship of socially unadjusted fools who have no lives outside of the building, as proven in Jim and Pam's lack of friends as well as the "going to the movies after the Christening" event. Remember when Jim had that roommate he threw a party with? Remember those friends Pam had in New York? I mean these WERE once normal people. Did they devolve?

  • Allison says:

    It just shows you what happens to your social life after you have a kid. Unfortunately, it was pretty realistic!

  • Sammi says:

    Sadly, I have to concur with Allison. If your friends aren't in the same place as you (i.e. married, having children) your friendships often just fade away; making it necessary to make new friends with couples in the same place in their lives. Sad, but true.

  • That's understandable, but a couple of things: Aren't Jim and Pam from Scranton? Logic would dictate that they'd have some friends still living there. Also, for something as important as a christening, you think they'd be able to scrounge up a few friends from out of state. This isn't just a night out at the movies after all; it's a big moment in their lives...

  • cmeb says:

    In your guy's hands the show would be even less funny! lets remember that this is comedy people, and the whole reason for the whole godfather thing WAS TO MAKE A JOKE! (which happens to be the primary function of the show after-all ;)

  • Blunder Mifflin says:

    I liked this article better last year when I read it on The Awl:

  • daveed says:

    The problem is that husband-dad character of Jim Halpert doesn't have a dramatic goal anymore. He's got the girl, the kid, the dream come true.
    He was more interesting in the earlier part of season 6 when he was co-manager, and slowly turning into another Michael Scott.

  • MichaelV says:

    Actually, that's one of my favorite running jokes on The Office: even the characters that are proxies for the viewer -- Jim and Pam -- aren't perfect. This has been true since the first episodes when it was clear that Ryan was cooler than Jim, and I like that though J/P think of themselves as the popular couple, the rest of the office finds them a bit smug and annoying (perfect proxies for the typical Office viewer, myself included).
    That said, I agree with the specific point that the godparents should have more important people in their lives, though I wonder if it was part of the joke that clearly this is the first and last time we'll see the Halperts active in this church.

  • Garry Frick says:

    I read the article. I didn't agree with anything, except that the episode wasn't very funny. I thought to myself 'Who at Movieline could spend time analyzing one joke and completely miss the point?' Then I looked up at the articles author: Christopher Rosen. Of course it was written by him, I should have known.
    The point of the joke was to show that J&P would rather have strangers be their child's godparents than Michael Scott. That was it. It was not funny. But to make the inference that J&P have no friends outside of work is ridiculous and makes no sense at all. I could just as easily make the argument that J&P have friends from college or whatever, just none that they think are suitable to be godparents, but to read into a one line joke that much on a comedy like The Office is completely pointless. I can't believe Chris gets paid to write crap like this every day.

  • Christopher Rosen says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Garry!

  • Eric says:

    Not "place" as in location - "place" as in the place in your life.
    If Jim and Pam's friends had kids long ago, it's possible that those friends just fell out of touch.

  • Ellen says:

    Jim and Pam have always been potrayed this way. They're decently nice people who are also kind of stand-offish and snobby. It's not new. A perfect example of this is when they took the 'cell phone in the ceiling' prank on Andy way too far in season 3. Less obnoxious people would have backed off - instead they giggled in pride over having 'broke his brain." Also, Jim's pranks on Dwight in the early days bordered on prickish as well - back when Dwight elicited sympathy.
    So it's not surpising that these two don't have many close friends. They're not exactly social butterflies. If the characters on the office were real people, the only ones I'd want to hang out with are Kevin and Oscar. Jim and Pam? Not so much.
    But that's what has made Jim and Pam truly perfect proxies for this show's audience - an audience that, let's face it, can be a little snobby at times.

  • mistersnark says:

    I probably think too much, but I totally agree with this. Even from Season One, I told people that Jim was kind of a sad-sack with nothing more to do than pick on Dwight and Michael. Plus, Pam was engaged to a dumbass at the Scranton branch (sweet and unmotivated) and is now married to the smartass at the Scranton branch (sweet and unmotivated). I've said before in other Office postings that this show is past its "sell by" date and should just be cancelled by NBC but since the network doesn't have anything else worthwhile in the cue, it will take one more season before it's killed.

  • Ruby says:

    The reason that Pam pointed and said they met them in parenting class was to illustrate that they'd rather have some random stranger be a Godparent than Michael. But you're right, it didn't make them look good.

  • Xottawan says:

    C'mon guys....it's a fictional TV show. We would like the characters to be real (like the ones on "Seinfeld," e.g.) but they are figments of multiple writers imaginations. Ruby is correct, though---who would want a repetition of Michael's performance at the wedding---still a classic!

  • This is true. I wondered that too because Michael has been there for Jim and Pam in very important times in their lives. If a godparent job wasn't going to be given to anyone in their family or close friends, it should have gone to Michael instead of strange couples met in a mommy and me class.

  • Ashley says:

    What I don't get is... they DO have friends. At least Pam has a close friend who was at her wedding (Isabel), she had another friend she tried to set Michael up with... they both have mentioned friends.. so I think they DO have friends... yet for some reason that was forgotten. It WAS ridiculous that they had some random couple as the godparents, versus people they have actually known for a while. That did seem uncharacteristic, and is one of the things I remember as being annoying in the series.

    • Ashley says:

      Although I don't think Michael on the bus is that unrealistic. He's always searching for praise and affection, and he saw those going on the bus getting that. Especially after feeling more "boxed out" at the event (Andy was just trying to impress Erin).. and they are supposed to be similar characters (Andy and Michael)... but they both end up freaking out and getting off, which isn't surprising.

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