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This Is The Exact Moment The Office Jumped The Shark

The U.S. version of "The Office" is undoubtedly one of the most popular and enduring series in modern television history. But like almost any other long-running show, it enjoyed a few seasons of masterful storytelling before getting both bogged down by familiarity, and disrupted by change. When showrunners recognize they are approaching that point, desperation can set in. That phenomenon got a name — "jumping the shark" — from the climax of a three-episode Season 5 arc of "Happy Days" in which the teens from Milwaukee travel to Los Angeles, where Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) is goaded by a beach bully into literally jumping, on water skis, over a penned shark.

Rolling Stone defined the phenomenon as the "moment that a TV series crosses the Rubicon of audience respect, losing both its integrity and the plot ... [it] signals a pivot point in which a writer's room starts resorting to desperate measures to maintain viewers' interest." So when did this moment take place on "The Office," exactly?

In one Season 6 episode, a cornerstone event was portrayed in a tone far from the one "The Office" had thrived in establishing. The moment was borrowed from a real-life event and executed in the corniest and least original fashion imaginable. The sequence also violates the laws of space and time, and the wedding itself is a logical disservice to viewers.

Pam and Jim's wedding processional was a disaster on many levels

The marriage of Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) and Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) should have been a touching celebration of the love story at the center of the American version of "The Office." Instead, it was turned into a laughable farce by the inclusion of a more than two-minute-long dance number that is preposterously silly and massively out of place in the mockumentary comedy. Much of the beauty of "The Office" comes from the guerrilla documentary style that cinematographer Randall Einhorn used in shooting the series. That was completely abandoned for the dance number in favor of a multi-camera array that was miraculously able to capture the suddenly light-footed ensemble from every perfect angle, along with several side conversations and glances. 

While cameras on "The Office" usually whip around to capture moments as they happen, in the tightly packed church they are somehow perfectly lined up to catch Creed (Creed Bratton) grabbing his crotch, Bob and Phyllis Vance (Robert R. Shafer and Phyllis Smith) doing a risqué ride-em-cowboy move, and Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) kicking Pam's friend and bridesmaid Isabel (Kelen Coleman) in the face. The wedding party — and all of Pam and Jim's co-workers — dance down the aisle solo, in pairs, or in small groups to Chris Brown's "Forever" before the entire group somehow re-materializes to cover the same ground again, this time as a perfectly choreographed ensemble. 

The scene would have fit perfectly in "Glee" or "High School Musical," but is jarringly out of place in a series that had won fans for its honest, unpretentious take on the everyday lives of ordinary people. The whole routine is improbable and cheesy, and didn't even come from the minds of the show's writing team.

The scene was directly borrowed from a real-life couple's wedding

A continuous string of creative and compelling storylines contributed strongly to the brilliance of "The Office." But just as remarkable in its tediousness was Jim and Pam's will-they-won't-they friendship-turned-romance, which trod the same dull and familiar path as every romantic comedy ever made. 

To illustrate their most predictable storyline's pinnacle moment, director Paul Feig and writers Greg Daniels and Mindy Kaling chose to borrow from a real-life wedding video. The episode aired on October 8, 2009. Dr. Jill Peterson, Kevin Heinz, and their wedding party had danced down the aisle to "Forever" three months earlier. Their YouTube video has since pulled in more than 100 million views and was already a viral hit when they saw it mimicked on television. 

According to the couple's website, "The Office" showrunners didn't contact them before the episode aired. "We had no idea," they wrote. "We watched the show along with everyone else and nearly passed out when we saw it." Their only compensation appears to be a signed cast photo that Jenna Fischer mentioned on "Office Ladies,"  [at about 1:02:00] the episode-by-episode series rehash podcast she hosts along with Angela Kinsey, who played accountant Angela Martin. For a show that proved over and over again a remarkable ability to show us a fresh but realistic take on common situations, the borrowed wedding dance number was a rare and unprecedented lowlight.

Public opinion of The Office plunged following the wedding dance

"The Office" took a sharp downturn in the eyes of viewers after "Niagara." Of the 100 episodes preceding Pam and Jim's wedding, 40 earned IMDb ratings of 8.5 or better. Of the 96 that came after, just 13 reached that mark, including the series' final three installments. The downward trend started immediately after "Niagara" and perhaps the three most awkward episodes of the entire run of "The Office" — "Koi Pond," "Double Date," and the cringiest of all, "Scott's Tots" — all came later in Season 6. 

The wedding dance number was the first scene in "The Office" that broke the mold of a realistic mockumentary. Originally, the scene was supposed to include the bizarre tragedy of Dwight riding a horse over the falls in the background, but fortunately, that was scrapped. Creator Greg Daniels told "The Office Ladies" (at about the 16:20 mark) it was cut to rein in (pun intended) some of the episode's wilder elements, but many other plot points that ranged from ridiculous to impossible came after "Niagara." 

In the episodes and seasons that followed the wedding dance, viewers saw Deangelo Vickers (Will Ferrell) die from injuries caused by a falling basketball hoop, Dwight riding a bike across a tightrope rigged from the building's roof, and Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) disappearing from the office for three months without anyone from the corporate office noticing. As preposterous as each of those happenings were, the church scene is quite literally impossible within the bounds of space and time as we know them.

The events of The Office's wedding dance scene are logistically impossible

Woven into the shots of Jim and Pam's guests and wedding party going through their choreographed moves are a few sequences showing the couple sneaking away earlier to have their actual wedding ceremony aboard the Maid of the Mist, the boat that takes visitors for a close-up look at the falls. They somehow manage to escape the church, make it to the ferry, take the 20-minute tour of Niagara Falls, get married, dry and re-style their hair, and return to the ceremony quickly enough that their guests don't give up and go home.

Of course, going home isn't easy since the selfish couple arranged for their wedding to be held a half-day's drive from where nearly all of their friends and family live. It's far enough that they thought their co-workers would decline their invitations, but close enough that they all showed up anyway after being offered Friday and Monday off by manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell). 

It's the cherry on the top of a bad storytelling sundae. Logic and six seasons of getting to know Jim and Pam would have told viewers to expect either a modest ceremony and reception in Scranton or a destination wedding far enough away to ensure that none of their co-workers ended up anywhere near the event. Despite the fact that Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey are best friends in real life, there is an absolute 0% chance that Pam would ever invite Angela to her wedding. It's all absurdly unbelievable, and marks the beginning of the end for "The Office."

Despite their unlovability, Jim and Pam themselves are not to blame

Now, the selfishness of Jim and Pam is no surprise given their behavior in the series up to that point. He is an unrepentant prankster who lacks the ability to behave like an adult in the workplace, constantly torturing Dwight and managing a professional demeanor only when he has a sales commission or promotion on the line. Pam, meanwhile, strings both Jim and ex-fiance Roy (David Denman) along until ultimately choosing the guy with the bigger paycheck, and cons her way from a sales position in which she was a total failure to a nonexistent and much easier office administrator position. But it's not Jim and Pam's unlikeability as individuals or a couple that makes their wedding the "jump the shark" moment for "The Office." 

The blame for that falls squarely on Paul Feig, Greg Daniels, and Mindy Kaling, who abandoned everything that made "The Office" charming and special up to that point for a ridiculously unoriginal idea, turning one of the best and most popular shows to grace U.S. airwaves into just another cheesy rom-com. To draw a direct line from Arthur Fonzarelli's jump to the Halpert wedding debacle, the two-episode "Niagara" arc leading up to the dance is the ramp, the excruciating 150-second musical-ish number parallels the seconds the Fonz hangs in the air above the shark's cage, and the Maid of the Mist reveal is the landing.