Dwight and Jim's frenemies friendship provides a ton of conflict for the narrative and became the core of the TV show.
When I think about The Office I tend to think of the romances that held the show together. Jim and Pam were the most famous, but the show was central in exploring Michael and Jan, Dwight and Angela, Andy and anyone who wanted him, and even Ryan and Kelly's ongoing saga.
But what if the central relationship to The Office was not a romantic one?
What if the true driving force and backbone of the show was not Jim and Pam or Michael and his workers?
What if it was Dwight and Jim?
Today I want to talk about the frenemy relationship between Dwight and Jim and go into three ways I think it was clearly the most important relationship between characters on The Office.
Check out this video to relive some of the best Jim and Dwight moments from The Office and let's talk after the jump.
1. The value of Frenemies
We've talked about how every scene needs conflict, and what better way to provide conflict than two characters who kind of hate each other, that sit next to each other?
Now, I use "hate" with a general sense that these characters actually love each other, More on that later. But conflict is the driving force of any show. When you're pitching a tv show, you want to be able to prove it has the legs to go on for 100 episodes. The Jim and Pam love has to end at some point. Michael is an antagonist, but not a driving force.
I'd propose that Dwight and Jim are the true heartbeats of the office. Most of the cold opens are about their antics with one another. A lot of the first four seasons have to do with Dwight trying to replace Jim and vice versa. And unlike some of the other relationships that just come together, Jim and Dwight continue to evolve.
Think about this; when Jim leaves Scranton for greener pastures, his first days away are spent missing Dwight so much he sends him gaydar.
And Dwight misses him so much he goes out of his way to call Jim to ask about the gaydar.
The show and writers knew that even in episodes apart, these guys needed to communicate for us to stay interested.
2. The more you know...
Dwight and Jim may have started as frenemies, but they evolved into actual friends with respect. The genius part of how this happened was that Jim and Dwight had to begin to see each other as full people. Especially when someone worse entered the mix, like Todd Packer.
Jim knew what it was like to not have Pam. To see her with Roy.
He transferred that empathy to Dwight when Angela and Andy began their romance.
in return, Dwight has quiet respect for Jim. It's not there right away, but it's clear he finds him to be a worthy adversary. Enough to challenge him for jobs and to demand he's fired. but later, as Michael loses the role of manager and Andy starts sucking up, Dwight really relies on Jim to help solidify his role in the office.
And when Dwight gets desperate and needs help, he turns to Pam. He describes her as one of his best friends, and I think that means he includes Jim in the same circle.
3. Both characters can't mimic it with Andy
As the show went on in episodes, and Dwight and Jim evened out, each character was presented a new foil: Andy.
Andy is a great character on The Office. I think he SHINES in so many seasons. And it truly killed me when he went to dark Andy and screwed the company and was terrible to Erin. That was tough to watch and I get why it had to happen but it still hurts me inside.
Now that it's out of the way, let's talk about how Jim tried to make Andy his new Dwight. It was an okay idea, except that andy's anger issues made the whole stapler in jello bit kind of dangerous.
And later, when Andy wants to suck up to Michael, Dwight is pitter against him instead of Jim, and the two of them are both so weird they can't properly cancel each other out.
The point is, in Jim and Dwight's life...there's no replacement for the other one.
What's next? 4 Changes to Michael that made The Office a Hit
The Office was almost canceled after the first season. They turned things around with one character.