Rich Sommer talks about a JAM roadblock averted

USA Today’s Pop Candy interviewed ‘Mad Men’ star Rich Sommer, and he talks about how Pam’s relationship with her art school friend Alex (played by Sommer) could have developed last season on The Office:

… my character was supposed to be enamored of Pam. He was supposed to be a potential roadblock for Pam and Jim … The audience response to seeing Pam being even mildly flirtatious or being flirted with by some art-school guy … the Internet exploded.

What do you think? Did they make the right story decision?

Read the whole interview at the link below!

Link: A chat with ‘Mad Men’ star Rich Sommer (scroll down to the bottom of the page)

Tipster: LiveJournal Office


  1. Yeah, they made the right decision. To introduce yet another person into the JAM relationship would’ve betrayed everything the writers have made us so invested in.

    The Office has shown that you can actually have a normal, healthy, relationship and it still be great television.

    I commend the writers for not being lazy – relying on the typical ‘will they/wont they’ is the best way to make me stop watching a program… Grey’s Anatomy, I’m looking at you.

  2. It would have been interesting to see a little roadblock between Pam and Jim because I thought their relationship in season 5 was dull. It’s amazing how power of internet(or message board) could change a possible storyline.

  3. I’m so glad the writers didn’t pursue this story line. JAM is one of the few examples today of a TV couple with a really steady, soulmates relationship, and i think it would have been disingenuous to have Pam flirting with art-school-guy just because Jim’s back in Scranton.

  4. No, they made the wrong decision. I am an anti-JAMite, and I desperately don’t want them together…Maybe by the series finale, but I think that them together takes so much out of the show.

  5. While I agree that Jim and Pam are a healthy relationship that works great storywise, it was weak to introduce it and then just let it fizzle. Don’t put a bomb in act one if it’s not going to go off in act three; it’s just annoying. It would have been better to have had it pay off in a more creative way than as a roadblock. I liked Rich Sommer, he was underutilized and I would have liked to have seen more of him.

  6. Yeah… It would have been good to see a little roadblock between them. But not THAT kind of roadblock! I think they made the right decision.

  7. I’m glad they didn’t keep the whole Ross and Rachel thing going until the end like Friends did. I don’t think Pam giving into the art school guy would have been believable. Her abandoning the shallow relationship of Roy was one thing, but the relationship with Jim had WAY too many deep roots to throw out for an NY fling.

  8. I think they definitely made the right decision. Pam and Jim already had two roadblocks in Roy and Pam, and the Office has had far too many love triangles throughout the series. Pam-Jim-Roy. Pam-Jim-Karen. Andy-Angela-Dwight. Darryl-Kelly-Ryan. Michael-Jan-Holly. It was time last season (and still is) time for Jim and Pam, and the rest of the characters, to encounter some new situations.

  9. They definitely made the right decision. Throwing in yet another person between Jim and Pam would have been complete overkill (take note, ‘Chuck’ writers! Stop throwing people in Chuck and Sarah’s way! Ahem…).

    I do love Rich Sommer and ‘Mad Men,’ though, so this is pretty cool!

  10. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I don’t think Rich was saying that Pam would seriously consider flirting or being with Alex. Just that Alex loving her(and it being unrequited)would be the obstacle.

  11. I’m so glad this never happened. It would have made me extremely unhappy. In order for the Alex character to have been a serious roadblock, there would have had to be some indecision about her feelings on Pam’s part.
    I didn’t/don’t ever want to see that!! The lovely thing about their relationship is the fact that no matter what other nuttiness is around them, they love each other equally. They belong together and they both know it. It’s a refreshing thing to see on TV and I would have been disappointed had they gone that route.

  12. They played it PERFECT. In the premier, it looked as if Pam was going to cheat on Jim with this other guy. It totally made everyone forget that Jim and Pam are so in love and therefore the Proposal kicked Beesley’s ass! (ours too)

  13. #13, I disagree. I think the plot point could’ve been used to show some insecurity on Jim’s part. I don’t think Pam had to have any indecision about her feelings in order for Alex to be a roadblock.

    From that article, I also didn’t get the impression that Pam was going to actually have a serious flirtation with Alex. I thought Rich’s comment was referring to their brief interaction in last season’s premier because after that, many viewers were worried about the future of Jim and Pam.

  14. Right choice writers!

    Pam and the art school guy? How did that even come up for serious consideration? 3 months in NY, Jim was there on weekends, but what’s-his-name gets her to question if Jim is the right guy…unrealistic and disingenuous! It would make absolutely no sense for her character and the relationship JAM has.

  15. I think Rich Sommer is mistaken about how they wanted that plot line to play out. Having Pam show any romantic interest in him would have been ridiculous. He must have forgotten the fact that in the first episode THEY GOT ENGAGED! So a month later Pam would be flirting with an art school friend? That would make Pam seem awfully shallow.

    If they wanted a roadblock to Jim and Pam then they should have set up one of her professors taking an interest in her drawing ability and encouraging her to stay in NYC to pursue that.

  16. No! I can’t stand Jim and Pam together!!! BREAK THEM UP ALREADY! The show has lost so much of its fun since they are together! Why can’t anyone wait to get pregnant until marriage either? I lost so much respect for them. Keep it in your pants Jim.

  17. @ 1- Ryans’ Hobbit
    I couldn’t agree more. Writers and studios always insist that putting characters together kills the show and causes fans to lose interest, but I think more often than not it’s because it’s not done well. They either wait too long or they don’t make the relationship satisfying enough for the viewer. Who wants to sit through all the pain of watching Jim pine for Pam and then Pam pine for Jim if when they get together, they just fight all the time or are easily torn apart? Good call writers!

  18. I think switching from an “I love you” monologue to a “you should follow your dreams” monologue was much more interesting. If Pam pined for Jim throughout season 3, and they were so happy together through season 4 then it would be unlikely that she’d be interested in someone else. If she were to be, it would make her character less likable. But following her dreams we would understand and was a roadblock in and of itself.

  19. The writers most definitely made the right decision. Pam and Jim are soul mates and have gone through enough to get where they are now. They deserve to be happy with each other without anymore set backs. I also read in an interview with Jenna Fischer that she believes Jim and Pam are soul mates and shouldn’t be breaking up and getting back together. She is so right I waited three years to see this couple finally get together! No more setbacks! They deserve to be married and happy with their new baby on the way =)

  20. They definitely made the right decision. Having art guy profess his love for Pam after the audience got to see so little of him would have been a pale comparison to Jim’s pining for Pam. And to what end? So Pam could shoot the guy down and say she’s with Jim? Maybe it would have made Jim a little insecure and could have acted as a way to draw Jim and Pam even closer after she reassures him, but we’ve already seen Jim suffer because of his love for Pam. No mas! And Pam reciprocating art guy in any way would have been completely unbelievable and I’d have seriously questioned the writer’s sanity.

    As it is, art guy gave his New York speech, Jim gave the camera a look of worry and…that was it! An episode or two later Pam was flunking out of design school and back in Jim’s proverbial arms. I guess when the writers quickly realized the art guy crushing on Pam storyline was a deadend, they beelined it to the end of the NYC plot.

  21. Right choice! I love that Jam is a ‘boring’ couple. I actually find it refreshing that the writers aren’t throwing a bunch of roadblocks at them in a desperate attempt to keep them ‘interesting’. I find that tiresome. If I want to watch a soap opera, I would watch General Hospital, not The Office. What makes The Office so unique is that it takes ‘boring’ and makes it entertaining. I enjoy Jim and Pam as much today as I did in Season 1. They are still the reason I watch every week.

  22. I am SO happy with the writers’ choice. Maybe some people think Jim’s and Pam’s relationship is boring because there’s no drama, but I find it interesting for that very reason- when’s the last time a will-they-won’t-they TV couple got together and were actually just happy? That said, I wouldn’t mind seeing some problems in their future, as long as the problems arise naturally from the character development rather than being thrown in just to shake things up.

  23. No, they didn’t make the right choice. I don’t think they should have brought Pam back from NY either (gogo Pam the artist), although to be fair the Michael Scott Paper Company storyline was the best of Season 5. But I digress.

    I’m horribly sick of Pam and Jim. I find them much more interesting as individuals, apart from each other. The “happiness” of seeing them together can’t even compare to the sadness and longing and hope that prevailed in seasons 1-3. The JAM storyline is only a shadow of what it once was, and unless the writers find some way to make it interesting again, I think it has run its course.

  24. The JAM drama dragged enough of the first half of last season down.

    At least this would have had some substance, unlike teasing an issue only to say “Nah, just kidding.” at the end.

  25. Absolutely the right choice to ix-nay the art guy professing love to Pam. It would have undermined when Jim professed his love to Pam at the end of season 2. I mean how many guys are going to go around professing their love to this girl? Pam is great and all, but that would have just been a bit much….

    And Jim has definitely paid his dues pining for Pam and doesn’t need any more roadblocks or reasons to feel insecure. Pam seems to wear the pants in their relationship anyway, so I’d like to see the roles reverse a bit for once. Maybe Pam needs to feel a little insecure and lucky to be with Jim. I think that would spice things up a bit and would work well being played into a pregnancy hormonal thing.

    Overall I am glad they are together and happy, but I do miss some of the angst and would like to see a little bit of drama!

  26. Yes, because the love triangle thing would be overdone with Jim and Pam. It was just better to see Jim worried that Pam might like this new guy.

  27. I think Stephen Merchant pretty much confirmed what RS said on the episode commentary for Customer Survey, except for the internet influence on the decision. I think BJ hinted on the commentary for Dream Team that Pam at art school did not work out creatively as well as they hoped. It does seem like this story line would have been awkward since Pam’s art school time seemed to take a back seat to Holly and Michael.

  28. I still have neither read nor heard any reasons supporting why Jim & Pam being a couple has hurt their chemistry. The reason their chemistry was lacking in season 5 was that they were hardly ever together, and when they were they were never a team. In the first 3 seasons PB&J’s chemistry came almost entirely from them being together, as a dynamic duo, not from pining or lack of coupleness. They can still conspire, pull pranks, giggle, flirt, and help each other deal with everyone else’s insanity and inanity. The only reason JAM has not had their old magic is that the writers tried, unsuccessfully, to take them in other directions to stir things up. It’s had nothing to do with some sort of inherently dull nature of being a couple.

  29. It seems everyone is forgetting that the monologue from whatsisname in NY happened during the episode with the tiny bluetooth. The whole point of an “I love you” speech, I think, would have been so Jim overheard it, and the subsequent insecurity would have been the roadblock they considered. And that actually might have been nice – Pam reconsidering if only briefly the engagement once she started wondering if Jim really lacked that much trust in her. We saw inklings of this in Crime Aid, I think, with the “we are not that couple” car bit.

  30. Honestly, I hate the idea that writers make decisions based on internet response. It is thoroughly depressing to think that these brilliant writers feel they have to kowtow to the knee jerk responses of a few hundred fans online. I would hope they trusted their abilities enough to follow their own instincts for the sake of the best story. Jim and Pam in their happy bubble may be deeply satisfying for single minded devotees online, but I think the show suffers from their being set apart as untouchable schmoopies. Every time they have a talking head lately, it’s together and basically agreeing about something in an adorable way, with maybe a few mock conflicts thrown in to underline how very perfect they are for each other and how ridiculous everyone else is. They have no foibles, no Achilles’ heels– they are untouchable and as such have become separate from the otherwise interesting ensemble. In essence, they have become commentators instead of the subjects of the documentary, and it’s not as fun to watch the show now that they’re “in on it”. JMO, YMMV.

  31. Good job, writers. I think playing on Pam’s dream of being an artist was much more powerful. I don’t think Jim would have felt threatened if art-school-guy had professed his love — “I’m gonna make a bigger leap here. He is into you.” was spoken by Jim with amusement, not anxiety. Jim DID feel threatened when ASG touched Pam’s soft spot.

  32. It would have been funny to have a Cheaters-esque episode with Dwight trailing Pam at art school.

  33. I guess that Rich Sommer (who’s actually terrific as Harry Crane) might have a fuzzy memory. TV shows have three or four episodes shot in advance before one airs. They can’t change his lines for the next episode because of a strong Internet reaction. They can fine tune one episode in editing but that’s about it.

    Rich was hired for three episodes, his big speech for the second one was altered a few days before and his scenes in the third one were deleted. But Alex wasn’t dismissed because audiences felt negatively, he was there to make audiences feel negatively and remind them of the feelings between Pam and Jim, that they are a solid couple. The writers ultimately went with a milder take but the goal still remained.

    Jam’s trip to NY was required because she still had the day dream (inherited from the British show) to become a graphic artist while there were many hints she was maybe not so talented. The trip was to show she could take initiatives even if they ultimately fail rather than being Jim’s passive girl. And it paved the way for a more successful initiative, being promoted to saleswoman.

  34. Regardless of fans’ responses, Pam being tempted by Alex and/or having doubts about her relationship with Jim would have been bad writing. It would have been unrealistic, disingenuous, lazy, and cliche writing. The Office’s writing staff is way too good to have to stoop to those levels for interesting stories.

  35. 33. pranks, inc.: I agree! I still don’t understand why PB&J’s chemistry was all but eliminated in season 5. It was great to see them as comedy partners in ‘Gossip’ and its 2nd deleted scene:)

  36. I am not sure how I feel about that, but I hope Pam gets back into art soon this season. Going to be difficult with a baby, but it’s her passion.

  37. I feel that having yet another guy fall for Pam would have been overkill. We had already been through Roy and Toby’s icky crush.

    My favorite aspect of this show is Jim/Pam, and I’m thrilled to see them happy together, finally.

    These comments are cracking me up! We all have our favorite moments, episodes, storylines…and we all often differ in our opinions wildly. Read the comments for any episode out there, and you will find people who loved it and others who hated it (sometimes for the very same reason!). You know, they just can’t please all of us no matter what they do!

  38. Although I think the art school guy having a crush on Pam would have been interesting and given the art school plotline more weight, we’d need to see more development of the art school guy for us to really “care,” or least find it feasible that Pam would even think about going for him. And if the intent was just seeing an unrequited crush on Pam, we already covered that ground with Toby.

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