Thanks for a great article, Meghan.
I hope you and your readers will take a look at my reading of "The Office" and the way it's changed during the recession. Essentially, the writers have been forced to revise their understanding of what pathetic is. In early episodes, the characters actually wanted to get laid off because they thought having a job was a drag and that their lives were pathetic. Now, they're scared of losing their jobs.
They have a more mature, grateful view of employment. That maturity might also be less funny is a valuable point.