Co-signing on the Mark appreciation. I did like that he wasn’t some moral idealist but had flaws, despite Leslie’s idealizing of him (mostly in Season One, but we all know S01 still needed more time to gel).
But that brings me to another guilty admission: I like the first season. Was it shaky? Sure. They weren’t solid on Leslie’s character yet, and she was less liked (actually really disliked) by her fellow workers–unfairly. Still, I don’t brush aside Leslie in S01 as being “Michael Scott Lite” the way many do. I just don’t see it–she is shown to be capable and ethical, and always genuinely nice to others. A bit goofy, and needy, but not just Michael in a dress (or, more likely, a black pants suit; Leslie loved her black blazers!).
I think the cast changes were fantastic but I do wish Mark had shown up in a few later episodes–in particular, when the time came to at last design the park I mean geeze, he gave her some ideas when he left. The show was pretty great with call-backs; I’m wondering why even just his name didn’t get mentioned.