The Office: Dunder-Mifflin Infinity
They're both so good at what they do, it makes their missteps all the more glaring. We all know what the Pats did wrong. To find out where tonight's Office went awry, you'll have to follow me after the jump...
Let me start by saying that your comments regarding the reviewcaps have been heard! We are going with a lot more review and lot less 'cap. So please, if you bought tickets to my next show with the express purpose of knocking me out and carving "This is what I think of your reviewcaps" into my chest, feel free to leave the knife at home (but, you know, still come to the show; I need all the support I can get!)
Tonight's show marked the return to Scranton by former temp and self-proclaimed wunderkind Ryan Howard. I have remarked in the past that Ryan is a completely unlikeable character (like, Sith Lord unlikeable). My dislike of him only grew tonight and I plan on mentioning several times what an evil little slimeball I think he is. I want to say upfront that my criticism of Ryan the character is not a knock on B.J. Novak; it's a testament to him! He's created one of the more delightful (not to mention believable) villains on television today. Every insult I hurl at Ryan should be counted as a compliment for Novak. I feel the need to state this because The Office's characters are so connected to the actors who play them that I get the feeling longtime readers might think my dislike of a character might also extend to his portrayer.
Before we get Ryan's return, we're treated to a Jim and Pam quick-kiss at the snack machine followed by a Toby memo regarding the rules of office PDA. I laughed out loud at this both for Toby's sadly obvious motivation for the memo and because I used to teach high school and I remember our laborious rules of what constituted "inappropriate" PDA. It's always funny to see a heavily codified policy extending to something that ought to be a common-sense ruling. While I used to have to deal with 15 year olds discovering each other's esophagi in the hallway, Pam and Jim's kiss was as innocuous as a peck from your favorite aunt.
Toby was obviously using his power as the HR rep to try and keep Pam and Jim apart. What it wound up doing was outing them (to a chorus of Andy's "Tunas!" and the predictable Michael overreaction). While I enjoyed the outing and also the follow-up joke (with Toby deciding to take a "wait and see" approach to their relationship), did anyone else feel that it was out of character for Toby? I mean, part of what makes Toby great is that he really is the only voice of reason in the office. I enjoy Toby's quiet, pained expressions whenever Michael is doing something wacky a lot more than I enjoy Jim's above-it-all eyebrow raises, because Toby knows better than anybody how inappropriate Michael is. If Toby falls prey to the general outlandishness that plagues the rest of the supporting characters, I think we lose something great with him.
Please indulge me all three quotes from how the staff responded to the news. Three of the funniest lines of the night:
Dwight: "They both can do better."
Angela: "Pam is the office mattress." (Not a dirty phrase in and of itself, but maybe the dirtiest way I've heard about how to describe someone as being slutty.)
Andy: "Guess who just became the best looking single guy in the office!"
Ryan then returns still sporting his Darth Malak suit and his "Sonny Crocket" kinda-beard. The gang greets him like a little-brother done good and he responds by being his rat-bastard self and snapping at them. While I understand that he needs to try and grab respect immediately, it still seemed an inappropriate way to respond to friendly overtures. Just another reason for me to want to slap Ryan two hundred times with Dave Gordon's tiny hands.
Kelly is her usual cute and needy self by wearing an overly eloborate dress and claiming to Ryan that she's been dating lots of (mostly black) guys. He's fairly apathetic to Kelly and in a last minute move of desperation, Kelly reveals that she's pregnant. Which leads to two classic Office moments:
1) The quick cut to Kelly shaking her head "no" that she wasn't pregnant.
2) Toby's strained response to the conversation in the cubicle next-door. See, isn't Toby a lot better when he's responding to trouble rather than causing it?
I can't let the Kelly/Ryan conversation go without mentioning that Ryan, defending himself to Kelly's accusation that he didn't ever care about her, says that Karen asked him out in an email. If you'll remember, it was Ryan who sent Karen the email, not the other way around. It's this kind of attention to rat-bastard detail that makes B.J. Novak a genius and Ryan Howard someone I'd like to see the real Ryan Howard hit repeatedly with a bat.
Ryan's main reason for being at the office is to bring it into the 21st century. Things are going to be faster, more dynamic, and younger! The centerpiece to the whole plan is the appropriately lame "Dunder-Mifflin Infinity", which includes *gasp* a website and *shock* BlackBerries! It's these kinds of moments that are, for me, the most biting and satirical. There wasn't much laugh-out-loud funny during Ryan's presentation, but it was so spot on the way the future is always kind of lazily connected to "computers." Whether or not Ryan's plan will actually work remains to be seen; the important thing is that his plan is exactly the sort of plan any young executive with a d-bag $200 haircut would think up.
Any implication that tonight's episode would be about subtlety was soon short-circuited, however, by Michael's fairly predictable response. Of course, he overreacts to the situation and sets out to prove that a website isn't the answer to the company's woes. No, what the company needs is good old-fashion gift baskets! He decides that he's going to take the gift-baskets (which looked great, actually -- I'm not sure exactly what chocolate turtles are, but I really want one right now) and win back seven former clients.
The staff thinks that the idea is ridiculous, with only the newly-broken-up Dwight, using the sales call as a surrogate for Angela, wanting to go along. Now, I've never been a salesman, but I didn't think that Michael's plan was all that stupid. We've seen in previous episodes that Michael, despite being a world-class idiot, is actually an excellent salesman (what this says about sales-people, I'll leave for the readers to decide). It seemed to me that the sales-calls coupled with the gift baskets might bring some clients back to the fold and prove to Ryan that the dinosaurs actually have a little something hiding in their walnut sized brain.
But alas, no. Aside from showing us Michael's eerily good memory for his client's personal life, the sales calls were a complete failure.
It was right about here that tonight's show lost me.
I remember reading once that Robert Reed hated that The Brady Bunch had become, in his words, a farce. Now, what Robert thought he was signing on to when he read the script to The Brady Bunch is not for me to decide (best leave that to the historians). What I do know is that I felt Robert-Reed-level frustration with The Office tonight around the 9:40 PM mark. Right about when Michael... drove into a lake because his sat-nav told him to.
Let me ask you a question: has this ever happened? Once? In the history of the world? I mean, even in a country filled with "Do Not Put Hand In Blades While Spinning" labels on lawn mowers and "Do Not Spray In Eyes" warnings on Windex, is there anyone, ever, that would blindly follow sat-nav instructions into a lake?
Because I don't buy it. I don't buy that Michael could be a functioning human being in the world and also be someone who would knowingly drive into a lake.
And if there's one thing about this show that I can't stand it's when we veer into this ridiculous territory! I know it's just a show, and I know it's a funny one (probably neck-and-neck with 30 Rock for the funniest on TV), but I don't think the show needs this kind of humor. It's at its best when functioning as a pitch-perfect satire of the American working environment. When it devolves into ridiculous farce, I'm reminded, "Oh, I'm watching a sitcom" and the things that make the show special are lost to the kind of morning-zoo wackiness that any-ole-team of writers could provide. That's not The Office I love.
Of course, I'm always open to other interpretations. What did you guys think?
-- Does anyone else think that the other shoe has to drop soon on the Pam/Jim relationship? Every time they look at each other and smile lovingly, I can't help but feel like their happiness is like a red-shirted Star Trek crewmen who just beamed down to a new planet.
-- That being said, I'm almost rooting for their relationship to hit a bump. Pam and Jim happy together = boring. Pam and Jim painfully longing for each other = exciting. Sorry, but it's true.
-- Ryan trying to "downsize" Kelly and outsource customer service to India (even though -- and this is the beautiful humor that I'm used to from The Office -- Kelly is Indian) makes me wish he'd get a birthday greeting from Zinedine Zidane.
-- Who didn't know that Ryan was only asking Pam for some logo designs so that he could ask her out? It did lead to the best Jim line of the night, though: "I guess Ryan can't get whatever woman he wants."
-- On that note, I've been noticing that Jim seems completely at ease with his universe since getting Pam. I'm not sure how this makes me feel about the character. I remember Tim from the British Office having some ambition outside of the paper company and that part of the tragedy of his character was his slow acceptance that a paper salesman might be all he'll ever be. It seems that Jim, now that he has Pam, doesn't really care for much else. While Kevin and Andy admired Ryan for his new job ("You're so money and you don't even know it... but you do!"), Jim seemed perfectly satisfied with his life. Maybe this is the power of love, but, you know, is Dunder-Mifflin where anyone should really want to spend the rest of his life? I hope they explore this as the season goes on.
-- Creed. He is awesome, brah.
-- Jan. Her discussion with Michael over lunch made me think of the old Jan from early last season. I ask you, the wise and benevolent readers, do you think that her character is all over the place (crazy one minute, cold and composed the next) because the writing and acting are perfectly capturing the ups and downs of a manic-depressive or because they don't quite know what to do with Jan and her character is whatever it needs to be to fit the situation? Let me know in the comments.
All right boys and girls, that's it for this week. And look, we managed to cut out 1000 words of extraneous recap! That means you should have nothing but praise for me in the comments, right? Right!? <Looks around with same sadly innocent optimism of a movie detective who is talking about all the fun he'll have after he retires>.
|I thought it was ridiculous and stupid. This is not The Office I love.||374 (27.7%)|
|It wasn't all that funny, but I didn't think it was too outlandish.||228 (16.9%)|
|Sure it was unrealistic, but it was funny, so I don't care.||534 (39.5%)|
|I found it to be completely hilarious and dead on. I totally buy that this could happen.||216 (16.0%)|