Sunday, April 02, 2006

The more you watch

(In this fantabulous edition, in order: "The Office," "My Name Is Earl," "The Loop" and "The O.C.")

Sometimes, spoilers can mess you up on things that have nothing to do with plot. Take this week's "The Office" -- or, rather, this week's "The Office" parodies of NBC's "The More You Know" campaign. It seems like everywhere I went on Friday, be it in the physical world or this strange virtual one, someone was going on and on about the fake ads. So when I actually got around to watching them, the surprise -- which I think was half the fun -- was gone. Still, anything involving Mindy Kaling going on and on about Kelly's love of Ryan is always funny, even if you know it's coming.

And the episode? More cringe-y than it's been lately, but still great. I watched the rerun of "Health Care" last week because Marian hadn't seen it, and the Michael then vs. the Michael now is a very different animal. The hair and makeup people have him looking better (his hairstyle last year, which you could see in Michael's blow-up birthday card to himself, made it look like he had really bad plugs), and while he's still a self-involved loser, the writers have figured out a way to make him a little more sympathetic without ruining the joke. (Again, "40-Year-Old Virgin" was like a great instruction video for them.) Best moments: anything involving Angela and Dwight, especially Ryan's stunned non-interview in response to that horrific "cookie" discussion; Jim getting Pam into trouble with the supermarket manager; Oscar randomly twirling around on the ice rink; and Michael inevitable wooing his own wife. (Maybe Nancy can give a Golden Globes speech next year that she claims Steve wrote.)

"My Name Is Earl" was pretty good, though during the alleged hostage crisis, I kept waiting for Harold Perrineau to start running around the motel yelling, "WALT! WALT! WAAAAAAALLLLLLTTTTT!!!!" Also, today's comedy equation: Joy + Breaking & Entering + Baby Bjorn = Funny.

This was probably the best episode of "The Loop" so far -- or, at the very least, the first one to be more funny in the non-work side of Sam's life. You have to admire the elaborate steps they took to set up a situation where one of his friends had to give him a hand job (though the dad side of me had a hard time fighting the "won't someone please think of the children!" reflex at the thought of this airing on a broadcast network at 8:30, 7:30 Central), and this was one of the few times I've seen a sitcom find a new laugh in the tired unrequited crush device. More comedy math: Dog + Zipline = Genius.

Finally, lots to like about "The O.C.": Summer finally, finally, finally telling off Marissa for being a selfish, spoiled, self-destructive skank; Seth and Kirsten realizing they don't spend enough time together, taking steps to remedy the situation, and having meaningful follow-up to the intervention; and Ryan talking the talk and walking the walk about ditching his savior complex. It was like the entire episode was devoted to answering fan complaints about the last two seasons. Well, most of it, I think. If I could stay awake during the Sandy scenes, I might have noticed some kind of meta-groveling there, too, but it's just so freaking dull, I can't bear it. I know it's hard to find stories for the one happily-married couple on a soap opera that's already focused on the kids, but I'd rather hear Peter Gallagher sing at The Bait Shop every week (maybe he can jam with Death Cab) than suffer through much more of this.

I'll post the "Sopranos" episode four review first thing in the morning (assuming puts it up in a timely fashion).

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