Friday, October 13, 2006

The Office: On the wings of love

Spoilers for "The Office" just as soon as I do a blind taste test of Utz vs. Herr's chips...

As soon as word got out that NBC was going to adapt "The Office," everyone's default assumption was that they would screw it up, that they would water down the boss character by making him more sympathetic, that the workplace couldn't be nearly as depressing, that there would be hugs, etc., etc.

As it turned out, Michael Scott is more sympathetic than David Brent, the Dunder-Mifflin folk hate their jobs but occasionally have fun (thanks mainly to Jim), there have been hugs in a lot of episodes... and if forced to choose between the British series or the equivalent number of American episodes in a Desert Island Disc-type challenge, I wouldn't think twice about going with Michael, Jim, Pam, Dwight and the rest.

This episode really illustrated the genius of what Greg Daniels and company have accomplished here. I frequently feel bad for Michael in a way I never did for David, but the awareness that he's just a sad and lonely little man doesn't in any way mitigate what an ass he can be most of the time. In that way, I guess my reaction is a bit like Pam. She usually can't stand him, takes advantage of opportunities to get one over on him (the coffee gag pre-credits), but she also knew that the hug request wasn't a come-on, and she had the decency to not only make the bird coffin but craft a eulogy that got at the heart of Michael's despair about dying alone. And then, just as I'm on the verge of "Awwww...," Dwight and Pam begin dueting on "On the Wings of Love." Genius.

(One question about Michael's fear: if he's been dating Carol the realtor for several months, I don't know that he'd be quite as freaked about being alone. Either the relationship isn't going nearly as well as Michael would have us believe -- not at all outside the realm of possibility -- or the writers have dropped the ball a little. I totally see Michael as the guy who won't shut up about his awesome new girlfriend, and he usually only mentions her to the camera crew.)

It's interesting to see how Jim has succeeded in creating a new Pam (and with a woman who doesn't come with her own Roy attached), while Pam is still adrift. She got Ryan and Kevin to play along with her movie reference joke, but overall she's become more of a solo act. Given her body language in the car scene, I wouldn't at all be surprised to see her take Roy back -- perhaps just in time to discover that Jim is dating Bizarro Pam.

Question of the day: Who's funnier, Stanley or Creed? Both usually get only one or two lines an episode, but they always slay me.

Back later to catch up on some Tuesday and Wednesday shows, plus "Grey's" and, if I have time to watchthem, "Ugly Betty" and "Survivor."

20 comments:

D. said...

While Michael has said he is "dating" Carol, I think he also mentioned a couple episodes back that they have been on five dates or something like that, which given that it has been three months since Casino Night (or even more by now?) indicates to me that the relationship isn't very serious at all even if it does exist.

I thought that the movie referencing scene was one of the funniest bits on the show this season. That moment where Ryan realizes what Pam is doing was played perfectly and then the fact that Kevin was playing along but couldn't keep any level of subtlety made me love Brian Baumgarten's role that much more.

Cheesesteak said...

I actually put my British v. American Offices to the test last weekend by watching the British series on DVD. And I'm afraid that I no longer would rate the American below the British, since all the British did to me this time around was make me want to watch the American.

Any dvd of the American Office is a desert island requirement

CM said...

I see Jim and Pam differently -- like Pam has come into her own instead of just going along with Jim's humor, but Jim still needs a foil even if she isn't quite up to Pam's standard.

Stanley is great, but I still crack up thinking about Creed's line about how "a man might have slipped in there."

Fred App said...

The great thing about Stanley is that he can crack me up without uttering a word. His facial expressions alone when Michael was doing his "walking down the stairs" and stealing his pencil was hilarious. No one else on TV can show so much disdain with so little movement.

Bret LaGree said...

Another good episode, but it was heavily indebted to the "Rat Funeral" episode of NewsRadio.

rick said...

All the evidence you need on the brilliance of "Creed" was a couple weeks back when he started eating Angela's (?) food and then talked to Meradith like he'd never met her. THAT is classic.

Ed Johnson-Ott said...

Check the expressions on Creed's face and ask yourself if Ed Truck really died by being decaptated by a truck or if Creed made the up the story.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I think there is every possibility that Creed made up the story. Ed Truck loses his head after crashing into a truck?

Ted said...

I agree with CM. The post-Roy Pam is much more willing and confident to initiate her own jokes/arts-crafts. There was real character development happening this episode, including the first sign we've ever seen of Roy thinking of someone other than himself.

Dan Jardine said...

I was late the the phenom of the American version of this series cuz I was absolutely certain that they'd fuck it up in the translation, soften the characters so much that they'd have no edge whatsoever. Casting seemed to confirm my fears, as virtually every character in the US version is more attractive and appealing.

Having watched the first two seasons over a three day period, I'm happy to be proven pretty much entirely wrong. Now, given the caveat that the BBC version only had about 8 hours total, including the Christmas special, to allow the characters all of their own arcs, I'd have to say that now, well into season three, that the US series has finally--like aa apt pupil--surpassed the master. The characters are more fully developed, and there are more of them to boot, but more importantly, the show remains fresh and ridiculously funny. Part of this is due to the brilliant decision to allow Jim to leave. It opens the series up, doubles the opportunities for satire, while also encouraging many of the characters to develop in intriguing and even challenging ways.

Now, as long as the show stays the course and doesn't allow any of the characters to undergo sit-com-like transformation, and continues to skewer the soul-sucking reality of office-life, I'll remain extremely happy.

Dan Coyle said...

Stanley is funnier, no question. His deadpan contempt for Michael is a thing of beauty.

Katie V said...

Stanley, definitely. Creed is just too creepy...Stanley's reactions are priceless, and the most banal lines are rendered very funny when he delivers them (like his story about ending up with two toasters).

Manuel said...

Creed all the way

MMg said...

I laughed so hard at this ep that I had tears streaming down my face...
The whole bit aboout Dwight absorbing his own twin...the robot..the duet between Pam and Dwight at the end- it was great.
The scenes with Jim were actually bordering between a let-down and a downright distraction for me and that is a first.

anon said...

ed johnson-ott,

Yes, absolutely, I thought the tag at the end would concern Creed making the whole thing up. I still assume that will be a deleted scene on the DVD.

Anon

anon said...

Incidentally, the deleted scenes available at nbc.com are absolutely worth watching. See this week's for a great Toby scene, last week's for a great Creed scene, and the Convention deleted scenes for a great Jan scene.

Anon

Alan Sepinwall said...

Re: Jim and Pam, I can see what you guys are saying. Maybe there's a position in between: they're both moving on, Jim by finding a replacement Pam who's actually available and interested in him as more than a workplace buddy, Pam by becoming Scranton's solo merry prankster.

Whatever the interpretation, I really like how the show is dealing with the split. It's not just them mooning over each other.

Dan Jardine said...

Absolutely. They're both, in a quirky kinda way, spreading their wings now that they're on their own.

I've always liked Ed Helms' work on the Daily Show, and it looks like he's gonna get a chance to create a memorable character (Andy) for Jim to bounce off of as well.

Adam said...

My favorite Stanley scene is from Take Your Daughter To Work Day:

Stanley: [believing that Ryan is after his 8th grade daughter] That little girl is a child, I don't want to see you sniffing around her anymore this afternoon, you understand?

Ryan Howard: Yes sir, yes...

Stanley: Boy, have you lost your mind, 'cuz I'll help you find it. What you looking for, ain't nobody gonna help you out there. Jesus could come through that door and it's not gonna help you if you don't stop sniffing after my child.

Chris said...

Creed's account of Ed Truck's demise seemed awfully reminiscent of Harry Chapin's "30,000 Pounds of Bananas," which, like The Office, took place in Scranton.