Friday, November 03, 2006

The Office: Best meeting we've ever had

Spoilers for "The Office" just as soon as I confiscate some culturally explicit pamphlets...

Think that one fell a little too far on the wrong side of the cringe-to-laugh ratio. I don't know that I've had to employ the horror movie finger shield this much since the British episode where David Brent got sacked. And as bad as I felt as Michael was proposing to his slutty cheerleader, I practically had to pull a Winona Ryder singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" when Michael leaned in to kiss Pam.

Which isn't to say that I don't believe Michael would do either of those things. His entire personality has been crafted by popular culture, and in a cheesey movie version of his life, the hero absolutely would smooch the pretty receptionist and it would turn out to be true love. (Also, nine dates in four months? I suspected Michael was exaggerating the intensity of the relationship, but that's barely better than belonging to the same book club with a woman you like.) I just don't think there was enough great comedy to compensate for the awkward! moments. Compare this one to "Gay Witch Hunt," also featuring Michael at his most unable to read a room (and also featuring Michael offering his lips to an unwilling recipient), which had me doubled over in laughter at least as often as it had me hiding behind the couch.

There were some nice little moments, especially in the cultural sensitivity briefing at work: Kelly not having the first idea what Diwali is about (and Dwight knowing too much), Pam enduring more Jim-less sexual harassment from Kevin, Toby exercising his authority in a rare moment when most of the staff didn't want him to (did you see the disappointed look on Phyllis' face when he snatched the pamphlet?), etc. Jim and Andy's drunk "Closer to Fine" duet was genius -- especially Andy's sheer joy at finding a fellow bro who likes Indigo Girls. Ryan enduring the scorn of Kelly's parents was good, and I liked the symmetry of Michael and Jim both winding up in the back of women's cars under very different circumstances.

Not a bad episode, particularly in advancing the relationships (Pam/Roy, Jim/Karen, Michael/Carol), but not this season's best. And was I the only one who viewed the Diwali Song not as a scene, but as Steve and Rainn stepping out of character to perform for the cast and crew? Because that was entirely too good to have been written by Michael Scott.

What did everybody else think?

21 comments:

Cheesesteak said...

I came away from this episode simply giggling at Andy's, "Tuna, you're kidding me." or something along that.

Overall, I agree that it wasn't the best of the season. In fact, I'd kind of rank down around "The Coup" but for different reasons. In "The Coup" it was all over-the-top Dwight but this one was painful-Michael times.

Really liked the scenes in Stamford this time around. I know they're bringing us around to a Jim-Karen relationship but I just want more of Andy.

Abbie said...

After last night's episode, I was left wondering if Michael is a 40-year-old virgin. The talking about sex, the painfully awkward attempt at kissing Pam... they point at someone who is very very inexperienced.
But it would be weird if they made Michael a 40-year-old virgin, since it's, you know, Steve Carell and he had that movie and all.
But we've never glimpsed anything about Michael's prior relationships. Do we have any evidence that he's not a virgin?

Alan Sepinwall said...

It's a theory I've broached many, many, many times in the past. I thought his post-Chile's thing with Jan disproved it, but we've since learned that he got, at best, to second base.

Cheesesteak said...

Hopefully they'll avoid that obvious parallel to 40 YOV since it's a little obvious for the writers. If anything, they may figure out how to talk about his various, inevitably, embarrassing sexual situations. For him to be next best thing to a virgin is, I think, appropriate.

TL said...

The Diwali song was a little too good for Michael. I kind of expected to see him do something like Johnny Cash's "Ballad of Ira Hayes," a song about a great Indian as a "tribute to the people of India." But that might have been a little obscure.

Jason said...

Line of the night:

"These are not my shoes."

Abbie said...

He didn't seem so painfully awkward when he kissed Jan or we saw him on the ice rink with Carol's kids... he seemed a little more experienced then. Perhaps he's just regressed with all the rejection...

Kim said...

Great, great write-up, Alan. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Also, about the 40 YOV thing. I think a realistic way for the writers to approach it would be if they showed that Michael had had, at best, maybe 2 or 3 sexual experiences. Like if he'd had an awkward one night stand or two in college, something along those lines. That would fit in with his personality/character and would also be fairly realistic. Sadly, I worked with a guy like this. He was 30 years old and had only slept with one girl in his life -- and that happened back when he was 18. So he wasn't technically a virgin, but close enough.

Chris said...

With Jan post-Chili's, Michael was coming off of a sales high and Jan was receptive. And Michael has generally been shown to be very good with kids. The awkwardness with his attempt to kiss Pam probably came from the emotional aftermath of the proposal fiasco and Pam's abject lack of interest.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think it would be a funnier twist if it turned out Michael was really good in bed, but kept driving the women away with his personality. It would certainly explain why his relationship with Carol even made it to a 9th date.

rick said...

Yesterday on FreshAir Terry Gross interviewed both Greg Daniels and Mindy Kaling (Kelly). It's a good interview and reveals a lot about the writing process for the show. If you have 40 minutes, its worth listening to...

Captain T said...

I absolutely disagree with Alan's opinion. I felt this may have been the best episode of the entire series. It perfectly captured the spirit of the British version (which is the greatest comedy of all-time). And it was not over the top or forced like so many of the episodes this season have been. As a long time fan of the Office, I find it destressing that Alan would consider "Gay Witch Hunt" the standard bearer for the series. That episode was particularly sitcommy and the comedy felt forced. I really disliked it as a season opener. Give me more EPs like Diwali any day. Please.

Anonymous said...

I think the song suited Michael, because you know that his character must think Sandler's "Hannukah" song is the funniest thing ever. And the line about the Indiian god could easily have been supplied by Dwight.

CM said...

I thought the song was just a post-credits thing, not really part of the episode (which would explain why the crowd applauded so enthusiastically). But the singing did seem in character -- remember Michael as the MC in season 1's Dundee Awards episode?

Being Indian, I found this episode HILARIOUS. From Michael's imitation of Kelly in the first few seconds ("Blah, blah, blah... super fun... it's gonna be awesome!") to Dwight's explanation of the origin of Diwali followed by Michael's disgusted comment, "This isn't the Lord of the Rings!" to the culturally explicit material to Kelly's parents trying to fix her up with the doctor and getting along with Michael until his comment about the funeral pyre... my favorite episode in a long time! I could tell Mindy Kaling wrote this one. Maybe the appeal wasn't universal.

Grimoald said...

I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure Carrell said that the song he was singing was one by the "great" Adam Sandler.

Of course it would have been out of sequence, but I think Michael Scott would be a huge fan of Sandler.

Kristin said...

I liked this episode, too, and agree that it was much more like the British version. The original "Office" had plenty of painful moments with David sticking his foot in his mouth. It was hard to watch Michael get up in front of the mike when I knew he was about to say something really, really dumb. But that made him more like a real human being and not a cariacture...which they do way too often with Michael and Dwight on this show.

I also like that Jim did not get Pam's text message. I was waiting for him to pick up the phone and have another 'Jim & Pam' moment, but, instead, the message went unread and perhaps changed the course of events for that evening.

I hope next week's episode has the same feel to it. Less absurdity and more awkwardness.

Elayne said...

I cringed at the Diwali song bit at the end, as I also thought it was forced and shoehorned (although I think CM has a good point that it was probably not part of the original plot) but mostly because I cannot stand anything that smacks of the intensely unfunny Adam Sandler. I also loved the Indigo Girls bit. And I have to agree with the others who say this was far closer to the cringe-worthiness of the British original than many other episodes.

Dan Jardine said...

I'm not Indian, but man I loved this episode. The meeting was brilliant, "best meeting ever" indeed, and the party was deliciously cringe-inducing. Carell is really in a zone with his characterization of Michael; his ability to get us to care about and feel for him even when he's doing the dumbest or more obnoxious things is a wonder to behold.

Grimnoald, as for the song, Michael said it was dedicated to (or inspired by) Adam Sandler, not written by him. It's a crafty bit of tightrope walking the show does in moments like this--mocking and honouring Sandler simultaneously. It is pretty much what they did with the entire party, poking very gentle fun at people at the party (Kelly and her sisters and parents all took some good-hearted ribbing), but also honouring them through an honest portrayal of the more beautiful aspects of Indian culture (clothes, dance, music. Yeah, so sue me. I like Indian music)

Very clever stuff.

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe no one has mentioned Creed's one line of the show. That was the best line and joke of the whole show.

velvetcannibal said...

Hey Alan, no BSG this week?

Mo Ryan said...

The almost kiss moment between Michael and Pam didn't really work for me. I dunno, I just think Michael might have attempted that -- the third time he and Pam found themselves in that kind of situation, not really the first.

What I was really expecting was a mild drunken hookup (drunken on Jim's part) between him and Karen. I guess they're saving that for sweeps.

Thing is, I do like them in a couple. In the sense that they make sense. They did a smart thing by making Karen likable and compatible with Jim -- a realistic rival for Pam. Though of course Jim and Pam are destined to be.

I bet Pam runs right back to her old fiance if and when she sees Jim with Karen though.