Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Office: Merging can be fun (but probably won't be)

Spoilers for "The Office" just as soon as I head out to Staples to buy a salad-maker...

Well, that was... squirmy. Great, but squirmy. One of the reasons Michael has become easier to take over the last couple of years is that we're used to how he deals with the staff and they're used to him. Seeing his buffoonery unleashed on a group of unsuspecting victims was just as horrifying as it was back when the British show did this storyline. (Though with Josh gone and this show not subject to the British economic model, I don't think Michael's in danger of being fired anytime soon.) The gift bags were bad, "Lazy Scranton" was worse, but trying to shove Bizarro Kevin onto the table had me looking for something to hide behind.

But in the middle of all that awkward was some comedy that didn't have me cringing (much): Kevin's sheer joy at using the shredder (and the abrupt change of mood after the credit card bit, and, of course, "Staples"), the look of utter contempt on Stanley's face when the new black guy tried to make a show of solidarity, Phyllis' "You have a lot to learn about Scranton" when Karen didn't know who Bob Vance was, Ryan markin his territory with Jim (and putting Jim at a desk without a good sightline to Pam), Kelly's "I just told you" explanation of what's new with her, Creed putting the nursing mom's picture on his desktop, and virtually every confrontation between Andy and Dwight. Personality-mirroring, eh? I may have to try that. And even Michael's usual idiocy led to a nice, Charlie Finley's A's-style bonding moment for the staff, not to mention another sad reminder of Michael's lonely childhood.

Best of all, though, was "Was your father a GI?" Funny as that was in the promos, the reactions by Rashida Jones and Jenna Fischer made it about 10 times funnier. (I'm guessing Rashida has had a lot of experience dealing with clumsy, offensive "So, um, what are you?" questions in real life.)

The big news, obviously, is the anti-climactic Jim/Pam reunion, complete with the expected and yet not news that Jim and Karen are dating -- or, at least, "sort of seeing" each other. Unless Jim was just saying that to protect himself from being hurt by Pam (a not unreasonable possibility), then I think the writers would have been better off showing us the beginning of Jim and Karen's relationship before they left Stamford. We all knew it was heading there, and we understand why (both in show logic and Jim logic), but it's a little jarring to go from Karen's "I know he may not be that into me" monologue from last week to the idea that they are (assuming that they really are) starting to date just as Jim as returning to the same city as Pam.

I also hope that the new people don't get too much in the way of the original Scranton folk. I'm not anti-new blood, but it already feels like the very funny supporting cast doesn't have enough to do (Meredith in particular usually winds up on the cutting room floor), and while I'm sure the writers have very good ideas for the non-Andy and Karen newbies, a lot of characters I already like are going to be struggling for airtime.

What did everybody else think?

14 comments:

Alan Sepinwall said...

Also, I understand they ran a Staples shredder ad in the middle of the episode. Sometimes, product placement can be fine.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the squirm stuff. That video was the def of the word cringe.

Did anyone else feel Pam was a little bit of c--t in that last scene. I loved her look at the camera when she saw Karen rubbing Jim's back. That was great, but was she expecting, really?

One more thing about the whole Jim/Karen/Pam thing. In most sitcoms, they bring in a few people to get between the main leads, you know the whole Ross/Rachel kinda thing where we all knowthat they will end up together in the end but that have to overcome a few hurdles in the enduring seasons in between, but is the first time in the history of TV that I really care about the character coming between the two? I really find the Karen character to be sweet and a breath of fresh air on this show and I really think she's great. The point is that she isn't just the standard hurdle the lead (Pam) is going to have to fight to get to Jim.

I know Jim and Pam have to end up together, but I really hope they don't cop out with Karen's character because that would really be completely not in keeping with any sense of reality.

OK, sorry if all of you stopped reading that a paragraph ago, but I think the Jim/Pam stuff is the strongest on the show and it keeps the show from being the Michael Scott freak show hour.

Heather K said...

I was literally watching the bizarro Kevin/table part through my fingers while giggling terribly. It was so painfully wonderful.

bill said...

Also, I understand they ran a Staples shredder ad in the middle of the episode. Sometimes, product placement can be fine.

Immediately after Kevin shredded his credit card. Then 30 Rock spoofed product integration.

The Office and 30 Rock might be my current favorite hour of television.

BF said...

The "product integration" bit was funnier the first time I saw it ... in Wayne's World.

Kristin said...

I think I will enjoy very much the Andy/Dwight conflict. The two of them together are hilarious.

I think the way things went between Pam and Jim was very real. Jim left to get away from Pam. He twice gave her the opportunity to react to his feelings towards her, and she rebuffed him. I can see why he would be a bit cold to her...he doesn't want to get hurt again. And Pam is just delusional if she thinks things can go back to the way they were just because she wants them to.

As for Karen, I can tell already that she is not a good fit for Jim. She doesn't quite get his goofiness. Do you notice that she just doesn't have the same banter with him that Pam does? Jim wasn't doing his usual shtick, and I think it's because of her. The only real "Jim" moment was when he and Dwight were talking, and Jim stared at his forehead (hilarious, by the way).

I think he will try his hardest to be with Karen, but will realize that she is just not right for him. Karen can always date one of the guys in the warehouse...?
Or decide to go to New York after all. I think Jim will be a case of "he's just not that in to you."

bill said...

BF said...The "product integration" bit was funnier the first time I saw it ... in Wayne's World.

While I would be remiss in not acknowledging the massive contributions Wayne's World has made to the art and craft of movie-making--and its sociological impact on movie reviewing itself--I must point out that parodying product placement is not an original joke and even predates the genius that is Mike Myers.

Sometimes it isn't the joke, it's how the joke is told.

Elliott said...

Alan,
I prefer product placement in The Office to be a little more subtle: Such as Josh saying that he took a job at "Staples", or Michael getting a paper contract that was previously exclusive to "Staples".I didn't even mind that the "Staples" logo was visible while Kevin spoke to camera last night. But the actual staples commerical (that aired twice during the episode) seemed too much.

That said,I loved the episode and agree with you about the overcrowding. As is, Meredith, Creed, Ryan, and Toby rarely get more than one line a show. I want more of those characters, not less.

Dark Tyler said...

I think the writers would have been better off showing us the beginning of Jim and Karen's relationship before they left Stamford.

The way I understand it, Jim and Karen aren't dating yet, thus the "sort of". I think that Jim was just trying to be pro-active here; he knows Karen is into him, and he just wants to be clear with Pam before he accepts her invitation for a drink. And, in all probability, for her apartment, too.

nycbaby said...

dark tyler - "The way I understand it, Jim and Karen aren't dating yet, thus the "sort of". I think that Jim was just trying to be pro-active here; he knows Karen is into him, and he just wants to be clear with Pam before he accepts her invitation for a drink. And, in all probability, for her apartment, too."

Thats it DT, on the money. Jim is well aware that Karen is after him and had done nothing to move on that up to this point.
That was Pam's last chance right there, he didnt need to say anything to her at all but he felt compelled to go after her and give her one more chance to say something, do something to stop him before he went out with Karen.
Of course, Pam blew it. She hurt him yet again.

Tami said...

I really felt for Pam in this episode -- yes, she hurt Jim, but she's also made major changes in her life since Jim left. She's been on her own for the first time in years, she's back in art school, and she exuded such warmth to him all day only to have him step away from here. I totally see why he behaved like that, but I think her heart really broke. Now she's totally alone in the office, and she has to watch Jim and Karen flirt, and she knows it's all her fault. Wrenching.

I second the notion of wanting more Meredith, Creed, Kevin, et al. I could do with less Ryan, though. BJ Novak grates.

Dark Tyler said...

By the way, where is Oscar?

Artemisia said...

Where's Oscar? Remember the "faggy" episode? He's off travelling with his partner on the company's dime, after agreeing not to sue.

I heart this show with every cell of my being, but really, wouldn't corporate have come down hard on Michael after that? If they they took the sanctioning of Michael path, it could be funnier than the Michael unchecked path.

Dark Tyler said...

Oh, right! I had totally forgot about that.

Wow, now I just can't wait for him to return so that Michael tries to "inoffensively" introduce him to his new co-workers!

Happy times!