Sunday, February 25, 2007

Saved from the cutting room floor

Today's column is the previously-referenced look at deleted scenes and how I feel they're creating alternate universes for some shows:
Where's Andy?

That's the question fans of NBC's "The Office" have been asking ever since the Jan. 18 episode, titled "The Return," when new Dunder-Mifflin Scranton employee Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) punched a hole in a wall in a fit of rage. He excused himself and hasn't appeared since.

Turns out the answer to that mystery lies within "The Return" itself - or, rather, in an extended producer's cut that was made available on NBC's Web site and through Apple's iTunes store. An added scene at the end explained that Andy was ordered to attend anger management classes.

"The Office" has been on the leading edge of a new trend involving TV shows that make deleted scenes immediately available on the Web, and producer Greg Daniels wanted to see what happened if he consigned a notable plot development to the show's on-line incarnation.

"It was the most important piece of information that we ever left out of an episode without fixing it in the next episode, and it was sort of an experiment," he says. "We had the idea that the online fans would somehow transmit the information to the fans who just watched the show, and they didn't."

Andy's stint in anger management was alluded to in Thursday night's episode and will be addressed more explicitly on-air when he returns in early April. But Daniels' failed experiment illustrates the value and risk of TV producers having this shiny new toy to play with.
To read the full thing, click here.

19 comments:

CM said...

Interesting article. I watch "The Office" deleted scenes sometimes, but it's not a regular part of my routine, and I never realize what I'm missing until I read people's comments here. For instance, I was also wondering about why in last week's episode, Jim didn't come to the art show. Now I'm wondering whether I should watch the deleted scenes at all -- will it be too complicated to keep track of what I should know from the show and what I actually know from the scenes?

bebe said...

So, are we to assume that though Karen gets interrupted when she tries to take down the flier in the deleted scene, that in the world of the show, she eventually succeeds in taking the fliers down and Jim never knows about the show, even though we never see that in either the show or deleted scenes? I don't know if I would have necessarily inferred that on my own.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Bebe, even if Karen doesn't take down the flier, the scene makes it very clear that she doesn't want Jim to go, and I think we can assume that in some way, she made sure he didn't.

Anonymous said...

What irritates me about these extra scenes is that I can't access them from north of the border. I would probably make it part of my routine if I could view them, but until NBC and Sci-fi realizes that Canadians actually watch their programs at the same time, developments in deleted scenes will remain ignored.

Dan Jardine said...

Thank you anonymous for bringing that salient point up. It drives me buggy to hear y'all talking about scenes that I, as a Canuck, am not allowed to watch. What the Hell!

Of course, it's probably as much our own fault (due to some arcane CRTC rules, undoubtedly) as NBC's.

olucy said...

Deleted scenes have never mattered much to me, but I find this information annoying. It's one thing if I want to waste a few minutes to check out The Office deleted scenes to find some amusing features with Creed on guitar. If I take time to see them, fine. I'm entertained. But I shouldn't have to track down extra features to add to my basic understanding of main storylines.

Karen sabotaging Jim's opportunity to attend Pam's art show is a significant plot point in light of everything that is going on with those characters. Why should it be reserved for people who go to the website? What about the viewers who can't access the website or who just aren't among the "media enlightened" to know that they're even out there?

Same with Andy being sent to anger management. The fact that the actor has been signed on as a regular has been announced in the mainstream press. Why shouldn't regular viewers understand why he hasn't appeared in the last couple of episodes?

And how does the producer account for the fact that in this week's ep, Karen told the cocktail party host that she's the only remaining member of the Stamford staff because everyone else was either fired or quit?

Jeez, it's just a TV show. Is it too much to ask to just tune in and trust that each episode is keeping us up to date without having to track down extra scenes to get information that should be showing up in the episodes?

Alan Sepinwall said...

And how does the producer account for the fact that in this week's ep, Karen told the cocktail party host that she's the only remaining member of the Stamford staff because everyone else was either fired or quit?

Because she immediately stops herself and adds, "Oh, and one's in anger management" or something along those lines.

olucy said...

That obviously went right by me. Thanks.

Dan Jardine said...

Still, Alan, can't you use your pull to get us, your pathetic northern cousins, access to said scenes? What's free trade good for if we can't all watch the same TV shows?

In the words of Roger Rabbit, "P-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-please?"

Anonymous said...

I agree with olucy. It's one thing to put extras online for die hard fans, but they shouldn't be forcing casual viewers to go onlne if they want them to understand the show.

Also, how does this affect the documentary aspect of the show? Normally I'd assume we're seeing everything as it's being filmed. But if they're telling us there are things that are being filmed that we aren't seeing then is the documentary supposed to be airing somewhere already and is what we're seeing meant to be viewed as an edited version of things?

Kate said...

That's interesting, because I never assume we're watching things as they are happening. I've always assumed this is a documentary of events which have already happened, at least a week or so in the past. And I also have been assuming the documentarians are making choices about their editing that color the way we see the characters, in essence making their presence another character.

In that way, the deleted scenes are ones that don't make it into the thirty minute show, because there is always far more documentary material than can fit in the time provided, in general.

But then maybe I've thought about this too much.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Another quote from Greg Daniels:

As I see it, the documentary shoots more hours of footage than they can air on tv, and the producers think that big fans may like to see some of the stuff that didn't make the cut.

Zodin2008 said...

I am in 100% agreement with olucy...this is exdtremely annoying and I am really put off by Greg Daniels' decision on taking away some pertinent information.

Andy in anger management and Karen blocking Jim from Pam's art show are two HUGE plot points and I am bewildered that Daniels' would only reveal this to online fans.

I do have an ipod and I do use the Internet everyday, but I am also a fan of "Lost" and don't go reading the top 110 Hanso foundation websites because I DON'T HAVE THE TIME. I think Daniels is risking insulting and putting off his regular TV fans by leaving out huge plot points on the TV show.

I couldn't find this whole story more annoying. If I can't find it during the half hour, I am not chasing after it. That's for sure.

Robin said...

zodin2008--Amen. I'm online at least 8 hours a day, but I don't have the time, nor the desire to watch more tv on a tiny 3 inch viewing window on a network's website.

I love that the networks are embracing multiple forms of media, but the expectation that fans of a TV show should go to the internet to pick up important plot points that they don't bother to air is ridiculous.

Andy's anger management wasn't the only important scene left out of The Return. In the same producer's cut, there was a scene that showed Jim talking to Michael in the breakroom about Andy. Jim was the one who pointed out that Andy was a suck-up. The aired show deleted this scene, which made it seem that Michael figured Andy out on his own, and at the time I thought that was a significant breakthrough for Michael's character. The producer's cut gave it an entirely different take.

I wish they'd just save the deleted scenes for the DVDs.

bebe said...

I don't know, I think folks might be overreacting a bit here, at least as far as The Office is concerned. I mean, the Karen thing is a hint at best--we still don't really know exactly why Jim wasn't there. And the anger management thing has been hinted at during the regular show, and presumably it will come out in full when Andy comes back. They're not really obliged to start featuring the character the very moment it's announced in the real world that he's staying on. I think these are cases of the more avid fans getting a teensy sneak preview, rather than leaving major plot points out. Or, perhaps the overlap between people who aren't avid enough fans to check the website, and the people who are avid enough fans to consider these things major plot points, is rather small.

Creed's musical past seems more like a weird, meta in-joke to me. Especially because it's Creed.

Zodin2008 said...

bebe,

I am insulted by the notion that I am not an avid "Office" fan just because I am not trolling the web eery night for deleted scenes. That's ridiculous. I love the show and spout its virtues to every person I know and there are few shows I look more forward to watching each week.

So, just because I am not strolling through itunes world to find deleted Office scenes somehow makes me less of a fan is ridiculous.

I think it's extremely unfair to cut major plot points out of episodes that explain certain storylines. My wife & I couldn't understand why Jim didn't show up for Pam's show and seeing the scene with Karen may have helped.

As for Andy, no, there was NO HINT. The first mention of his anger Management was the brief line by Karen at the end of last Thursday's episode. Thank God they even did that because I have been wondering for about 4 weeks what happened to this suddenly major character.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Okay, let's everybody calm down, please. Zodin2008, substitute "obsessed" for "avid" and you can see the point Bebe was trying to make.

bebe said...

Yeah, I didn't mean "avid" to be some fixed point that only the people who watch the deleted scenes online have passed. I just meant that I think most people who would care a lot about missing these small hints would also think it's worth the trouble to take a look at the deleted scenes.

You don't need iTunes to see the deleted scenes, or look every night--they're right on nbc.com, and they take somewhere between 3 and 6 minutes to watch per week. I understand if it's not your bag, but it's really less trouble than coming to this blog and reading the entries and comments.

Not trying to offend. But really, I don't think the Karen hint in the deleted scenes was any bigger than the anger management hint that appeared on the show. Also, it's a matter of opinion, but I kind of like that Andy's absence has been a virtual mystery. There are a lot of kinda "huh?" moments on this show--it's one of the reasons I like it so much.

Really, though, I think it's totally cool to just watch the show on TV and enjoy it how it is, and let their world exist for you as it does on TV. These are fictional characters, so I think it's OK for different people to see different versions of them, as long as it doesn't directly contradict, and so far it hasn't. I guess what I'm saying is, despite being one of those obsessives that watches the extra online stuff, I think this stuff is interesting but not a huge deal. Really, I meant to soothe your worries about missing out, not rankle you. Apologies.

alanna said...

Great article! I'll be linking to it on my blog. This line made me laugh:

Ronald D. Moore, producer of Sci Fi's "Battlestar Galactica" remake, has made everything short of cast baby photos available for fans to see online at www.SciFi.com.

Without getting too spoilery: last week they posted a new videoblog featuring the props department using one actor's own childhood snapshots as stand-ins for their character. A very prescient quip, Alan!

I hadn't been watching the deleted scenes for FNL or The Office, because with those shows I prefer staying within the aired universe. Your article makes me want to seek them out.