Friday, October 26, 2007

Comedy night done kinda right

Spoilers for "The Office" and "Scrubs" coming up just as soon as I wave to my girlfriend...

So "The Office" is back to 30-minute episodes and all should be okay with the world, right? Not so fast. I hope I can stop writing about the damn length issue soon, but they're making it awfully hard, first with those episodes that petered out a little more than halfway through, and now with a regular-size episode that was so busy and oddly paced that it felt like it had been planned as a one-hour and cut down at the last minute.

Unlike some previous episodes, the problem wasn't Michael acting out of character. His desire to prove his creative chops with the commercial made this a quintessential Michael Scott story. I just don't think the execution worked, in part because it kept bumping up against the Dwight and Andy subplot, and the semi-related stories about Dwight and then Jim getting too involved in Second Life. The commercial plot could have easily taken up the entire episode, which would have still given everybody something to do while expanding on the process of making the thing and the bumps along the way. Both of Daryl's songs were great, but I would have loved to see Daryl, Andy, Kevin and Creed (all of them with some kind of musical experience) butting heads over who'd get to lead that portion of the task, and the entire production felt rushed. Even the climax, in which we discovered that Michael had made a pretty good commercial, after all -- especially given the time constraints -- didn't get enough chance to breathe; the episode just kind of stopped. There was a chance to do an ending similar to Michael and Pam at the art show in "Business School," but there just wasn't enough time.

Which isn't to say that I've done an about-face and am now pining for the days of the hour-long episodes. I just feel that all the stuff with Dwight, Andy and Jim -- while offering up some nice moments like Dwight and Andy's joyous reaction to Angela screaming, "Oh, D!" or Pam realizing how much time was spent in crafting Philly Jim -- could have been cut (or moved to a different episode) to help make the A-story better.

I mostly said my fill on "Scrubs" in this morning's column. I still wish the writers could take a mulligan on the Kim pregnancy story, but at least I'm glad that the Elliot/J.D. cliffhanger didn't immediately turn into another installment of will-they-or-won't-they?, since we all know by now that they shouldn't. There were some funny bits -- I especially liked Kelso smelling Turk's egg-sweat, and Janitor explaining that his girlfriend Lady has "a brother named Him" -- but the show has done a lot of the other jokes before, and better (the list of J.D.'s exes, Dr. Beard-fah-say).

What did everybody else think?

25 comments:

Carmichael Harold said...

I didn't think it was a bad episode of the Office, but agree it was oddly paced. I did kind of love the ad-undercutting tag line of "limitless paper, for a paperless world".

Alan Sepinwall said...

I did kind of love the ad-undercutting tag line of "limitless paper, for a paperless world".

Yeah, that line was probably the deal-breaker for corporate. (That, and I'm sure Ryan would shoot down anything Michael came up with.)

Theresa said...

I liked the Scrubs episode, but like you, felt like a lot of the jokes were repeats. My one comment is this: I presume that we are supposed to remember that Mole Butt supposedly refers to Elliot, correct? (I never could figure out if that was J.D. trying to cover Turk's omission or if it was actually their nickname for her.) I forget exactly what the reference is (because it sort of got lost in the rehashed list), but I do recall that Mole Butt got a positive comment.

Mac said...

Well, that and that Vangelis probably would want a lot of money.

Kat Coble said...

When Michael made the "Papa Bear/Mama bear/baby bear" reference I couldn't help but think how well it reflects my attitude on Office Episode length.

An hour has too much filler; a half-hour has not enough development but a 44 minute "Supersized" episode is just about right.

(It doesn't help that NBC seems to be loading more commercial time into the show now that it's their go-to comedy hit of the moment.)

Anthony Foglia said...

I agree with you 100% on "The Office." And I, like theresa, remember Mole Butt being Elliot. Though I don't think Turk would be wondering why they couldn't work things out, and if he actually did, JD would just shrug the comment off.

But did I forget something last season about why the Keith and Elliot's engagement was so short? They only got engaged a month or two ago--the entire last season had to be less than 9 months--and Elliot's already set up the wedding?

Finally, the whole medical plot was a stretch. I'm not a doctor, but even I know not all people who get Lyme disease get the bull's-eye rash. There's playing loose, and then there's just being sloppy.

But you were right about JD being nothing but a caricature now. And tonight seems to completely undo any growth he had shown back in last season's "My Perspective."

LA said...

No analysis necessary... I simply had more laugh-out-loud moments from Scrubs than I did The Office tonight.

bingo said...

I have to disagree with you about the blending of the A and B plots in The Office. I thought they were linked together really well. The "Second Life" game wasn't just a subplot about Dwight and Jim. It provided a theme for the whole episode, in which almost every character in the office had a chance to sing, act, direct, or animate a world different from the one they really live in. These paper pushers, whose company doesn't even manufacture the paper they sell, got to create something. Even the Andy-Dwight rivalry illuminated this theme, because it seems that even Angela is trying to imagine away her real date with Andy by fantasizing about Dwight.

I do agree that it would have been awesome if this episode had been longer.

Anonymous said...

It seems a lot of the shows I love that are on the bubble, often are better off dying with an awesome cliffhanger than continuing.

As much as I loved Arrested Development and Veronica Mars, I feel that both shows' series finales were right. They left people begging for an encore that would never come, but they weren't left unsatisfied at the end.

I hope to be proven wrong by the end of this season, but as of right now, I feel"Scrubs" would've done better to have had that last season finale be their series finale. That closing moment, though maybe groan inducing for some, felt right for the show. It took the story back to its roots and its logical conclusion. And that wonder of what happens next I'm near certain will be better than whatever we're going to see this season.

Neil Young once sang, "It's better to burn out than to fade away."

When it comes to "Scrubs" and "Friday Night Lights" this season, I hope to be proven wrong, but I think I might've preferred that both shows burned out last than fade away this year.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else getting the feeling that we're being set up for a Jim/Pam reveal? As Pam becomes more independent, Jim is starting to show (shades of) insecurity. His video game character? Putting his arm around Pam when the resturant guy hit on her? This, in spite of her turning Ryan down by simply saying she's dating Jim. Pam would've turned down the resturant guy on her own.

Anonymous said...

Where's the love for "My Name is Earl"? Witty, clever, & never predictable

Alan Sepinwall said...

Where's the love for "My Name is Earl"? Witty, clever, & never predictable

Perhaps you missed the previous post.

And while I like "Earl" a lot of the time, "never predictable" is a gross overstatement.

Bobman said...

I loathe a spin-off, but we need a Janitor show when Scrubs is done. Everything out of Neil Flynn's mouth is genius.

Clifton Smalls said...

Was the Angela-Andy nuzzling a shout out to Rainn Wilson's stint on Six Feet Under?

cpennylane said...

I miss the hourlong Offices. Sorry, but I do. I don't watch Scrubs, I simply do not have time to get invested in a new show, no matter how good it is. If I haven't watched it from the beginning, or rented the DVDs over a summer, then I'm simply not going to start watching during the last season. They should put it on instead of ER, because I haven't watched that show since it turned into ER: The NEXT GENERATION.

That being said, I loved last night's episode of The Office. I stopped with MNIE because I find prison very boring. I'll catch up later. The Office, however, is appointment TV.

I think season three may be approaching greatness. Andy is becoming an excellent character -- he annoyed me at first, but now I just can't get enough. Darrel - fantastic. Michael last night didn't have anything that really stuck with me though - not like the literal powerpoint, or declaring bankrupcy or prison mike. Oh well, everyone else rocked.

Lindy said...

I'm surprised they blew up both relationships by having Elliot break up with Keith and JD tell the audience that he doesn't love Kim. I really hope they're not setting us up for a series finale reunion between the two.

Edward Copeland said...

After such an off-season last year for Scrubs, I figured they'd have a rough start trying to undo all the corners they wrote themselves into last year. However, since they know definitely that this is the last go-around, I have faith that things will pick up. Also: Re: Mole Butt. Wasn't that the one patient that J.D. got interested in but they never showed her face because she was in an MRI (or was it a CT Scan) for the entire episode?

BF said...

You're thinking of Alex, the drug-addicted social worker.

PamelaJaye said...

I loved Scrubs - maybe more cause I watched it right after Greys (and I love ER: The Next Generation! I must start using that. I think it started around season 6).

I loved that they didn't do it, that they realized what they were doing to themselves, and that Elliot chose to break up with that dull boring wishy-washy following her around like a little puppy doing everything she wanted Keith! Yay, Elliot!

JD -- I don't know what he should do but marrying Kim (who I never liked and he's finally figured out he doesn't love, thank goodness) would be the first on my list of things *not* to do.

I don't remember anything more right now, but I really did like the ep for at least those two reasons.

I have to watch it again. Before my laptop melts in the car...

Taleena said...

I really hope they leave the Jim/Pam relationship static for a while and leave the romantic angst to Dwight/Angela and Kelly/Darryl.

I miss the hour long episodes because I never thought they went on too long.

Best line of the episode: "You need to learn more about your culture - I'll make you a mix." Vintage Michael.

Anonymous said...

Andy's jingle gag got old over the course of the episode, but "Break me off a piece of that AP-PLE SAUCE" was pretty great.

christy said...

I thought of 6FU, too, Clifton Smalls!

What are the chances that the only two television examples of nuzzling-instead-of-kissing of which I am aware would involve the same actor? Who knows!

Anonymous said...

Alan,

Maybe it's time to abandon the theory that 60m = bad and 30m = good in favor of the more complex thesis that some episodes are just funnier/more polished/better than others, regardless of length?
My personal feeling is that the last of the hour-longs has been the season's best so far. But any Office is better than no Office, and all of these will seem like classics if we have to go without due to an extended strike.

- SR

Christopher said...

I thought The Office this week was very funny. No, it wasn't a perfect episode, but it had plenty of quotable moments that my friends and I have been popping off since it aired.
Of course I am watching the show as a fan and not a critic and maybe that is why I am able to accept some of the less-than-perfect parts more easily than you.
Either way, I love to read your thoughts each week and hope that you don't lose faith in the show.

max_headroom said...

I loved this week's "Office" episode, and thought there were a lot of funny moments in it! Like Christopher said, I hope you don't lose faith in the show, Alan. I love reading your comments on it (your review of last week's episode described so well what I felt about it too...not laugh-out loud funny but very affecting nonetheless), and hopefully there will be countless "Office" episodes this season that you do like :)