Friday, October 05, 2007

The Office: PDA, GPS and AARP

Spoilers for "The Office" coming up just as soon as I fake a pregnancy...

While this one was a vast improvement on the season premiere, it still felt too long and petered out by the end. As someone pointed out last week, I was wrong about "Casino Night" being an hour. It was actually the first of the show's 40 minute super-sized episodes, and while other super-sized "Office"s haven't always been that good, that may be a better length than an hour, allowing room for jokes like Young Creed's very long walk to his desk but not letting things drag on too long.

But enough about the length. I liked "Dunder Mifflin Infinity" much more than "Fun Run" for a few reasons.

First, turning Ryan into pure, concentrated evil was a brilliant move. It creates a new threat to Michael's job, which had been pretty secure since the merger, it creates a new dynamic in the creepy love/hate relationship between Ryan and Michael, and it's not at all out of character. There had been so many signs over the years that Ryan considered himself above not only Michael, but the entire office (the talking head where he noted that Jim eats a ham sandwich every day and therefore would never make any big changes in his life, to name just one). Seeing him return to Scranton with his $200 haircut, his stupid facial scruff and his omnipresent Blackberry made him an ideal candidate for a D-bag intervention from the "My Boys" crowd, and I loved that, in spite of his new power in the company, Michael (with help from Jan) and Kelly ("We have a date!") were both able to get over on him. In fact, by making Ryan such a jerk -- even though his ideas are sound, as evidenced by the one ex-client's reaction to the website plan -- it actually makes some of Michael's usual sabotage and incompetence seem almost heroic. Well, maybe not heroic, but I was genuinely hoping he'd win back just one client through his usual brilliant salesmanship, just to annoy Ryan further.

Second (and related to the first), while Michael was acting as ridiculous as he did last week, it was with understandable motivation. Michael believing in curses makes him into (more of) a cartoon; Michael desperately trying to assert his relevance in a digital age is just him being Michael.

Third, the handling of PB&J as a couple (the one part of "Fun Run" I liked unreservedly) continues to be excellent. Almost everyone got to present their own unique reaction to the news: Kevin's feelings of vindication, Angela calling Pam "the office mattress," Phyllis trying to protect her turf and, of course, poor Toby having his hopes and dreams crushed repeatedly by this news. And Jim and Pam's flirty banter proves that they can still be as funny as a couple as they were as best friends/pining soulmates.

That said, now that they're established and out of the closet, I want the show to move on a bit, to move the two of them out of these self-contained subplots about their new couplehood and start really involving them in the business of the office again. There was a little of that here with Ryan asking Pam to design a logo, but even that turned into a joke (albeit a funny one) about evil Ryan getting shot down by Pam and Jim enjoying a moment of redemption after having to hear Andy and Kevin go on about their man crushes on Ryan. I'm glad they're a couple now, and I don't want the writers to back away from that at all, but I'm ready for them to do other stuff.

Some other thoughts on "Dunder Mifflin Infinity":
  • After spending so much time last week reminding viewers of the documentary conceit, this episode did some odd things with it. For the first time that I can remember, we saw security camera footage from inside the building (or Dwight and Angela's conversation by the elevator), and then the crew somehow filmed Dwight and Angela's break-up date. Admittedly, they were shooting through the windows, as is the show's style whenever the crew is capturing an intimate moment that the employees don't want anyone to see, but those are almost always in and around the office; why would secretive Angela and Dwight still be wearing their mic packs on a date? (Also, I thought at first that the presence of the cameraman in the back seat of Michael's sinking rental car had been ignored, but I went back and watched and there's a brief moment where Dwight looks right at the camera and screams "Swim for it!" Either way, that's one cool and collected cameraman, for staying in the car as long as he did.)
  • I like how Kevin busts Andy for trying to get in on the "Fire Guy" inside joke with Ryan, and yet has no problem at all calling Jim "Tuna," even though he wasn't there for the one and only day in Jim's life where he got the tuna sandwich instead of the ham.
  • Michael is now reduced to writing crib notes for "That's what she said" set-ups. Love it.
  • Last week, Creed pretended to be 81 when he thought the fun run might have prize money. Now he's dumping copy toner in his hair, which was hilarious both on its own and as an excuse to bring back the Robert Loggia/Tom Hanks "Big" photo from the Foreman grill episode.
  • Poor Toby. Not only are Jim and Pam attached at the hip, but he has to endure even more Kelly/Ryan bickering. (Mindy Kaling was brilliant throughout the episode with her craziness, just as Paul Lieberstein was with Toby's melancholy.)
  • I really like the idea of Jan, intentionally or not, becoming Michael's ally against corporate, a kind of Scranton-based Lady Macbeth.
  • "I would like to see a website deliver baskets of food to people." Time to venture outside Wikipedia and the dirty joke sites, Michael.
  • I'm very annoyed that, after that hilarious fake Dunder Mifflin Infinity commercial, there wasn't an actual website up. (UPDATE: Never mind. Must've been typing it wrong. Click here.) And, sadly, DunderMifflin.com doesn't take you to that hilarious "Under construction" site Jim pointed to, but the podcast for some guy who wisely squatted on the domain name.
What did everybody else think?

41 comments:

Nick said...

Greatest line ever: "Dry. Delicious."

I swear I'm putting that on a t-shirt.

BF said...

I was really hoping they would cut back to Garbage and see him/her/it still trapped in that office just absolutely destroying the place. But then again, I'm a sucker for cats.

Was it just me or were the GPS thingy's directions not all that great? It said to turn right just as they were driving past a neverending hill. And it said to keep going straight just as the road turned dead left.

Nicole said...

I too wondered what happened to Garbage. I think there was a missed opportunity to use him in a short coda. Mind you, I don't think any cat that kills a family of raccoons can actually be contained for long.

While driving into the lake was incredibly silly, I couldn't help but laugh at Michael's blind faith in the GPS even while trying to show technology is not always correct.

I'm with you on the pace though. It did seem to stretch out a beat or two more than it should have, in almost every scene.

Creed is rapidly becoming my favourite secondary character and the way he tried to pull off toner hair dye was priceless.

Abbie said...

When in the lake, not only does Dwight tell the cameraman to "run for it", but we also see the back door of the car open and the camera moves through it before it looks in the backseat of the car at the final gift basket. (I was thinking that the cameraman was going to grab that basket.) And then, as the car is sinking, we actually see the shadow of the cameraman, camera on his shoulder, at the bottom of the frame.

Abbie said...

Also, what about Garbage the feral barn cat, cuddling into Dwight's neck? As a cat owner, that was hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I thought the whole ending with Michael and Dwight was completely ridiculous and should have never happened. Michael driving into a lake because GPS told him to do it? That would barely be funny in a cartoon let alone a show that is supposed to be a documentary. Then they walk miles back to the last office they were at to demand the gift basket back and yell and scream when one item is missing?

It completely took me out of the show and I hated it.

-Kevin

Bobman said...

I actually agree with Kevin above - the ending was just a little too ridiculous for me. Michael has always been a little over the top, and I'm always extra annoyed when he does something completely unbelievable. Driving into a lake because a GPS told him to is way too unreasonable.

I liked the rest of the episode though. Still one of the few shows that can make me laugh out loud regularly.

wryanh said...

I cannot stop giggling about Garbage the cat. What a cool guy.

Andrew said...

An hour episode is just too long. The 40 minute length works well for some episodes, but this is really a half-hour show. There was some good stuff in here (Creed, Stanley, Phyllis) that might have gotten lost in a half-hour or 40 minutes, but the hour drags.

Jesse said...

I agree with the above comments re: Michael and the GPS. TWOP made a good point about how ridiculous is is that Michael is so stupid as to drive into a lake because GPS told him too. There's a line between a character being clueless and mentally disabled to the point of being unable to stop driving into a lake, and the show went over that line.

Otherwise, the rest of the show was fine, although once again it felt like it could have been split into two episodes. The naturalness of the PB&J relationship is awesome, but it clashes with the absurdity of the Michael and Dwight storylines. Ryan is awesomely douchey, Kelly is awesomely insane, and Creed is awesomely Creed. If they'd dropped Dwight and Michael outside the office, it would have been much better

David J. Loehr said...

I agree, the hour format is just tooooo slooooow. Two weeks in a row, I've fallen asleep watching and caught up via TiVo. As good as it is, and as much as I enjoy it, it's just too damn dry to sustain an hour. (Or should be, done right.)

I'd be curious to see how 30 Rock did at an hour, because I suspect they'd manage to come up with a decent farce plot that would sustain the hour. (See "Arrested Development," or the Woody's wedding episode of "Cheers," among others.) Different style, different chemistry.

dez said...

I thought Michael drove into the lake out of sheer stubbornness, not stupidity or cluelessness (though those could have played a factor). It's like with the gift baskets--he gets an idea and sticks to it, no matter how far awry that idea goes.

Young Creed is one of the funniest things this show has done, as is Evil Ryan.

jcpbmg said...

they actually used "security camera footage" before, in the fire from season 2 when they show michael running out of the office pushing everyone else aside.

Alan Sepinwall said...

For me, the big problem with the episode's final minutes wasn't driving the car into the lake, which was goofy but also fit Michael's personality -- as Dez notes, once he puts himself on a path (say, wanting to jump off the roof and into the moon bounce), it's very hard to talk him out of it, and there was no time here.

My issue was the trip back to the client to retrieve the gift basket. That, to me, seemed like something Michael the salesman savant would never do, no matter how lousy his day had been. (Plus, as my buddy Rich pointed out when we talked about the episode, that sort of stunt could give Ryan the grounds he's looking for to get rid of Michael.)

Colin said...

I think Michael drove into the lake purposefully, so that he could go back to office and decry the horrors of technology. And didn't he actually open the door for the cameraman when the car was sinking?

Anonymous said...

Actually, "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" the NPR news quiz have had at least two and possible more questions where the answer was that someone has done something incredibly stupid, like driving off the edge of a parking structure because their GPS told them to.

So I had no problem believing that Michael, especially in the anxious and panicking mood he was in, would follow the directions off a cliff let alone down a boat ramp into a lake!

Anonymous said...

What's with Ryan trying to get with the women Jim's involved with? First Katie, then Karen, now Pam?!

Andrew said...

I thought him going back and demanding the gift-basket was within the character of Michael Scott. He was especially pissed at that guy because he had expressed interest in the website. It was clear that the gift basket hadn't worked (he explicitly said so) but the new technology intrigued him. Michael refused to fail like that, so he chose to go back and fail on his own terms. He would rather lose a customer his way than gain a customer Ryan's way.

Homertojeebus said...

I agree with everyone who hated the drive into the lake and the returning for the basket. WTF? This show dances along the absurdity line quite nimbly, most of the time, but when they veer sharply like this, it sucks. The steering into the lake could have been executed believably, if they were driving faster and the GPS had been more abrupt.
Also, WTF is with the NBC promo dept., spoilering the Kelly pregnancy joke, 2 seconds before the episode started?? What was the purpose of that? At best, to fool someone into watching for a fake reveal, but really just ruining the joke.

Kristen said...

I also had a problem with the gift basket retrieval scene. It's like Micheal's speech at Phyllis's wedding. It was pushing it too far.

I loved Kelly telling Ryan she was pregnant and then immediately cut to a talking head where she's shaking her head 'no'. Actually, everything from Kelly was great.

BigTed said...

I mostly enjoyed this episode, but it did have a lot of problems. The main trouble came from having two competing themes: One, that the mantra of "youth and the Internet will save us," as personified by Ryan, could actually destroy the heart of the company. And the other, that the company really could use a decent website, and its employees are pretty dysfunctional to begin with.

I didn't mind the car-in-the-lake gag so much, but Michael's technophobia seemed as unrealistic as his buffoonishness last week. The guy's what, 45? I imagine he's on YouTube every night watching Weird Al videos.

The other thing I really, really didn't like was the short shrift they gave to Kelly's false pregnancy claims. I believe her character would do something like that, but when you introduce a plot point so serious and awful, it doesn't make sense to simply drop it in the course of a few minutes. And there would have been much easier ways to make Ryan want to get Kelly fired.

What I did like? The very nice PB&J interactions. The fact that Ryan really does seem to want everything Jim has (and doesn't think he deserves). He's like Frank Grimes to Jim's Homer Simpson. Of course, the Creed hilarity. And more fantastic, subtle work by Angela Kinsey, whose fraction-of-a-second facial expressions expose more secret emotion than most actors can handle in a whole hour.

Tahl said...

The best part about Kelly's pregnancy fake-out was that it was basically what she told Pam in the episode about Phyllis' wedding: "There is no way it's fine. If I was you, I would just like freak out, and get really drunk, and then tell someone I was pregnant."

nfieldr said...

Like many of you, I didn't like Michael going back for the gift basket either. In fact, when they first left that office and Michael told the guy to not let his daughter eat the nuts because he remembered that she was allegic to them, I thought that might the motivation for that guy to bring his company's business back to DM(or is it DMI?).

dez said...

He's like Frank Grimes to Jim's Homer Simpson.

I would love it if Jim started referring to Ryan as Grimy! Especially if Jim & Pam invite him over for a lobster dinner.

The part with Michael & Dwight going back for the gift basket made me uncomfortable in the way some of David Brent's classic boner moves made me uncomfortable. I know people like that--hell, I know people who are pettier than that! And some are people I've worked with in an office. IOW, that scene didn't bother me the way it's bothering some people here.

Ted F. said...

One thing no one has noted about the GPS scene (which I didn't mind as much as others) was its stunning technical proficiency. That was done in one take, friends. Not quite up to the level of the car chase scene in "Children of Men," but a hell of a lot more impressive than anything I can ever recall seeing in a sitcom.

(The scene where Michael runs over Meredith last week was also pretty impressive.)

Tosy And Cosh said...

What I'm most intrigued about is the potential development of Ryan as the Big Bad of the season - and the question of whether they are setting him up for a fall or are going the "sometimes self-centered, nasty people succeed" route.

Anthony Foglia said...

I'll agree with all the other negative stuff re: Michael driving into a lake and demanding for the gift basket back. Yes, "Wait Wait" has pointed out that some people are dumb enough to blindly literally trust GPS, Michael's isn't that dumb. If he had said he was doing this because "technology is alway right", or "new things are always better", stubbornly sarcastic, then I could buy it.

Two other complaints not brought up. No more Toby reaction shots. Both of them (first after learning about Jim and Pam, the second while Ryan and Kelly were fighting) were over-the-top. I'm willing to accept the occasional look of Jim at the camera, but Toby was too much. Especially since it would have been funnier if he acted dejectedly/annoyed while not looking at the camera.

Second, was that actually supposed to be the founder of Dunder-Mifflin Michael brought? Where did Michael find him on such short notice? Why was he in the Scranton area? I kept expecting him to turn out to be some old guy Michael either knew or found who he paid to pretend to be the founder. Did that happen and I missed it?

I actually think last week's was better paced for the hour, but this week, especially the first half, was funnier.

Anonymous said...

Jim saying, "I guess he can't have every woman" was terrible. It seemed both arrogant and insecure at the same time. Totally not Jim, whose primary characteristic is that he's entirely comfortable with himself and would never be threatened by a twerp like Ryan. And it was predictable and unfunny to boot.

Kelly asking Ryan "why not?", after Ryan informs her that after faking a pregnancy he will never get back together with her, was the highlight of the episode.

I'm looking forward to seeing that Ryan drives a black BMW, the official car of the d-bag.

Anonymous said...

"I heard a joke today"

"That's very funny."

"Yes, it was."


...brilliant

Donlee said...

Can we get a "My Name Is Earl" thread up? I find "Earl" to be the best of the returning comedies this season because they're doing completely fresh things with the storyline and it's very funny and endearing at the same time.

Chrissie said...

I thought Michael drove into the lake because he saw a shark he wanted to jump over. Absolutely the low point of the entire series in my opinion.

Jim saying, "I guess he can't have every woman" was terrible. It seemed both arrogant and insecure at the same time. Totally not Jim, whose primary characteristic is that he's entirely comfortable with himself and would never be threatened by a twerp like Ryan.

I agree the line was predictable, but I didn't find it out of character. We got the sense last season that Karen made Jim feel like he wasn't up to her big-city standards, and in the finale it was implied that Jim was offered the corporate job first but turned it down to go back to Pam. So it's natural Jim would indulge in a moment of satisfaction at Pam's rebuff of Ryan.

Anonymous said...

I interpreted Jim's "I guess he can't have every woman" on a more positive note as him being proud that Pam's with him.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe no one's mentioned this... Ryan wanting to outsource Kelly Kapoor's job to India. Brill!

Anonymous said...

the face-off between jan and ryan - awesome

Anonymous said...

Yes, Jim did seem proud that Pam was with him. When he said that, it made me understand why it's called the sin of pride. It seemed totally obnoxious. The only moment in the history of the show that I didn't like Jim.

Anonymous said...

This week's episode seemed to have a different tone. It had more of a "real life example of something you might read in BusinessWeek" vibe -- someone trying to affect a giant cultural change on an already existing institution and how that affects the various relationships in this workplace, how do small companies compete in a changing marketplace, what do customers want from producers, etc.

Ryan's completely right in trying to update DunderMifflin online and he's, naturally, worried more about presentation (Infinity) than anything substantial. And this of course goes over Michael's head but Michael knows how important it is to make a connection with people in sales, which Ryan never understood because he never actually made a sale. If somehow both these dots were to be connected this would work out well, but naturally since Michael's a space cadet and Ryan's on a major ego trip it's doomed to fail.

They've had a few episodes before where they tackled workplace issues (health care, unionization, etc.) but those plots always took a backburner to Pam/Jim and the more relationshipy stuff. I hope they go the more "business school discussion" route now that Pam/Jim are together.

Anonymous said...

I can see how Jim saying "I guess he can't have every woman" may seem obnoxious, but it's also interesting when Ryan says "you're kidding" in disbelief of losing Pam out to Jim and really establishing Ryan as the bad guy. I wonder if the show will develop the Jim/Ryan dynamic further.

Sandi K. Solow said...

I'd also like to call out Toby's interest in Pam resurfacing. First he outs the couple, then tries to downplay their relationship by not giving them the "couple forms." Denial.

Anonymous said...

I also liked Dwight's weird all-starch dinner menu suggestion. But what did everyone think of his visit to Argentina being protested by the Shoah Foundation? We knew that his grandfather fought for Germany in WWII, but this is the first suggestion that he is a war criminal or Holocaust perpetrator.

Dave said...

I'm coming in a bit late with this, I know, but I'm a bit behind on my blog reading.

2 things: No news that I agree with everyone else that the hour-long episodes feel padded. I just recently acquired the Season 2 DVD set and must say that the deleted scenes are some of the best I've ever seen for any series - but it is significant that there are only about 8 minutes or so for each episode. More evidence that a 40-minute "super-size" episode is the way to go.

Second, it occurred to me last night after watching Thursday's "website launch party" episode that Michael's exceptionally wacky behavior this season may be a symptom of his relationship/cohabitation with Jan starting to slowly drive him around the bend. Just a hunch, maybe it's nothing, but it would be a great way for the writers to redeem the weirdness of the first couple of episodes this season by actually pushing it a little further and then starting to develop a subplot based on that premise.

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