Spoilers for tonight's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I come up with a theme for this post...
I was having a debate with a friend last week over whether a two-part "Office" should be considered as something different from an hour-long "Office" (my friend's take), or if it's just a matter of semantics (mine). Having seen the conclusion of "Lecture Circuit" -- which suffered the same pitfalls that have afflicted the latter half of many "Office" hour-longs -- I feel confident about the rightness of my argument.
What happened with so many of the hour-longs (especially during that run at the start of last season) is that there would be an idea that was solid enough to carry a standard episode, maybe something slightly longer, and then after that would come the padding. There were some nice moments here in part two, like Pam lamely trying to do Michael's schtick (complete with Gump impression), but other than Steve Carell's wonderful performance in the moment where Michael finds out Holly still has feelings for him(*), all of it felt like material I would have been fine seeing as deleted cenes.
(*) Dare I call it the greatest "Office" moment of its kind since Pam had this reaction to Jim asking her out? In fairness, very few "Office" scenes ask their actors to show as many emotions in so short a period of time as Carell did here, and as Jenna Fischer did a couple of years ago. But still... wow.
Even the Dwight/Jim Party Planning Committee story, so brilliant last week, ran out of steam quickly here, and the subplot about Angela's new cat was so superfluous (and, aside from Oscar's reaction to the hairball, not funny) that it could have been cut entirely.
But if you try to consider "Lecture Circuit" as a single entity, the first half was so wonderful, and assorted moments tonight (again, watching Pam try to be Michael was kind of brilliant) good enough that I'd consider it a success on the whole. I'd just rather have seen it all at once, rather than get the majority of the greatness one week, and the leftovers the next.
And they had damn well better find a way to get Amy Ryan back after all this set-up.
What did everybody else think?