"I do my best work when people don't believe in me." -MichaelI am really enjoying what "The Office" is doing right now with this Michael Scott Paper Company storyline. It's not the funniest stretch of the series, by any means. But five seasons in, "The Office" is as much light drama as it is comedy, and so it's pleasure to watch characters like Pam and Michael struggle with the implications of an impulsive decision, even if the laughs are a little light. The scene at the end of "Dream Team," where Michael has to talk a panicked Pam out of the car, was both a nice payoff to the earlier talking head where Pam explained about staying calm when your partner freaks out, and yet another reminder that Michael does know what he's doing some of the time, which means Pam wasn't a complete idiot for following him out the door. Very nicely played by Carell and Fischer.
"Dream Team" was the more overtly serious of our two episodes last night, though I also thought it was the funnier one. "The Michael Scott Paper Company" was going more for humor throughout, but the jokes about the cramped space of their closet-turned-office were less effective than the ones sprinkled through "Dream Team," like Pam trying to motivate Michael by peppering the checklist with attainable goals (big breakfast, song parody titles), or Vikram's horror at realizing that "Nana" was Michael's grandmother.
That said, "Michael Scott Paper Company" did have the hilarious Dwight/Andy competitive duet on "Take Me Home, Country Roads," Kelly's plan to make Charles want her, and Michael stewing as he listened to Toby talk in the bathroom about "Damages." There were definitely funny things there; I just preferred the funny things in "Dream Team."
I'm surprised but amused to see this latest incarnation of Ryan, who's basically a combination of all the worst qualities of Ryan 1.0 (bitter temp) and 2.0 (d-bag executive) without any of the good qualities of either. I figured that Ryan would be eager to, like Michael, shove it in Dunder-Mifflin's face by coming up with a great business model for the MSPC, but it turns out he's just a lazy tool who's 100% become That Guy. (Note that, after Pam closes the company's first sale, Ryan says, "We did it!")
The one element I'm tiring of is Jim's constant humiliations from Charles, which are getting repetitive. It would help if the writers ever gave Idris Elba something funny to do (even his hilarious talking head two weeks ago about the effect he has on women was largely funny because of the context), when instead Stringer Bell is turning out to be the more blatantly comic character.
Some other thoughts:
• I'm a huge fan of fake new opening credit sequences -- see also the intro to the otherwise-lame "The One That Could Have Been" episode of "Friends" -- and so I, of course, loved the revamped title sequence for the second episode, which managed to cleverly work in both Dwight (going to the bathroom) and Jim (photo on Pam's "desk"). Think they'll stick with that for as long as this arc lasts?
• The opening of "Dream Team" with Kevin's struggles to man the phone was great, particularly the payoff with the call being about the death of Andy's maid.
• Kevin's replacement, New Kelly (or Erin, or whatever), meanwhile, did the only sensible thing she could after witnessing the "Country Roads" duet: she ran.
• Note Charles seeing "productivity czar" Stanley reading his crossword book during the staff meeting.
• Creed, as always, makes the most out of his brief appearances, first with his absolute certainty that Charles goes to the bathroom, then with his refusal to steal the paper-shaped pancakes.
• Damn Ryan for putting the Montgomery Flea Market rap back in my head, just when I thought I had flushed it out.
What did everybody else think?