Friday, October 02, 2009

The Office, "The Promotion": Who's the boss?

Spoilers for last night's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I register for a toaster full of cash...

I thought "The Meeting" set up a promising new dynamic between Michael and Jim, but "The Promotion" didn't really live up to it. We saw most of these story/comedy/poignancy beats in season four's "Survivor Man," which was also about Jim assuming he can do the job much better than Michael, being proved disastrously wrong, and coming to a sweet understanding with Michael at the end. Michael's presence and undermining of Jim (in "Survivor Man," he was out in the woods for the day, tenting his pants) was new, but very predictable.

So most of the comedy and/or surprise had to come in little moments from the supporting cast, whether it was Kelly's dissection of "The Hills" ("Heidi's a bad friend, and her skin is terrible"), or the six-person talking head with Dwight and the non-salesmen, or Kevin's increasingly angry and confused repetition of "What does a bean mean?" (Note that he keeps saying it in the background of the following scene.) One of the episode's funnier moments - the acknowledgment that Creed and Meredith did, in fact... you know... - was so disconnected from the rest of the episode that it had the feel of something that's been cut out of many previous episodes and got plugged in here because they finally had the 30 seconds of room for it.

Dwight's new role as the office insurrectionist has promise, and the Pam gifts vs. money subplot was another winner, so I'm not too concerned. But this wasn't the greatest of starts for the co-managers storyline.

What did everybody else think?

38 comments:

Vaughn said...

Creed never used to sit opposite Meredith, I presume that's why the joke was there.

Gooch said...

Minor sticking point having worked in sales most of my career: Salespeople are rarely, if ever, given raises in the way indicated by the show last night. Instead salespeople are generally expected to "make their own raises" in terms of commissions. Therefore most of the drama of "who gets the raise money" felt a little false to me, like the writers either didn't do their homework or ignored general office standards for the sake of the plot.

Nick said...

Hey Alan--heard you on the BS report. Hello from Japan.

My thoughts:

I remember the first season or two of The Office being so charming and sweet because there were big laughs/emotion out of simple plotlines based on things that really happened in an office (bad bosses, annoying coworkers, "events" like pretzel day, etc.). It was a hilarious and uniquely relatable show.

Then the big sweeping changes came in as they do with most shows--new characters (Karen, Andy, etc.), "quirky" subplots (Andy/Angela, Ryan/Kelly), and bizarre settings (Canada, Utica, NYC, etc.)--and the show evolved. It was, at first, a little strange to see Michael and Dwight in NYC. But the laughs were still there.

Now the show seems to be going back to plotlines that deal with "officey" things--promotions, management, the pettiness of people in an office, etc.

I am no expert, but these plot changes (whether in new directions or back towards old ones) seem to happen in an arc, so I'm curious to see where the Jim/Michael thing pans out.

Richard Hoeg said...

Alan,

I can understand why you may have felt that this episode was going over old ground, but I have to say that I came out feeling entirely differently. To me, this was very much an episode that was focused on examining the impact a co-manager system would have on the "day-to-day" operations of the office. A situation quite a bit different from the one posed in "Survivor Man." Since actual office life is where I find the show at its most humorous, I loved the episode.

Throw in the fact that the writers have absolutely nailed down the characters at this point (particularly Michael and Jim), and you have a very real office situation (confusion at the top, dissension in the ranks) made funny by the fact that no one person is in the right. (Witness Michael's "triumphant" heart-on speech after Jim's disastrous turn.)

Though we may have seen these characters (particularly Jim) display similar characteristics before in "Survivor Man", this to me seemed like a natural evolution rather than a repetition, and I would argue that the accepting Michael of the ending scene (we all know how much he loves those mugs) is a very different Michael than we've seen before (and that Jim is on his way to being a very different Jim).

I thought it was the best episode since Season 2.

Stephen said...

@Gooch

I've worked in sales too and received raises to my base salary, though obviously commission makes up the bulk of a sales salary is. So it's not far fetched in my opinion.

Stephen said...

*sales salary.* - no is.

Anonymous said...

Sales are down for the year, so the commission would be down. Also, new clients had to be taken on by the sales team because of Buffalo's closure. So it does make some sense to want to give the sales team a raise.

Larry C said...

I thought it was a pretty poor episode.

The main plot (Jim/Michael) left me flat.
I thought the whole thing of how Dwight went into the conference room where presumably the two managers were discussion compensation was unrealistic. What Dwight did, in real world, would have been a fireable offense. I realized this is a comedy show, willing suspension of disbelief, blah blah blah, but I just kept thinking this is veering too far into absurdity.


I also felt the subplot (Pam & the registry) was also forced and pointless.

olucy said...

maybe it's just me, but I thought this was the weakest ep in a long time, maybe ever. I thought the Michael/Jim plotline would never end and wasn't funny in a typically funny or even cringeworthy way. The Pam/cash thing fell flat for me too.

Agree that the rest of the cast was left to deliver the funny, the best being Kelly and Creed.

the Stanfield Org. said...

Agree w/ Alan/others that this episode fell flat. The raise plot played out like a not-particularly-creative plot contrivance (regardless of its relation/lack thereof to actual reality; I've never worked in sales) covering already-covered terrain, and more importantly, it just wasn't funny. I laughed at the Creed-Meredith exchange, and that was it. Hopefully just a minor misfire, as I really enjoyed the previous two episodes.

belinda said...

I didn't think Pam would be tricked by Ryan that easily at the end there, especially having lived through the MSPC with him.

Drew said...

I think it covered ground that's been covered several times, but it's ground that I enjoy covering, so I was okay with going back to it. I thought it was funny and poignant, and I was glad that it stayed in the office. Last season, I have a feeling that Jim and Michael would have ended up at a strip club mid-way through the episode, just as an excuse for wackiness. I'm glad that it was contained here.

What I like about this new story arc is that it has actual implications on the future. The MSPC arc was fine and cool, but it was ultimately useless because you knew it would return things to normal. This seems far more important and will effect the show for a long time, which I like.

I think Pam's absolutely insufferable, though, and has been for a while now. It has nothing to do with Jim and Pam's relationship for me. Rather, it has to do with the fact that Jenna Fischer has become outright bad in the role, way too smug and cocky. And the fact that she was written like an idiot in the tag last night didn't help.

Still, though, I really liked the episode. This is already much more enjoyable to me than season five was.

srpad said...

I also thought this episode was kind of weak and familiar (in a bad way) but thought it was just me. Glad to see I am not alone. The high points, as you mentioned, were "What do the beans mean?!" (and I aslo heard it in the chatter in the following scene which I loved!), the random Creedith momment and the tag at the end. Crossing my fingers for next week.

Bryan said...

The weakest ep in a while I think. As a salesperson and a manager I agree with those that think sales would be the last to get raises - being on commission conventional wisdom has always been if you need more money sell more stuff.

I just couldn't get passed some of the things Jim was doing. Giving Dwight a hard time about the expense report (or something comparable) is okay if he's a coworker but as his boss it's his job. To refuse it would be a pretty significant HR issue - not something I think Jim would be doing especially on his first week of work. (Although - WITHOUT BRINGING POLITICS INTO IT - I found Dwights Glenn Beck/Rush attitude toward Jim's Barack Obama through the rest of the show HILARIOUS)

Anonymous said...

I'd have to say I thought this was on of the more disappointing episodes from the last two seasons. I feel as if the writers are trying to change Dwight, making him more of a protagonist and driving force behind the plot lines, which in my view takes away from his clueless nature and obliviousness. Jim's pranks on Dwight were hilarious because Dwight was simply too thick-headed to realize, but now framing him as the office antagonist takes away from that dynamic.

J.J. said...

The show's best "office" plots tend to be the stuff that makes a lot of sense or can be recognized from our own work experiences.

The bogus two-boss scenario just doesn't work. This is exactly the kind of bizarre premise that you'd expect generic sitcoms to come up with (and then quickly abandon after it's run its course at the end of the episode).

Imamarilyn said...

Ah, so sweet that Michael would give Jim one of the World's Best Boss mugs.

Pam is evolving. She is a sales person now, not a receptionist, so she asserts herself more. I like how we see the less likable aspects of her personality. It makes the character more real. She commented on the old picture with frizzy hair. Even her hair and ckothing have changed. She and Jim are both growing up.

rhubarb9999 said...

Not a great episode .. I actually liked P&R a lot more.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with everyone who thought this episode was a total misfire. When it ended I thought to myself, "Wow, I didn't laugh once." That never happens with The Office.

Mel said...

Last night was the first time where I found Dwight completely unlikable. Before, even when he was being a total jag, there was a certain level of entertainment to him. Last night, he was reprehensible. I would have fired him.

Curtis said...

Alan,
I found you via the B.S. Report.

This episode is a perfect example of why my loyalties have switched from the Office to 30 Rock. The writers/producers have us too emotionally invested in Jim and Pam. So, I can't think Jim's management failures are funny. They're just painful. Jim will not be endearing as an incompetent boss like Michael.

The show is no longer about the office or even Michael. It's all about Jim and Pam. They gave America what they wanted with the Jim and Pam relationship/marriage/pregnancy, but I think they gave away their show at the same time.

Thanks for your reviews. I've enjoyed reading them.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

The Jim & Michael dynamic last night oddly reminded me off Don & Roger on Mad Men.

MikeS said...

I don't think it was the Office at it's best, but it was alright. The clash of two bosses felt like a classic Office plotline to me, but the comedy hid in the details...Oscar's interview talking about two bosses, Creed's general cluelessness.

filmcricket said...

Hmmm, I didn't even think of "Survivor Man" during this episode. I was just thinking that the whole "who's getting a raise?" thing had been done much funnier (if less realistically) in the "Big Day/The Shaft" episode of Newsradio.

I did love the little moment between Michael and Jim captured in the photo, though. I like when Michael gets to be human, and that Jim's realizing that he's maybe not as popular in the office as he'd thought.

Also, Oscar's talking head was aces.

David Glasser said...

Just one question: where is Jim's office? They actually had an extra office? Didn't Charles have to set up shop in the conference room?

Alan Sepinwall said...

They built an extra office on the opposite side of the bullpen, which is why Creed and Meredith now sit facing each other. I always get confused about the geography of the branch, so I'm not sure if Jim forced out Creed, the accounting department, or both.

Anonymous said...

Does Michael have a stash of World's Greatest Boss mugs somewhere?

Puff

renton said...

There would be a problem with giving everyone a 1.5% bump?

People in our company would love that, seeing as how they've frozen our salaries for the last 3 years.

(The NewsRadio episode where someone got the big bonus and someone got the shaft was much funnier)

Tom M said...

Didn't love or hate this one...kind of down the middle. On the one hand, I liked the overall theme of Michael and Jim (whom Michael has always viewed as a "best friend") forced to work together and butting heads and then working it out. On the flip side though, as a devotee of this show who's invested in most if not all of the characters...the episode just ends with no resolution as to the raises! I remember this happening a few times before (though I admit no examples immediately spring to mind) but it's like a decent body of a story with no ending. The wedding is coming up next week so I don't know if they're gonna table this till after or address it or just gloss over it entirely, but that rankled me a little.

As far as the debate over whether Dwight committed fireable offenses or Jim abused his power with Dwight, I see that as a case of remembering that this a comedy and trying not to outthink the room. The Jim-Dwight relationship is one of the core relationships of this show. Jim could be CFO and Dwight could be a temp and the dynamic would still be the same with them trying to one-up one another. You sort of have to look at them outside the normal boss-employee dynamic because neither one (for good reason) is ever gonna take the other seriously.

Overall, I'd give this one like a 5 or 6 out of 10, pending re-watches.

Anonymous said...

The "Jim is the boss" plot was similar to "Survivor Man", but I'm glad they actually got around to continuing that story. Season 4 should have been about Jim, but with the strike his story got short circuited and then they just dropped for some unknown reason in Season 5. The guy has been there for 7-8 years. It's about time he try and move up or get out.

Number Five said...

Yeah what really jarred me was Jim's brand-new office, both because it was the first significant change to the office itself in the entire show and because there's no way the company would endure the cost and wasted productivity of installing it.

This link has a good floor plan - it's from season 3 but not a lot has changed:

http://www.lifeintheoffice.com/2006/12/18/in-case-you-want-to-rob-dunder-mifflin/

Instead of having their own desk pods, Creed and Meredith have been pushed together (I loved that joke because Meredith meant one thing, but Creed probably thought she meant something like going scuba diving or panhandling together).

I always like the somewhat grounded in reality work storylines, but the raise issue just felt too much like an easy mechanism to get Michael and Jim in trouble. Even poor managers like them know it would be unfair to distribute a cost of living increase unequally - this wasn't even a regular raise or bonus pool.

But they did do a good job of showing how disastrous the co-managers idea was - Oscar's talking head was perfect. And many organizations end up with this problem because they promote people in an effort to retain them. (Conan/Leno even!) Still some very good individual jokes, like Toby's face, Phyllis' gift idea, and Kevin's puzzling over the beans.

Number Five said...

Sorry, link to the floor plan from above

WCS said...

New reader via the BS Report...

Thought this was an especially weak episode. After Tivo-ing NBC from 8-10, I still find myself watching The Office first. Yet, I have been enjoying Community and P&R more than the Office. I'm worried it's begun to die a slow and painful death. Hopefully things pick up.

DolphinFan said...

Having read the comments before getting to watch the episode, and being delayed by real-life events from watching the show when I usually do (I saw it 24 hours later than usual), I came in with low expectations but in the end this was a really good one. Not hilarious and likely by design, but very smart about the dynamics of what would happen in an office where two people like Michael and Jim suddenly went from a superior/subordinate role to one of equals.
The things I especially liked here:
*Jim didn't take Michael's petulant, defensive crap, and in turn Michael once again showed he can be a good guy (commiserating about how he always had to make unpopular decisions by himself, and getting that mug for Jim--whose expression indicated he was happy to have both cup and sentiment).
*Dwight showed both why he's got dangerous intelligence when he fomented the tension among the non-raise receivers, and why in the end he'll blow it because Dwight and intelligence only last about as long as Michael and insight. It's similar to how Dwight nearly won Angela back outright in The Surplus before he totally blew it with that fake/real ceremony.
*We received confirmation that Michael truly has no managerial control over either Ryan (as a temp) or Toby (as an HR rep).
*After being an ass last week, Pam's seeking out cash for wedding presents was played with a nice human touch by JF. And it tied wonderfully into why on Earth anyone would ever trust Ryan with a cent, let alone $50.
*Everyone got funny lines, from Kevin's confusion over the beans, Oscar's "two Popes" riff, and Kelly wondering how she'd fix Ryan's car sans raise.
*Creed and Meredith...glad this show isn't on HBO or Showtime b/c they'd probably show that in the future!
Time for the ceremony to begin...

Jeff said...

I can't believe so many posters are disappointed with this episode. I loved it. It has a great story arc similar to the incredible season 2.

Anonymous said...

Sorry,I didn't like this episode either. Pam's asking for cash felt out of character to me. I would have liked a slower or different arc to the two boss clash. Meh. Since I own every single episode and can recite large parts of dialog by heart,I'm not going anywhere...but get BETTER office!

Puff - You asked if Michael had a stash of World's Best Boss mugs. Yes. In season one or two Dwight accidentally breaks Michael's mug. He is prepared to "clean out his desk" because M.G.S. is so upset.
Then the reveal is that Michael has a whole cupboard full of duplicates.

Shawn said...

Count me in among the people who thought this episode was flat.

Yes, Oscar's opening was aces. I liked Jim's pie graph of Michael's abilities. The ending moment between Michael and Jim was nice.

I was disappointed in Pam for giving Ryan the money. All the time she has worked with him and she still falls prey to his con.

I think the writers are sitting on gold with Pam as a new salesperson. I want to see Pam & Dwight going on a sales call with Dwight teaching Pam all of the different varieties of product DM has, but the process is made much more difficult because Dwight created a codeword cypher for all the product names, so Pam has to learn the cypher names + the product names (and Dwight will create another cypher layer since Pam learned the first one.)

I want to see Pam win a customer over, make a good sale and have a happy, confident moment.

Michele @ Rasmussen said...

This is to Gooch's comment- I have been in sales for many years myself and if you have a base salary some (not all) companies do give raises to their sales people. I believe they were talking about bonuses in this episode and companies give bonuses to sales people too, but just wanted to point out that the writers weren't farfetched.
The promotion thing I found a bit odd and I am curious to see what happens from this as the season goes by…Almost appears as if something big is coming up...

The funny part about this show is all the abnormal activities that go on in the office daily, it is not about being normal if you know what I mean.
I am an online student and a full time employee - I blog about life as a student and in general life situations. I have some blogs talking about my favorite shows...check them out. I love to have visitors and feedback.

Check out my blogs at http://www.rasmussen.edu/blogs/Micheles-Blog.aspx

Michele