Friday, March 19, 2010

The Office, "New Leads": A-B-D: A, Always. B, Be. D, Dumping!

A review of "The Office" coming up just as soon as I incentivize murder...

Like last week's "St. Patrick's Day," "New Leads" wasn't an incredibly funny episode, but it felt like the show getting back on course in terms of tone and in terms of having some kind of bigger story to tell.

This was the first time we really felt the impact of the new ownership, as Sabre's "sales is king" corporate culture starts creating big rifts in the office, with Jim and the rest(*) treating the non-sales staff like serfs until Michael brings things to a head when he refuses to give them the new leads(**).

(*) I know there's been some complaining this season that Jim and/or Pam have become smug and unlikable, and I briefly worried that this episode would make things worse in that regard. But then we saw Jim's behavior being equaled (or surpassed) by Dwight and Stanley and Phyllis, and we also saw Jim as the one to convince the others to make a peace offering. So his soul's not gone just yet.

(**) Any mention of new sales leads means I automatically have to link to Alec Baldwin in "Glengarry Glen Ross." Have to. Don't have a choice in the matter.

Tension in the office, particularly tension that's not all based around Michael (even if Michael assumes it is, because every day is Michael's birthday), tends to lead to good episodes. It was fun to see Phyllis become so haughty, and then to see the sales staff have to bend and scrape to the others to get the leads (Stanley enduring a Ryan/Kelly argument about the Kardashians, Phyllis having to fill out meaningless paperwork for Angela, Andy getting too hot-and-bothered over Erin's Hot/Cold game), and then to see the non-salespeople unwittingly throw away some money at the sight of the cookies. (As Stanley, Leslie David Baker has a wonderfully expressive face that the show wisely lets him change only on occasion so it has more effect; the growing smile as Stanley realized what had happened with the cookies almost made the episode on its own.)

Michael and Dwight having a garbage fight at the dump didn't particularly work, in part because it was so goofy (as was Andy and Daryl's wrestling match for the pencil), in part because the green-screen effects had a very distracting quality to them. But I was glad to see the two have a heart-to-heart about how sour their friendship has gotten. (It's a situation that dates back to the Michael Scott Paper Company, though the Sabre corporate structure has only made things worse.) Michael and Dwight are the broadest of the show's lead characters, particularly in their interactions with each other, so it's important that they get to display their humanity together on occasion - even if it has to come in the same episode where they're throwing trash at each other.

Also, for those of you who missed Andy and Erin's first kiss (at the dump) because the tag spilled over into the "30 Rock" timeslot, do what I did last night and set your DVR to record the entire NBC Thursday schedule as a 2-hours-and-2-minutes bloc (because "30 Rock" then tends to spill over into "Marriage Ref"). It's incredibly annoying the way NBC lets the shows overlap timeslots, but they ain't changing, so you have to find a way to work around their annoying habits.

What did everybody else think?

52 comments:

DolphinFan said...

Outstanding episode, in that it captured how some things that would be utterly unimportant to people outside the office, mean so much to the folks inside of it. It was good that they showed examples of the salespeople being both indefensible jerks (Andy with Daryl) and defensible ones (Jim wanting Michael to shut up and sign his damn check, Phyllis not wanting to interact with Angela) and it was a good contrast to Casual Friday that Jim took on a leadership role to help end the crisis. Dwight and Michael's fight was perfectly done, combining legitimate gripes with slapstick, leaving an ending with that gross yet oddly comforting chair that fit. And the tag scene with Erin and Andy was beautifully done.

Josh M. said...

THANK YOU for bringing up the green-screen effects. I don't expect Carell and Wilson to actually film in a dump, but it looked like they were on a theater stage.

Col Bat Guano said...

A good, but not great episode. That the conflict involved an actual work situation and gave us some insight into the Sabre culture was nice. Way too much of the dump scene except that it did give us a glimpse on where Michael and Dwight are these days. Still don't care too much about Andy and Erin and I wish I had been lucky enough to miss the tag. Andy's face during the hot/cold game made up for some of that. Buying off the other staff with sugary treats was well played and very evocative of how corporate culture often works. More Pam please.

Weck said...

Loved Andy's softer version of "ra-da-da-duh-doo" at the very end.

Alan Sepinwall said...

What was most distracting, I think, is that there was a very clear border between where the physical trash ended and the CGI trash began, and anytime Carell or Wilson's heads moved towards that border, it was like they were Eddie Valiant stepping across the border into Toon Town.

Zach said...

I liked this episode, not too many laugh out loud moments, but still good. Maybe funniest was Kevin telling Dwight his leads were in the trash, and Dwight telling Meredith to take off her dress.

Two quick questions though:
1. When's Pam coming back? Hoping the rest of the season wont just be her on the phone talking to Jim.

2. Meant to bring this up last week, but think there is any chance Koechner becomes a regular on the show as a love interest for Meredith?

Adam said...

I really didn't like the episode, because I felt like the selfish and stupid behavior in the first half over the leads, and Michael's level of immaturity about them, was just so unrealistic as to take me out of the episode. It just didn't work for me.

Larry C said...

An awful, awful episode.

"Willing suspension of disbelief" notwithstanding, I couldn't get over the absurdity of Michael not giving out and then hiding the sales leads. I just kept thinking "This would never happen. This would never happen."
And then when Michael threw the leads, an asset that the new owners had just paid $50K for, in the trash and lost them, I kept thinking that Michael would be fired if this show reflected the real world in any way whatsoever.

I had similar feelings during the other parts of the episode. When the sales staff walked out of Michael's useless office meeting, I sympathized with them (even though I think I was 'supposed' to think they were being arrogant). I actually felt like this scene was harkening back to the 1st season (or even the British office), where the Michael's absurdity was balanced by the normalcy of the rest of the staff.

Hated the slapstick of the Andy / Daryl fight, and hated the Michael / Dwight dump fight.

Michael said...

If they don't have iPods by now they probably don't want one.

What a great rationalization for cheapness. Bravo Phyllis.

The rest of the episode I could take or leave. I do think we need to see the new corporate overlords punish Michael for throwing away thousands of dollars worth of leads. I understand that there have been 6 seasons of this suspension of disbelief, but tonight, maybe because the episode wasn't that funny, all I could think was how could the new regime let this guy be in charge of a branch?

Ernst said...

Your picture at the top of this post looks to be Jim at the dump. Did I miss part of the episode? Because I don't remember Jim going to the dump. Dwight and Michael were there, then Erin and Andy at the end. When was Jim at the dump?

tinad said...

Even more distracting than the green screen dump: It's 2010. Wouldn't Sabre have simply emailed the leads to Michael? Even if they were mailed, wouldn't Sabre still have the lead information?

John Sturgeon said...

Didn't like the episode at all as I didn't laugh once. I do think the show is back on the right track, however. This and 30 Rock are on the decline this year and I am really glad HIMYM, Big Bang Theory, and Modern Family are out there providing me laughs. Even Community was off last night. Hopefully the NBc comedies get back on track next week.

Kathy said...

Best line of the night...Dwight to Michael: "You couldn't handle my undivided attention!"
There has always been a balance of good Michael vs bad Michael in the story lines and last night was "I want to go through the screen and choke him" Michael. I guess the writing works if it gets me so angry at him that I want to personally grab Jim's check and force him to sign it or pick up a phone and report him to corporate!

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'm sure Sabre still has the lead information. Michael was just reluctant to call them to get new copies because he didn't want to be yelled at for the screw-up.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Your picture at the top of this post looks to be Jim at the dump.

No, that's Michael.

Ernst said...

Wow I really thought that looked like Jim. I think I need to get my eyes checked.

drbluman said...

Unless I somehow missed it (I had the episode on in the background), I'm stunned that Michael managed to restrain himself from recreating the Alec Baldwin monologue from Glengarry. You'd think he would have been waiting to give that speech from the moment he became Regional Manager, to the point where it almost seems out of character for him not to have done it.

Nicole Marie said...

While it was a mediocre episode all around, but Stanley was great! I loved his expression of glee whenever he managed to snag a lead from Kelly and Ryan during their fight. Maybe it was a bit out of character, but he seemed like he was having fun. I loved how he agreed with Kelly to score a point/card, and then heightened the argument so he could take a card while Ryan was distracted...and the smug look he had whenever he slipped a card into his jacket was priceless! I agree, it's not often that we get to see Stanley having fun, and so it makes it that much funnier when we do.

Also, Kevin's reaction to Meredith being the "trash" was great, as was her "it's coming off, either way." So it might not have been a great episode as far as the primary plot went, the secondary office characters had some fantastic moments.

George said...

I've really been liking The Office since the baby episode, not that the baby has had anything to do with my appreciation of the show, well, maybe, I really don't like Pam anymore, but this was another strong episode. I'm hesitant to say the show is reverting back to it's original, naturalist tone, because half the episode was set as a scavenger hunt in a dump, but you can sense the comedy coming from a more normal place than the tragedy of Michael, insanity of Dwight or the chaos of a takeover.

It's always good to see the office turning in on itself rather than it be Michael vs everybody else, it does provide the funnies and it gives the standard dynamic a break for an episode.

The Salesmen and Phyllis were rivaling Ryan in their douche level, especially Phyllis. I know Angela has treated her badly over the years, I hope the original Party Panning Committee comes back, but she seems a moral sort of gal, and I'm sure Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration makes enough money so she could comfortably eat the 2% giveaway. You're right though, Alan, Stanley's moment of realisation was gold.

Another great moment was Jim, Kelly and Oscar with the baby pictures, so subtle, but hilarious.

I look forward to the next episode, which before the baby episode I can't say I thought to much.

Andy and Erin, how romantic, a dump!

Jim said...

I liked this episode. In a lot of ways, like Dwight's great talking head one-liners, it felt like a throwback. Has Michael ever gotten so angry, as opposed to hurt, at Jim as in the Johnny Depp scene? Mean Phyllis and relieved and Kardashian Stanley cracked me up. But what is the deal with Jenna Fischer? Is she making a movie? Is that how they timed the baby/maternity leave?

(the weak special effects at the dump were a problem, but Dwight saying "This place has gone to hell" and Erin giving Andy her jacket cracked me up)

Bryan said...

the green screen - I knew something wasnt' right but I'd had a couple cocktails.

I agree it was a little better last night- loved the very well done Erin/Andy hidden leads scene behind her desk. I've known some women that would've hidden those leads in a less approprate place and I, like Andy, wasn't sure how far Erin would take it, so I was giggling and nervous right along with him.

forg/jecoup said...

I also want to note that I think this is the first time we saw Toby again right? He was MIA the past episodes.

I like the episode, I love the Michael-Dwight showdown

Anonymous said...

I disagree with others in that I liked this episode. It wasn't as funny as some in years past, but it seemed necessary to bring everyone in the office back together and confront issues (not just stuff from the Sabre company). This seemed like a wake-up call to everyone, and it gives me hope that some of the things that haven't been working lately, Dwight, Jim and Pam, might get back on track.

And as much as I usually gripe about Michael doing things that would get him fired, I really don't think it will be a big deal to call Sabre and say some of the leads were misplaced and have them e-mail/fax/ship them over again.

Oh, and thanks to NBC and my DVR I missed endings to both Parks and Rec and the Office, so I'll try that trick out for next week.

belinda said...

It's a good if somewhat average episode, but because this season has been so bumpy, it's definitely one of the better episodes.

I'm sure Sabre still has the lead information. Michael was just reluctant to call them to get new copies because he didn't want to be yelled at for the screw-up.

The thought definitely occurred to me when Michael realized what happened, but because I really liked the dump scenes (with Michael/Dwight and Andy/Erin), I don't mind that the logic isn't really there (even if Michael doesn't realize that he could get another copy, the entire office missing this? is silly).

ozski said...

I love the comment from Erin that "people like shells from far-away beaches." She has really become one of the most absurd and complex characters in a show FULL of absurd and complex characters! Also, I can't wait to see where she and Andy are headed love-wise..

Anonymous said...

Alan, are you suggesting we tape Community as a two-hour block to get everything? Won't we lose the other three shows when Community is a rerun and not picked up by the DVR? I guess it's just me being lazy, but I'm sure I'd forget to check every week if Community was new and then reprogram my DVR to get the other shows.

Bobman said...

The Andy / Erin hot/cold scene had me laughing really hard for some reason. They both played it perfectly, and while the NardDog can be a little too over-the-top sometimes, it paid off in that moment.

Anonymous said...

I think that you guys are missing one point with your comments that Michael could have received a copy of the sales leads from Sabre. It's not even that he didn't want to call and admit his screw-up. Recall that the whole reason for the business with the leads was that Michael was unhappy with the atmosphere in the office. So losing the leads and then going on a scavenger hunt at the dump was all part of his "master plan" to "make things right." Now you may say that the salespeople could have realized that there is a copy of the leads at the Sabre office but would they be willing to go over Michael's head? It's certainly conceivable to me that their internal calculation would determine that the answer is "no" and they had to go along with his "plan" until it involved them actually going to the dump.

Steve said...

I enjoyed the episode but I think that it is getting stale as do a lot of comedies.

I think it also has to do with the brilliance of Michael Schur leaving to do P&R which is now funnier, and is on right before The Office.

My biggest problem with The Office right now is that it's wasting some potential. Kelly is completely underused, as she is the one that makes me laugh the most consistently. I get that Mindy Kaling is a head writer and so it is tough to handle two jobs at once, but the show needs to find a way to make her more prominent.

Her pop culture obsession and her fights with Ryan always make me laugh.

"Now THAT'S Italian!"

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, are you suggesting we tape Community as a two-hour block to get everything?

That's what I did last night because I was in a hurry, but many DVRs allow you to set up a manual recording (either one-time or repeating), so you could just tell it to record your NBC affiliate from 8-10:02 every Thursday. Some weeks, that means it'll catch reruns for you, but so be it.

The other option, if you have two tuners and don't record anything else on the night (which I do, and so can't use), is to just pad every season pass by two minutes.

Mark said...

Not that NBC needs (or deserves) a defense, but they're not the only one guilty of time-slot overlap. I missed the beginning of the premiere of Parenthood because Lost ran long that night.

GregP said...

Terrible, terrible, terrible.

The shark has flown half way around the moon.

I used to love this show. Now I only watch because I keep hoping it will stop sucking.

Scott said...

I really was digging the first half of the episode, then it went to garbage. The green screen was unbelievably awful. It took me out of the scene. I enjoyed pompous Phyllis a great deal. It's not that the Office is horrible, but the standards are high, and it's really disappointing when they churn out a slew subpar episodes. Did everyone who was funny leave the show?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I missed the beginning of the premiere of Parenthood because Lost ran long that night.

That's annoying, too, but the difference is that ABC lets the listing services know about the two-minute overrun, so your DVR will know to record it. NBC claims its Thursday sitcoms start and end on the half-hour, which just ain't the case. So unless you record all of them (plus Marriage Ref), you'll miss some or all of the end scenes of each show. And even if you record them all individually, you may have a joke cut off in mid-sentence, and maybe or maybe not completed at the start of the next recording.

tribalism said...

Favourite line of the night:

"Stop sexting Pam."

You don't even need to give Creed lines to ensure that he's hilarious. The new glasses he was sporting right after the Lost and Found went missing were great.

If anyone is interested, you can find more of my thoughts on this episode at my blog where I go into detail about Darryl's future in the office as well as why I'm satisfied with how the Nard Dog and Erin's relationship is progressing. Click my username for the link.

Ed said...

Leslie David Baker is a name better suited for a pasty white Englishman, isn't it*?

(* see 30 Rock review)

iamnoahjames.com said...

I thought Phyllis calling "Michael" numbnuts was out of line, even IF you have a boss like Michael. Her character was way too crappy for my taste, and seemed out of place for her.

The problem with the green screen is this show really shouldn't EVER use it. With the reality that this show is trying to portray, having something SO fake takes you out of the documentary feel of it. It's different when you have a Human Target, or a show that's world is obviously fake.

That said, I loved the episode. I love the hot/cold game (along with Andy's concerned face that she hid it dirty, so he was scared to touch her, even if she seemed excited), and the kiss at the end was wonderful - complete with his nervous song at the end.

Ed said...

And has anybody noticed how many shows have been mentioning other TV shows on different networks.

Last week, Community mentioned Glee, Scrubs mentioned Big Bang Theory and The Office spoke of HIMYM. And now on this episode, The Office talked about The Ghost Whisperer.

Ryan said...

Great episode. Andy/Erin were so funny when they were playing Hot/Cold. Andy's face was priceless!

Flap Jackson said...

The first half of the episode was pretty good, and the rest was a little blah.

But here's the problem I had last night: Why were Andy & Erin at the dump? There was no reason for them to be there! Michael had already returned to The Office and it was clear that the leads were gone. Plus, Andy already got the leads from Erin anyways. So why were they at the dump? Is Andy that desperate to get away from Erin's foster brother that he'll go to the dump for a date? Small quibble, but it bothered me, a LOT.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm in the minority because I thought this episode was a classic. Not laugh out loud necessarily, but consistently amusing and while a heightened version of reality, just based enough in the realities of office politics to be a totally believable and familiar situation.

Ryan said...

Were they at the dump trying to find more of the leads?

rhys said...

I am pretty sure NBC does that spillover on purpose to screw with people using DVR. I have Comcast and my box does not let me record blocks of time, just specific shows with a setting to end the recording late (or start it early). Fortunately, my box is dual tuner and this allows me to record the last minute in two separate recordings, as the last minute in the show ending and as the first minute in the show starting.

Henry said...

I really liked this episode for the small amounts of tension between the salespeople and the rest of the staff. The one big flaw I spotted was the fact that Dwight and Michael were the only ones at the dump. It seemed like the writers couldn't bring the funny out of the situation.

Jim really showed the depths of his arrogance when he was meeting Angela and Oscar in the break room, though, eh? And Oscar called him out on it. I had to shake my head in agreement with Oscar on that one.

Imamarilyn said...

I especially liked this episode because Michael was so thoroughly unlikable. He was that way in the first few seasons, but as the show has gone on there has been too much warm and fuzzy Michael to suit me.

It's about time Phyllis busted out of her shell. I loved it when she called Michael "numb nuts," because that is such an awesome name for him.

I've worked in offices for thirty years, and the non-sales people being so easily placated with baked good was spot on.

Anonymous said...

Upon a second viewing of this episode, it APPEARS, at the end, (as the camera fades out), there's a clear trash bag with "trash" the same color as the sales leads cards. Could be wrong, but the irony would fit with the episode.

Rob S. said...

We started doing the 2-hour-plus block a few weeks before the Olympics, and are *much* less frustrated now!

Anonymous said...

Its time to forget the DVR and make the move to hulu.com

Dennis said...

I'm not saying that we can tell by a certain scene how long it took before Ed Helms knew the "ways of a woman" but it looked like he nailed it when he thought Erin was giving him permission to slide into third base:)

Myself and the ladyfriend absolutely lost it!

JMC said...

The ending w/ Erin/Andy is, IMHO, one of the sweetest most uplifting scenes ever. It proves that TPTB can move the heartfelt moments from Jim/Pam over to Erin/Andy with ease.

Consider that scene as a coda to Michael/Dwight and their thoughts of a flower growing in the dump as 'hope springs eternal'. Just awesome.

Dave T said...

I am pretty sure NBC does that spillover on purpose to screw with people using DVR.

This is a widely-repeated myth on the order of "Maddie and Dave getting together is what killed Moonlighting."

Scheduling overflows predate the proliferation of DVRs. They run shows over so that if afterwards, you want to watch something on another network, you'll miss the beginning, and be less likely to want to watch the other show. (It presumes people are viewing the shows as they air, and not time-shifting.)

As an ABC honcho said a few years ago in defense of this: it's not my job to make it easier to watch shows on other networks.

What they've done, however, is frustrate people who want to watch their own network's shows.

If they want to run The Office from 8 to 8:32, that's one thing, but they shouldn't claim it runs until 8:31.

I have Comcast and my box does not let me record blocks of time...

Try "Set Manual Recording."

Anonymous said...

Catching up on programming and am late to the party here, but had to mention that I nearly lost my mind when Phyllis called Michael "Numbnuts." Why? A former co-worker of mine once called our department director the same thing right in front of us! He was fired 2 weeks later...for performance issues. The name-calling didn't help, though.