Friday, May 12, 2006

Place your bets

I had originally planned to do "Survivor" and "The Office" as one post, but figured the events of the latter were so momentous that they deserved their own entry. I'll get back to Captain America and Hydra later, maybe around lunchtime. Now, onto the doings at Dunder-Mifflin...

Can I get a "HELL YEAH"? I'm not even that big a Pam/Jim 'shipper, but I have to applaud Daniels, Carell and company for having the stones and the brains to have them confront their feelings for each other this quickly.

The mistake that all Unresolved Sexual Tension shows make is to drag things out long past the point where anyone should reasonably care whether two fictional characters ever make the beast with two backs. For some reason, the TV business has a bad case of "Moonlighting" Fever, convinced that that show was doomed the second Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd got frisky -- when, in fact, what really killed the show was the prolonged wait for them to finally, finally, finally hook up. (That and the prolonged wait for any new episodes, thanks to the slowest creative process this side of "Deadwood.") I've seen far too many shows destroyed by this panic -- I firmly believe that "Ed" would still be around if the writers had just put Ed and Carol together during season two and shifted their focus to the town -- while the only show that ever had a healthy run after will-they-or-won't-they became they-did was "Cheers," where Diane and Sam slept together at the end of season one. They, of course, broke up and got back together about 70 times after that, but the point is, the writers didn't try the audience's patience with endless teases and near-misses.

I'm not saying that Jim and Pam's kiss means they're now a couple, or even that Jim's not going to take the job in Stamford. But the show had to bring Jim's feelings out in the open, both for the sake of the 'shippers and for the sake of the other viewers who, if this had gone on much longer, would have started screaming, "For the love of God, can they just talk already?"

Now there are lots of possibilities, including:
  • Pam dumps Roy on the spot, she and Jim begin dating, and suddenly things get awkward at work because their relationship is different;
  • They could also have a Dave and Lisa-style (or Dwight and Angela-style) secret romance, or the entire office could find out and Michael's constant inappropriate comments would put a damper on the whole thing;
  • Pam backs off and goes back to Roy, and Jim takes the Stamford job, only to have circumstances (possibly a downsizing/consolidation like in season two of the British show) bring them back together.
And there are dozens of variations within that. The point is, the writers have just given themselves a lot of potential material to play with, when Jim's endless pining -- or, worse, one of those Ross 'n Rachel situations where Pam realizes her feelings for him just as he gets serious about another woman -- would have started feeling very played come fall.

And while the Jam stuff was the heart of the episode, there was so much other goodness happening that I think Greg needs to petition NBC for a super-sized timeslot every damn week. In a normal episode, would there have been room for Kevin's music video ("Haven't seen that since 1983") or poker skillz? For Michael's defense of Comic Relief ("Comedy is still very much alive.")? For Kelly's treatise on Kobe Bryant ("Maybe he did it")? For the genius that is Creed? (Not sure which I loved most: the revelation that he eats at soup kitchens, the running klepto gag, or his "I've never owned a refridgerator.")

Steve Carell wrote himself a bang-up episode, though I have to confess that when Pam and Carol met, I actually had to take off my headphones and shut my eyes until Marian said it was okay to watch again. I love that Jan actually was considering spending the night with Michael (the outfit, the overnight bag), and I love how only Michael could potentially screw up having two beautiful women interested in him. This could have been a Vinnie Barbarino-level dumb plot, but Melora Hardin and Nancy Walls played Jan and Carol's reactions so well that it worked. (And was I the only one who thought, even for a moment, that Jan and Jim were going to hook up out of desperation for what was happening with Michael and/or Pam?)

I'm not sure it would be possible for me to love this show more, so let me just rattle off a few other quotes and moments before we kiss this season goodbye:
  • "I consider myself a great philanderer."
  • Oscar hating the Boy Scouts
  • The entire telekinesis running joke (particularly the silent cut to Pam holding the umbrella for the interviewer)
  • Michael's continued hatred of Toby, and Toby's joy at beating Michael at cards. ("I'm gonna chase that feeling.")
  • Michael's entire speech about things that are and are not okay to make jokes about ("The Lincoln assassination just recently became funny")
  • Pam not connecting Michael's calls until after he gets his moronic opening joke out of his system.
Great, great, great show. Me so happy. Me want to cry.


Alyssa said...

Funny and gutting - about half way through the episode I turned to my husband and suggested that we start taping it on the DVR 'cause I'd need to watch it again later.

I was a little surprised about the revelation of feelings - because nobody does it (see GG's horrible season) but agree with you. It makes complete sense and gives them a lot of options.

I also thought that a) there'd be an awkward Jan/Jim hook up and b) that Jim would say he was going to Stamford (instead of making big declarations and c) didn't expect the follow-up kiss.

What a tremendous season!

Louis said...

I've never been more wrong than I was when, a couple of years ago, I predicted that the American Office would bomb. Even with Steve Carrell, how could it ever approach the greatness of the original?

Little did I know, huh?

Anonymous said...

You pegged my favorite moments (philanderer and the umbrella). I also loved that his dream is to live in a world where you can make a Holocaust joke. Yeesh.

Brilliant episode. I couldn't take my eyes off of it, and I actually gasped both at the revelation and the kiss. Pam's phone call to mom was perfect - realistic, touching. "He's my best friend." Absolutely heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

Marsha, technically we can live in a world where you can make a Holocaust joke. See Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" - one of the funniest episodes is called "The Survivor" and it is howl out loud funny.

As for "The Office" I thought it was wonderful to have Jim's confession. I totally thought he was going to confess he was transferring, and when he finally said his intended words I had to pause my Tivo and just GASP and SCREAM and REWIND.

Tosy And Cosh said...

Alan - I was totally waiting on the Jan/Jim hookup as well. You hit all the high notes, so there's not too much else to say. Do want to note how good the acting was--especially Jim and Pam (far too lazy to look up the actors' names) in the ending reveal scenes. Hard to pull off that kind of raw emotional honesty in a comedy (although, to be fair, easier here than it is on a traditional sitcom, where the style is so broad and theatrical to begin with--the style here is realistic to start.) The Oscar hating Boy Scouts stuff was hilarious, especially given the "Oscar is gay" tidbit from earlier in the season.

Nilbo said...

Hmm. Excellent points about the whole dragging it out thing. They DO have a wealth of material to work with, and I'm beginning to trust their instincts.

What I love about this show is that there is more misdirection in it than any Penn and Teller act. (OK, maybe not the gold standard, but is there a cool magician? David Blaine? No? K then) They are forever giving you something to watch for, something to expect ... then taking the leg away and bringing the hammer in from the other side. (Whoa - officially the most convoluted mixed metaphor-rich paragraph in history. I apologize, and yet feel oddly delighted with myself)

The Jim/Jan thing ... absolutely saw the set-up coming, went with it, prepared to feel delight/horror ... and then "Nope - psych!" ... so the Pam/Jim "I'm moving to Stamford" confessional ... OK, here it comes, he'll say that, she'll cry or .. what? How will they handle - BAM!

I love a show that so consistently surprises, even when you think you've got a handle on their M.O. How many shows can do that? How many shows have EVER been able to do that?


Cheesesteak said...

I'm so glad that there are grown men out there as excited about this development as you are. Not just you, but a middle aged man at my office (who just outed himself as an Office-lover) came up to me and started going on about it.

Anyway, I think they can't have Pam stay with Roy after that kiss. The audience would, let's say, hate her? Or at least have little sympathy left for her. I think their relationship will be a secret from the office but she will break up with Roy.

Anonymous said...

All those great moments and no one has mentioned my favorite - the name of Kevin's band. "Scrantonicity" Too funny.

Great, great episode.

Toby O'B said...

You weren't the only one expecting the Pam/Jim hook-up, Alan. In those few seconds where it seemed likely, I was already seeing it as the way to drag out the limbo in which Pam and Jim were in for next season.

I guess I'm too used to trad sitcom ways - in those, Jim would have waited until just moments before the wedding before letting his feelings be known.

Or Pam would have said Jim's name instead of Roy's during the ceremony.

Hrmmm.... Where have we seen that happen before....?

Anonymous said...

It had to happen. Fleece it out t-shirts available.

lady t said...

That finale was so great-thank the PTB for the expanded time slot,since I was yelling at Pam"You're stupid!" after Jim's parking lot confession. Glad that we had the chance to see Pam call her mom and then that kiss...!

Did anyone notice that after Angela slapped Dwight,she walked away with a smile on her face? Dwight seemed to dig that,too-so creepy. I hope that next season,the D/A hook-up is revealed to the Office gang-the Michael comments alone would be comedy gold:)

bill said...

Pam breaks up with Roy and Jim still transfers to Stamford. The friendship is seriously strained and they don't deal with it until the "downsizing/consolidation like in season two of the British show."

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Just brilliance. This is such a trifecta of a show - brilliant acting, writing, and directing (choosing when to go silent, when to just rely on the actor's reactions). Jim confessing to Pam (but not about the transfer) was nothing like i expected. And poor Jan, poor oblivious Michael, and poor Ryan (that drink order killed me - "So that's still going on?"). Kevin's band and Dwight trying to tap his psychic abilities - there's just too much to love.

I've got to suffer 3 months without new episodes - at least the webisodes will take the edge off.

So Alan (and everyone else), was this a perfect season? Was there a bum episode in the lot?

Adam said...

If NBC is smart, they'll run two episodes each Thursday from 9-10p, starting with the pilot, and really take advantage of this buzz to start with a boom in September.

Also, Alan, how late do you eat lunch? We need to discuss how much punishment Burnett deserves for that ending, and whether it might have made sense for Terry to take the risk and hand Danielle the HII. At worst, he'd have had the tiebreaker with Cirie, no?

Anonymous said...

For me, the American OFFICE is still leaques behind the British original; there's just no hint of the danger in the remake that was at the heart of the original series' humor. But it is improving and last night's epsiode was a winner. I found the Toby-Michael dynamic to be the comic tentpole. Generally speaking, I love all the secondary characters more than the leads; Michael and Dwight's stuff is just schtick, but the business with the office rank and file keeps me coming back. And yes, thanks for the kiss at the end... Prime Time TV makes us forget what two people getting together is really like. My wife found the ending clinch so romantic that she went to work today in her wedding shoes. Which are oxblood, by the way.

Cheesesteak said...

"two fictional characters ever make the beast with two backs"

Alan, that is one of the funnies lines I've ever read.

Anonymous said...

I think you've got it exactly right about Ed. They waited too long. One sitcom that managed to really change it up was Newsradio, where Dave and Lisa got together in the first episode and stayed together for four seasons with very little of the focus of their relationship on typical relationship issues.

CM said...

Oscar hating the Boy Scouts... I missed that one. Hilarious.

And I believe Creed actually said that he had never owned a "fridginator."

Anonymous said...

What about Dwight wearing the tuxedo his relative (grandfather?) was buried in? I guess it *is* an heirloom...or something!

Alan Sepinwall said...

I should add, by the way, that Marian and I are both trying to incorporate the phrase "I'm gonna chase that feeling" into our everyday conversation whenever possible.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I too will be incorporating a phrase, but it will be "dinkin' flicka"

Anonymous said...

I loved everything in this episode. ("8 maraschino cherries.") I especially loved the fact that Jim had tears in his eyes while Pam was telling him he'd misinterpreted her feelings. You NEVER see men with tears in their eyes! Made me all gooey inside.

Anonymous said...

"Scrantonicity" - Kevin's Police cover band!

Anonymous said...

I remember watching the first episode and not thinking much of it at all. I too, figured it wouldn't last. The writers of the show should be so proud of what they have here. It's the exact same feeling as when you put down a great novel and you can't stop thinking about the characters. The day after you're done the book, you're still thinking of them, wondering what they're doing now and missing them. They become real to us because they are so interesting and human and this is what this show is like to me. The last episode smashed the same-old, same-old Hollywood mold. It seems so many shows follow the same set of rules and that leads to predicatability, boredom and eventually indifference. This show is a jewel and kudos and many thanks for all the laughs so far. There are too many to recount but I will say that I want to walk down the hallways in my office yelling "REDACT IT, REDACT IT" quite a bit. Looking very much forward to September.

Vance said...

That. Was. Such. An. AMAZING. EPISODE.

Anonymous said...

Dwight's line that his grandfather had been buried in the tuxedo he [Dwight] was now wearing was lifted verbatim from a Gilmore Girls episode earlier this season. A classic.

Anonymous said...

I never EVER get tired of watching Office gotta love the Afghanistanis with guys, the Afghanistanannies. What exactly does dinkin flicka mean? I was definitely expecting Jim to tell Pam about the transfer and I'm sure thats what they wanted us to think. My heart still hurts when Jim had that single tear...I have never ever seen a guy cry on tv like natural. It's barely even a show, they do such a brilliant job of making it seem like a real documentary. All i can think now is it'll be one awwwkward Monday...I think there will definitely be more focus on Michael and maybe even Dwight next season (I think I saw something mentioning we're going to meet his cousin Mose).

I am the huggest fan of this show and i think they've definitely lived up to the BBC version and even in a way surpassed it. I think the characters in the NBC version are so much more personable and so much more lovable. Every actor is amazing, and theyre NEVER cliche.
The pilot episode was just a copy of an English episode, but after "Diversity Day", I was hooked. I love it so much more because its funny even without the really raunchy humor thats so prevalent in the British version.

Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, and John Krasinski, you're bloody brilliant.

Alan Sepinwall said...

"(I think I saw something mentioning we're going to meet his cousin Mose)"

We definitely will. When they showed that photo of Dwight and Mose on the beet farm early in the season, Mose was played by Mike Schur, one of the writers. When I did my set visit in January, Mindy Kaling (writer/Kelly) and B.J. Novak (writer/Ryan) were both saying how they've been trying to come up with an excuse to get Schur on camera for an entire episode. Since Toby's also played by one of the writers, I wouldn't be surprised if eventually everyone up to and maybe including Greg Daniels has a walk-on before the show is done.

Anonymous said...

I actually had a good friend confess his love to me in much the same way except i said...NOTHING! It was so awkward! They played it just right, I could totally identify with Pam's reaction!!! Even the tear in Jim's eye!! Oh my god! My huband and I have re-watched that at least a dozen times. You can pinpoint the moment his heart breaks when she says "What are you doing?" His acting is so subtle but so clear. Part of what made it so real is that I think Jim was going to tell her about the transfer and then figured "what the hell, I'll just tell her how I feel", after all he said he just needed her to know "once." He was already looking at the prospect of never seeing her again so why not?


Anonymous said...

Finally got around to watching this, and my favorite line was Pam talking about how being with Jim takes away all the stress of planning her wedding. Uh, duh!

Also, Creed rules. The guy, not the band.

Anonymous said...

So, no, Alan, you obviously weren't the only one thinking the Jim/Jan thing might happen. Luckily, though, the voodoo I performed when the possiblity was first brought to my attention nipped that right in the bud! ;o>

And would someone, please, please watch it again, though (you know you're going to anyways!) and tell me if they notice the look on Creed's face when the lights go out before Michael's "Light Stick Speech"...I would swear he's got the look of a kid afraid of the dark...

Is it Fall yet?

Anonymous said...

Jim's confession of Love. Pam is almost speechless, and Jim starts to cry... heartbreaking. When Jim walks away, Pam can only stand there and look down. She's looking down at her hand and fingering her ring. Consciously, she's thinking "I can't turn around and go after Jim, I'm engaged."

But subconsciously, she wishes she was not wearing the ring. So she stands alone looking down in the middle of the empty parking lot.

Pam's phone call to her Mom : Who else created the dialog of her mom on the other end of the line?