Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Office: British invasion

Spoilers for "The Office" just as soon as I go play a few holes of Folf...

When I wrote my review of this episode, I somehow missed the memo that this was the one written by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. In retrospect, I should have spotted that, credit-free rough cut or no, because this felt squirmier by at least 10 percent -- or, roughly, the difference between David Brent and Michael Scott.

In particular, the Prison Mike scene made me cringe in a way no TV comedy has since the dance routine that got David canned in the original series. I spend far too much time analyzing the minute differences between David and Michael, and much of those nuances come from the actors. There's a kind of sweaty malevolence that Gervais can pull off without seeming totally loathsome, but that doesn't fit Steve Carell at all; witness how much more uncomfortable it is when Michael pretends to fire Pam than it was when David tried the same with Dawn. The American writers quickly recognized this, and have fashioned Michael's personal brand of cluelessness into a more childlike inability to read a room. Even when he's agressive, it's in such an obviously harmless way that the Scranton people have all learned to tune him out over the years. Screaming in Phyllis' face is just something I would never expect or want to see Michael doing.

That said, I thought our visiting writers did a bang-up job on other parts of the episode, especially the Jim/Andy/Karen/Pam non-quadrangle. Tie between "Also, do you speak Pig Latin?" and Andy's falsetto, Pig Latin "Rainbow Connection" for funniest bit. (I've sung my daughter to sleep with "Rainbow Connection" for years, and I may never be able to get through it with a straight face again, dammit.)

Whatever hurt Pam is feeling over Jim's unavailability, she still has such affection for him that she can admire the artistry in how he sicc'ed Andy on her, and verrry interesting that Jim went out of his way to make Karen an accomplice in pranking somebody else. Clearly, she knows little or nothing about Jim's previous dealing with Pam, else she would start to wonder why he knows so damn much about her. Jim, a bit of advice: in a situation like this, full disclosure is really the only way to go.

Other highlights and thoughts:
  • While I had trouble with the Martin subplot overall, I thought it was a nice touch that the hated Toby -- master of conflict resolution -- was the one who was able to calm Michael down and set everyone free without bloodshed.
  • I want to know exactly how Martin explained insider trading that convinced Kevin that this is what he does.
  • In the British series, the arrival of the merged staff eventually led to David's firing. Here, Michael's nearly halfway towards scaring off all the newbies. What terrible humiliation do you think awaits nursing mom Hannah? (And what office has a Bring Your Infant To Work All Day Day?)
  • I quoted it in the review, but once again: "Why did the convict have to be a black guy? It is such a stereotype. I just wish Josh had made a more progressive choice, like a white guy who went to prison for polluting a black guy's lake." Also, would it be fair to say that most non-Christians would trust Apollo Creed more than Jesus? I'd certainly trust Apollo to find me a really good bargain on where to eat lunch (most likely at Burger King).

What did everybody else think?


Matter-Eater Lad said...

This episode was perhaps the weakest the series has ever done -- it was like a 30-minute reminder of why I never watched the BBC Office.

Though Kevin-the-inside-trader was worth a chuckle.

Cinemania said...

I dunno, Alan, I'm no Christian, but I think Jesus would be pretty trustworthy. He was, however, a lousy judge of character. What the hell kinda means test did he have when picking the apostles? Taken as a whole, those disciples were a pack of wankers.

K J Gillenwater said...

I was very disappointed in this one. I was hoping Ricky Gervais would pull out something brilliant. However, I do think that the Jim/Pam/Karen triangle was much more developed here and was done very well.

I don't think he kept Karen from being involved with the Pam prank so she wouldn't know how much he knows about Pam or how much he likes Pam, but more because Karen can't prank and because he wanted this one all for himself. It would have taken something away from the fun and made it mean, if Karen were involved.

Also, it is clear that he is one of those guys that only feels safe flirting with someone he really likes when he or she is involved with someone else. Ah, poor Jim!

Karen's going to figure it out pretty soon, and I'm looking forward to that.

The rest of the episode was very, very miss with me. The Dwight/Andy rivalry wasn't really even touched on. The prison thing just wasn't funny. And I thought Toby resolving the 'locked in the conference room' bit was sort of a cop out. I was hoping Andy would try to break out a window or do something insane.

Anonymous said...

I really liked the episode... it wasn't as wildly funny, but it was very satisfying (the delicate Pam/Jim/Karen storyline by way of Andy's awesomeness, Toby actually resolving something, Angela's description of her safety issues). I didn't mind the Prison Mike scene either. It seemed clear from the start that most of the office is so immune to Michael now that none of it was landing. Phyllis didn't seem terrified, just amused. And it helped that Michael himself barely seemed up to the task, almost shuddering at himself.

Also, during Survivor last night, I finally figured out who Yul reminds me of -- Toby, with all the attendant weariness.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty mystified by the haters here, because I thought the episode was hilarious through and through, and found the Prison Mike stuff to be a particular highlight. You have to give Michael credit for this piece of improvisation: He got through the whole thing without saying "I've got a gun."

Anonymous said...

Scott T said: He got through the whole thing without saying "I've got a gun."

That made me laugh out loud. thanks!

I thought it was a decent episode - not the best, but decent enough. As everyone else agreed, the Jim/Pam/Andy this was awesome (Jim's facial reactions were HILARIOUS). I also really liked Michael in prison - he went from being a Crip to a Soprano during the entire monologue.

Anonymous said...

Best item of the episode was Stanley's sarcastic "Fabulous" upon seeing the infant at work. Little moments that Tivo was made for.

CM said...

Folf? Must have missed that.

I too loved the Jim/Pam subplot, a nice subtle way of bringing the characters together without having them actually talk. And I especially loved Andy. I didn't see the point of his character at the beginning of the season -- he seemed too over-the-top for the staid Stamford office, and his only function seemed to be calling Jim "Big Tuna." In the wackier Scranton office, he fits right in. My one regret is that he didn't do the Six Flags old guy dance to impress Pam.

Adam said...

Also, I believe Andy attended Cornell, but I'm not sure.