Friday, April 27, 2007

The Office: I'll be you and you be me

Spoilers for "The Office" coming up just as soon as I sign Mindy Kaling to a recording contract...

Welcome to a shaggy dog episode of "The Office," one with a bunch of plots that never really go anywhere but have some amusing digressions along the way.

In particular, the main story of what to do about the pornographic watermark had no real resolution. Yes, Creed got poor Debbie Brown fired -- And at what point do the writers take his behavior too far? Or did they accomplish that last night? -- but all we really got was Pam's suggestion that this would blow over in a few weeks, followed by Michael recording the pointless apology video. (Bonus feature: skim down to the bullet points for a transcript of the one cue card we didn't hear Michael read. Ahh, the wonders of HDTV.) No problems with corporate (this would have been a fine excuse to include Jan, even if just on the phone), nothing about the article the Scranton Times columnist was going to write, nothing.

Now, this isn't a plot of great importance within the grand scheme of the show -- it's certainly no "What's Roy gonna do to Jim?" -- but too many of the branches of the story were set-up without pay-off. Kelly gets put in charge of the accountants and Angela proves to have difficulty with customer service, and... what? Andy's girlfriend turns out to be jailbait, and all that comes of it is Jim making a kind gesture by indulging Andy's a cappella jones.

Sure, there was some very funny material -- Kelly singing her own version of that Gwen Stefani bananas song, Jim-as-Dwight (and, especially, Dwight-as-Jim), the brief callback to "Threat Level Midnight" (Michael's spy screenplay) -- but "The Office" is usually more than a collection of random jokes, and that's all that "Product Recall" felt like.

Some other random thoughts:
  • So, the transcript: "I need this job. My mortgage is hundreds of dollars a month. With this job I can barely cover that. I have a company car, but I still have to pay for the gas. Gas prices are high and I have no savings whatsoever. And it wasn't even me. It's so not fair that they want me to resign."
  • I think I have to give Dwight-as-Jim the nod over Jim-as-Dwight. It wasn't as accurate, but it displayed a keen knowledge of Jim's camera-mugging ways.
  • Ryan still hasn't made a sale.
  • What exactly does Meredith do? She seemed to be the only staffer not involved in any way with the damage control.
  • How cheap are calculator watches in Scranton? I can buy the shirt and the tie running Jim less than 7 bucks, but the watch (even if it was used) makes me question his accounting.
  • "I need two men on this... That's what she said... NO TIME... But she did... NO TIME."
  • Which was worse: Kelly's Bridget Jones impression or Kevin's Aussie accent?
What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I loved this episode. Even if the storylines were all fairly inconsequential, it doesn't really matter to me since they all made me laugh. And every weeek I find a new reason to love Kelly. She never ceases to amuse me and last night's b-a-n-a-n-a-s still makes me laugh whenever I think about it.

And, yes, what exactly does Meredith do? Not so much at Dunder Mifflin, but for the show in general? Kate Flannery has the easiest gig on TV since the mute brother on Jesse.

Johanna said...

This episode felt like a letdown. Then again, SAFETY TRAINING was a tough, tough act to follow so I guess that was to be expected.

"Product Recall" was very uneven. There was so much plot, almost too much, and none of it went anywhere in the end. I can't believe Jan wasn't in this episode. If the watermark were this big a deal, wouldn't corporate have been all over it?

Thanks for posting the cue card, Alan. That's one of the funniest bits from the show. I wish they'd zoomed in on it and let viewers read it.

Johanna said...

"Kate Flannery has the easiest gig on TV since the mute brother on Jesse."

Ha ha :)

The easiest? Probably one of the most frustrating. I'd hate it if I worked as journalist at The New York Times but then they never let me write anything.

Benaiah said...

That is exactly how I felt about the episode. It was all over the place, but generally funny. Dwight's look at the camera at the end was priceless though. When I go back and read the quotes from the episode I laugh harder than I did during the episode ("God, beer me strength").

I don't think Creed went too far. Despite the fact that Debbie might not have been to blame, quality assurance goes both ways. Someone had to take the fall, and the factory was the one with malicious intent. Creed obviously should have been fired, but it was nice to see him work hard, even if only to keep his job not working hard.

Still, this was a nice placeholder because the next couple episodes are probably going to be very plot heavy.

Anonymous said...

Gotta disagree with Creed going to far. That was something rare for the show, actual dark comedy instead of pretend dark comedy, and it was done perfectly. Creed's actions reminded me of something the British version might've done. Also, I find it quite refreshing that while many of the characters such as Michael, Dwight, Angela, and it now appears Andy, have been gradually softened since they first appeared, that they're still willing to have one character become more twisted and mean-spirited.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Creed went too far. Then again, I laughed when the old lady was wandering the streets in the wedding episode.

And I loved Creed's line about this happening "the one year" he decides to skip checking the paper quality.

Anonymous said...

So what if none of the plots came to a close? Didn't make it any less funny! I laughed myself silly through this one and our office watercolor was all over it this morning. So no disappointment here! I loved Kelly's peptalk to Angela, (paraphrased) "you are *so* good at so many things, but if you could work on just one thing..."

K J Gillenwater said...

I liked it *because* it didn't focus on one character and *because* a lot of stuff was left unresolved. This was much similar to the British version, which made it more like real-life to some degree. Things in real life don't always get wrapped up with a neat little bow.

I was glad to see a whole lot of Creed...what a riot! He used to be homeless? He got a random person at a dentist appointment fired? He stole money out of her card and then threw the card away? Classic.

Plus, we got to see a little bit of the minor characters...and Michael's role was limited.

K J Gillenwater said...

"much similar"? I meant "more similar." I should stop drinking martinis while typing...ha, ha!

Donlee Brussel said...

Who played Barbara Allen?

Adam said...

To paraphrase Karen from earlier this season, I don't think Creed went too far. Indeed, I don't think he's gone far enough.

I like it when the show makes me uncomfortable (except for Prison Mike). This episode just didn't put it together.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure of the actresses name, but she was Sam's mom on Popular.

Donlee Brussel said...

Lisa Darr. That's it. I recognized her from "Life As We Know It" where she played Dino's mom.

Ted Frank said...

1) The "seven dollars" had to be Jim's joke.

2) I also freeze-framed the cue-card sequence: if I recall correctly, there were two cue cards that "the documentarians" didn't show Michael reading. The second one was also pretty funny, but I didn't save the HDTV version of the episode.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, the British Office would never have had someone do what Creed did. The characters were selfish and often stupid, but they weren't bad people.

Also, I don't think you understand what happened. The woman he blamed wasn't involved with quality control, she was just someone who worked at the plant who happened to be ill that day.

I liked the episode, but it was less substantial than the show has consistently been of late, and as such was fairly weak for The Office.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I liked it *because* it didn't focus on one character and *because* a lot of stuff was left unresolved. This was much similar to the British version, which made it more like real-life to some degree. Things in real life don't always get wrapped up with a neat little bow.

Perhaps I didn't explain myself well enough. I didn't care that none of the stories went anywhere, plot-wise. I cared that none of them went anywhere comedically. Usually, "Office" plots build to some kind of big comic pay-off -- Michael kissing Oscar, Jim and Michael taking Dwight to the hospital, Dwight attacking the bat with a bat -- where these stories all just sort of stopped.

K J Gillenwater said...

Gotcha, Alan. I can sort of agree with that.

Creed was superb, though. Just superb.

LoopyChew said...

Sure, there was no huge pay-off (which I think Michael's apology/ransom video was supposed to be). However, the mile-a-minute pacing of all the jokes kept me cracking up (and having to hit pause a few times, since I was going through a bad cough at the time of viewing). The opening meeting was probably my favorite bit, though, since that gave us the string of gags from the Threat Level Midnight ref to "This day is bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!" to "I don't have a headache. I'm just preparing" to the week's TWSS.

Anonymous said...

Question: Which bear is best?

So good.

Anonymous said...

I agree with pretty much everything Alan said except for the Dwight/Jim part. Jim's version of Dwight was far superior. I thought Rain Wilson would have been much funnier with that impression.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Well, Jim's impression of Dwight was far more accurate, but I think that's what made Dwight-as-Jim funnier. In the broad strokes, it was accurate (the clothes, the constant mugging to the camera), but his hatred of Jim and his own stunted worldview kept getting in the way, like his clumsy pass at Karen or him being able to come up with a Jim-quality aside to the camera, and instead having to just snicker and say, "Little comment."

Anonymous said...

True, the "little comment" was great.

Maddy said...

Which do you prefer? The Brit version or the American version?