Friday, November 20, 2009

The Office, "Shareholders Meeting": Now we're up in the big leagues

Spoilers for last night's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I feel lachrymose...

Michael Scott believes he is a performer at heart, and "Shareholders Meeting" put him - and the show - on the biggest stage to date. It's one thing for Michael to make a fool of himself in front of the branch staff, or even at a company picnic, but the scale of the shareholders meeting was much larger, both in terms of the number of people present and the potential impact of Michael's blunder.

So while I cringed as he kept talking and talking and talking about all the money the company had spent on him that day, I got an enormous kick out of seeing Michael turn the crowd in his favor by throwing out the kind of meaningless promises and gestures that he assumes you're supposed to use on a crowd this size(*). The DM Scranton people all told him not to do the twirl, but those people in the ballroom ate up that damn twirl.

(*) Michael's performance on stage reminded me very much of David Brent's turn as a motivational speaker on the British show. In both cases, we have men who understand human interaction largely through their consumption of pop culture, and who assume that if they just do it like they've seen in the movies, their audience will love them. The outcomes are different, as befits the two series' worldviews - the bleak British show has David perform to stony silence, while Michael is cheered - but neither gives their crowd anything of value.

Michael's speech also typified his blind faith in Dunder Mifflin - the only real family he has - in that he assumed these people had to either have a plan or have the ability to come up with a plan once they were sufficiently inspired by him. But they had nothing, and for a brief moment it looked like Oscar was really going to help save the day. But it felt funnier, and truer to life, that Oscar would be terrified of offending the corporate elite, leaving Michael there to face angry comments from the top brass(**). And then all that's left for Michael to salvage the day is to get back to the limo before anyone can cancel it on him.

(**) Once again, I blame David Wallace, who is clearly not remotely as smart as he and the other characters want to think he is. Not only has he (as chief financial officer) allowed the company to get into this mess, but time and again, the man places Michael Scott in situations where Michael Scott simply does not belong, and he should know better by now. Michael has a very valuable skill set, but it's a limited one, and every time David tries to stretch Michael beyond it, he gets burned.

With Michael, Andy, Dwight and Oscar dealing with the angry horde in New York, Jim got placed into a more Scranton-sized subplot, as Ryan's d-baggery finally came to a head and required dealing with. Interesting that Jim's solution to the problem - move him to an undesirable new location in the building - was similar to what Michael did to Ryan at the end of "Business School," but even rougher, because Ryan had clearly grown to enjoy and take advantage of being Kelly's cubicle-mate. Ryan's continued employment at the branch - assuming the company stays in business - should be a good source of tension between Michael (who has an unrelenting crush on him) and Jim (who hasn't liked the guy since Ryan's corporate wunderkind phase).

The one part of it that felt odd was Pam suggesting that Jim's incapable of yelling. We saw him yell at Michael in "The Lover," and I have to assume if he can lose his temper there, he's done it at some point in Pam's presence in all the years they've known each other. Jim's laid-back, but he's not that laid-back.

Still, a very strong episode, and I'm curious to see how the company - and/or the show - gets out of this mess.

Some other thoughts:

• Because the show so often does teasers that have nothing to do with the main story, Recyclops was a painless and funny way for the writers to meet the demands of NBC's Green Week stunt.

• Is it me, or was Andy's fake PA announcer voice supposed to be Ed Helms doing an impression of Ray Clay, the guy who introduced the Michael Jordan championship Bulls teams?

• Loved Erin's line about the limo: "It's like what high school kids take to prom on TV shows."

• Of course Dwight has a shirt guy in the Garment District. Of course he does.

What did everybody else think?


Sirfuller said...

Because of Michael's behavior I wonder if he will get a demotion or something. Wouldn't that be crazy if they bumped him down to sales and Jim was his boss?

Andrew K. said...

You're right. The only bad part was the cold opening - though it was uphill from there. And I'm just loving BJ Novak having a substantial role. I miss him [and the blond hair actually]. All around a satisfying episode. I love the evil grin Jim gives the camera after 'punishing' Ryan.

Amy said...

Personally the selling out of Oscar's character was really hard for me to take. I was actually angry, not at Oscar, but at the writers for choosing to have him shut down when he got in front of corporate. I thought they had been building for weeks that he would have something to do with the saving of Scranton...and he had some actually good ideas. It just seemed unfair to his character.

(should be noted I've had an awful week at my own corporate job, so I may have been too personally involved.....but still, the rest of the episode was great, that just really bugged me).

SP said...

I was just going to ask the same thing as Sirfuller. What (if anything) will happen with Michael now? I really hope there are some repercussions to Michael's antics since they were in front of such an important audience.

I also *loved* that Oscar didn't save the day in typical sitcom fashion.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the show will go back to Oscar at some point as a source for solutions to the problems of the company. Then again, if he has such obvious solutions, why hasn't the board figured out anything like he has?

I was kind of hoping that there would something resembling a resolution, but I guess it makes it more interesting for the series as a whole, since they get to run with this plot line for a while.

On another did, did the entire episode, and especially the last few minutes, strike anyone as a giant eff you to the corporate boards of the world and a thank you of sorts to everyone else? We saw Michael being called a moron but then defending himself as the one guy who was helping this company out in a time of need. We saw him escape with his coworkers in a limo as the Dunder Mifflin stock symbol reflecting a big loss passed by. It was almost as if this was a way that "The Office" could apologize for what Wall Street is doing to us.

Unknown said...

was actually angry, not at Oscar, but at the writers for choosing to have him shut down when he got in front of corporate

But that was the point of the show I think - what flies in Scranton isn't going to fly with the heads of a major corporation. (45 points in 45 days etc) First of all as incompetent as they seemed DMI has access to the best accountants money can buy- I'm sure they had already thought of everything Oscar had. Secondly to have Oscar come in and save the day would've seemed very very hokey- I think.

Unknown said...

Another great episode!

However, I have to admit, once I saw that new promo for Chuck, my mind pretty much turned to goo and I really didn't comprehend anything I saw after that.

Anyways, I can't wait to see what happens to Michael Scott next.

Sister T said...

"If only's and just's were candies and nuts then every day would be Erntedankfest"

That quote is a keeper! and timely (Erntedankfest is the German rough equivalent to Thanksgiving).

Anonymous said...

Best line: Michael asking the security guys if they've ever protected "the Obama twins."

mike said...

Part of me wanted Jim to just fire Ryan in front of the whole office.

But as Michael Scott once said, "A good manager doesn't fire people. He Hires people, and inspires people."

pmaha said...

I really felt like the show delivered and delivered and delivered and then just ended. Ideally, I would have loved it if Oscar saved the day and the DM heads took the credit. But I would have lived with anything other than what felt like a cliffhanger to a two-parter with no part two! I loved the Jim-Ryan dynamic. Ryan is a character I love to hate and Jim is one I love to love. I enjoyed him getting one over on Ryan. It felt so satisfying, but, again, I'd have also enjoyed seeing the office react more after the closeting of Ryan.

Chicken Pizza? said...


JanieJones said...

I thought it was a funny episode. It amazes me that time after time, Wallace allows Michael to be involved in things that he should not be, knowing how Michael's personality and self response timing performs. I, too, wonder if Michael will suffer some type of repercussions for his empty song and dance at the Shareholder's meeting.

-Oscar had some excellent ideas. I knew Michael was going to drag him in once his stated that there would be 45 day plan to save the company with the rest of the group onstage agasp

-Dwight stating how would Oscar have grandkid's and Oscar's look

-Loved Jim putting Ryan in his place
-I enjoy B.J. Novak's portrayal of Ryan. I want to smack him most of the time.
-Have trouble comprehending DMI and their ineptness to incooperate ideas to try and save the company
but that's part of the show
-Laugh whenever Oscar trys to explain financial/economic impacts to Michael. Michael is a sales guy. He doesn't want to be bothered to understand how a business functions on financial level.
-Laughed at the giddiness of the crew when the limo was in the parking lot

One of the things that I like about the show is the inappropriateness of comments made by the likes of Michael and Dwight. It highlights how out of touch both are, most of the time.
Side note-I think in this time of economic downturn and high unemployment levels, people have to think outside the box.
Corporations (as a whole) are about the bottom line and want to make their money and bonuses.
I enjoyed the final scene when they made it to the limo. I have to agree with Brian J as how the ending appeared to be a screw you
to big corps and Wall Street.

belinda said...

This episode felt a little like a filler episode for me, before the fallout of the potential bankruptcy. Maybe Wallace is indeed terrible at his job (with Michael and pushing him to be at their big meeting), but it feels like there's more to it than just that. I'm curious to see if this would impact the big storyline of DM going under somehow.

But, I did love Oscar's failure to voice his opinion in front of the bigwigs of DM. That felt very real.

And that's the beauty of The Office for me- even though it wasn't a particularly laugh heavy episode (not bad, but an OK episode), I'm already way too invested in the characters and what will happen to them.

ambitextrous said...

I don't know if you guys have seen this, but it blew my mind: and

Interesting take on big business dynamics as seen through The Office, and it sort of explains Oscar's reluctance to stick his head out last night to the big bosses.

srpad said...

I think the point of the Oscar incident was that Oscar choked. To have him save the company with some home spun brilliant plan would have been cliche and kind of lame. I think they wanted you to think Oscar would solve everything (a la the scene in Dave when Dave's accountant buddy solves the deficit) only to have the rug pulled out from under. Much funnier that way.

Rewatching the early season episodes in syndication, it is interesting how Ryan went from beig basically the straight man of the show to compelete D-bag.

Ted said...

Cornell Andy's announcement of Michael Scott sounded more like a Michael "Let's get ready to rumble" Buffer imitation, though lots of arena announcers do imitate Buffer.

Brent said...

Wow, I thought that was easily one of the worst episodes of the Office in the history of the series. Nothing funny. Just unrealistically awkward and obnoxious Michael.

Robert Cervantes said...

Seeing Michael do his presentation reminded me of Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer and his "DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS" speech. Here's the youtube link to it:

AndyW said...

I enjoyed the episode, but I was having a little trouble with its depiction of DMI corporate. I thought this was supposed to be a mid-sized regional paper company, not a Fortune 500 firm. The scale of the shareholders meeting felt, well, out of scale.

Having said that, as an employee at (what was once) a multibillion dollar company that's currently in bankruptcy, I really enjoyed the portrayal of the executives.

George said...

I think Oscar choking summed up this whole recession really. People are angry at corporate for the mess they've caused but they don't have any ideas themselves or are too afraid individually to express their ideas. A big difference between an angry mob and trying to be constructive as an individual.

That whole scene and Michael's speech felt so cringe worthy, as in original Office cringe worthy, too funny.

Kind of peeved that Jim put Ryan in his place. I love how much of a douche he is, like with the fedora and that whole speech about DM Infinity 2.0, Ryan can't be like that if Jim has humbled him.

Ryan's insubordination is probably the first incident where Jim has needed to be a "boss". He's not the kind of guy to throw his weight around, and that what makes the co-manager storyline so interesting. I think the writers need to exploit that more, as it has to make up for less Jim and Dwight time.

I want to say something about Pam as well, she had a good line about having to support her husband and it seems like the writers want to make her funnier and less of a foil to Michael. I like that decision as Jenna Fischer is an underrated comic actress but at times this season and during the MSPC storyline Pam has come across as bitchy and condescending, we'll see where it goes but they need to figure out how to make Pam funny consistently without changing who she is as a person.

Recyclops WTF?! Surely we would have heard about him in the last 5 years, but I do like that Dwight provided Recyclops his own mythology.

Good episode, the best since "The Lover", and the most "real" episode this season.

Anonymous said...

I got the impression that Pam's remark about Jim raising his voice was more gentle mockery than a genuine attempt at historical accuracy.

Rob Biesenbach said...

Rather than negative repercussions for Michael, I could see him achieving a sort of folk-hero status among the shareholders, and even the business press, like he enjoyed at the meeting. (Though ditching them at the last minute may not have gone over well.) That might protect him from the board's wrath. Don't want to get political here, but he could be one of those figures we see who reaps adoration by giving easy "answers" to complex problems.

I LOVED how he defended himself, when he said he wasn't stupid (or whatever they called him) and explained how he was the only successful one in the room, then told the chairman that HE was the stupid one.

Anonymous said...

The Oscar summons reminded me of the scene in the movie "Dave" when the fauxPresident brought in his accountant friend and they cut the budget.
Of course, Oscar's CYA performance (especially after all his talk about the Board and their decision-making) made it all the more funny.
And then we get Micheal realizing that the Board has no clue and his calling the ex-Congressman a moron.
Awesome epi. and DMI is in the toilet 1.13 Down 6 7/8 Ouch!


Anonymous said...

The Oscar summons reminded me of the scene in the movie "Dave" when the fauxPresident brought in his accountant friend and they cut the budget.
Of course, Oscar's CYA performance (especially after all his talk about the Board and their decision-making) made it all the more funny.
And then we get Micheal realizing that the Board has no clue and his calling the ex-Congressman a moron.
Awesome epi.
And DMI is in the toilet 1.13 Down 6 7/8 Ouch!


Anonymous said...

(1) Nice to see the congressman get his trashing, along with the executives and, let's face it, Oscar, too. I thought the episode was not populist, but nihilist.

(2) Pam is just brutal. Like many, I don't know if it's the fault of the writers or the actress or both. But it's a totally different character, sharing just a name, than the person who was Pam for four years or so (Pam is not alone in this regard, for the record), and the change can't be attributed to "growth" or "self-realization." Probably more like an actress who got famous wants to do something more than act mousy for 22 weeks.

Bix said...

I hope this doesn't sound like the most ridiculous nitpick ever, but:

Car services will often send a limo for no extra charge if they're out of towncars. I thought the story was actually going in that direction (and Michael being disappointed by the company not going all-out for him) rather than the belief that it cost a lot of money and everyone assuming that a limo was ordered specifically.

(Of course, the gaggle of limos outside the hotel(?) where the stockholder's meeting was implied that they did order limos for everyone, but still, that part of the plot irked me. Limo doesn't automatically = overspending).

Jeff said...

I don't blame David Wallace for bringing Michael to the meeting after all wasn't it an invitation from the CEO? I think that Dwight's group of questions starting out about the company and then moving to the contruction of the lines was hilarious.

BigTed said...

I don't think David Wallace was necessarily stupid to bring Michael to the meeting. All Michael was supposed to do was briefly stand up, and let the execs use him as an example of one thing that was going right with the company. And it seemed as if he would have done as he was told, and kept quiet, if he wasn't so surprised and upset by the crowd's booing. (Of course, popular disapproval is the one thing he absolutely can't stand, so what happened from that point on was a foregone conclusion.)

Ted said...

By the way, am I a total geek to complain that stock prices are measured in decimals, rather than in fractions, so the "down 6 7/8" was jarring?

Isaac Lin said...

Regarding Michael being at the meeting: it would seem to me that that type of acknowledgment would normally have the honoree sitting in the crowd, doing his quick nod, then sitting down, all without access to a microphone. Putting Michael at the table with the rest of the execs seemed out of place (and an action that David Wallace should have stopped, knowing Michael's character).

Justin said...

About Jim yelling:

His yelling at Michael during "The Lover" seemed more fear and surprise than chewing someone out. He also sort of yelled when they were going to steal Karen's copier, but once again that seemed more fear based. The only time I can remember chewing out yelling was at the end of season 4 towards Ryan.

Dave said...

The bit about Jim never yelling reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where the gang tells Jerry he never actually gets angry, just that he raises his voice to a "comedic pitch." Anybody remember that one? I hlf expected Jim to spend the rest of the episode proving he could act angry and failing...

Mark said...

Actually, Ted, tickers often show the price and/or change as a fraction, especially the change, since the exact amount of the change is not necessary. Many NYC tickers show it exactly like this, price as a decimal accurate to .01 and change as a fraction accurate to 1/32.

abbey normal said...

An awesome episode.
IMO, I think the company Dunder Miflin is going to end and the Michael Scott Paper Company will start up again. Michael just might become a super success and snub his nose at the corporate morons.

Susan said...

I agree with Anonymous at 11:32 who said Pam was mocking Jim when she said he doesn't yell.

My favorite part was the beginning where Dwight was in costume. My favorite part of "The Office" is often the opening.

I think it was totally realistic that Oscar became tongue-tied in front of the bigwigs.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was the first time in awhile that Pam seemed like herself.

Anonymous said...

As usual, many of the best lines are throwaway, such as Michael saying, "Officers." as he enters the suite and when Stanley calmly says to Dwight, "I thought you were killed by Plutocron (or whoever)".

This show may have the most characters that I can remember in a sitcom that are actually fleshed out and not once in a while guests. I counted 16 on IMDB. And in in earlier years one could add Holly, Jan, Darryl, Roy, Karen, etc. Think how hard it is to write for all of these characters and make them feel real.

dez said...

Ryan can't be like that if Jim has humbled him.

I don't think he's fully humbled yet. After all, he did ask if he got internet access in the closet :-)

Anonymous said...

I loved how, during the Recyclops flashbacks to previous years, we saw Ryan and even Ronnie at reception.

C. Joseph said...

Yet another bad episode of a show that has officially crossed the rubicon. Massive plausibility issues, and once again the only funny thing in the whole episode was Oscar. This show should shut down and just do an Oscar spinoff. He's the only thing that works anymore.