September 27th, 2007
I would like to make two observations about this highly anticipated fourth season premiere of The Office. First, I would argue that “fun” is not a proper descriptor for the episode’s events: while certainly with its funny moments, it felt overlong and tired compared to some of the show’s more engaging and classic episodes. The second is that despite this fact, millions of viewers are likely to be so satisfied by the “Jam” (Or PB&J as Kevin calls them) developments that none of that will matter.
I’m far too cynical to avoid pointing out the episode’s issues, but can we talk about how adorable Pam and Jim were in this episode? Whether it’s their secret glances, their secret rendezvous or their secret estate-sale browsing, their secret affair was the part of the episode that felt most fresh and, importantly, interesting. I care about these two people, as irrational as that may be, and I liked that the show used its documentary format to slowly reveal the relationship through the hour.
But there were other story threads I was interested in following following the show’s third season premiere. I wanted to see how newly unemployed and psychotic Jan changed Michael’s life, and how newly promoted Ryan would play a role in the affairs of The Office. I was also curious to see how Karen’s reaction to Jim’s post-New York singlehood would affect the show’s core relationships. However, this hour barely touched on these issues, focusing instead on hijinx and another key relationship.
The hijinx are best summed up by Matt over at Be Something (And this is only the first half of the episode):
Michael hits Meredith with his car and cracks her pelvis. Michael has to tell the whole office what he’s done and they all get mad. They all go visit Meredith in the hospital, except for Dwight who needs to go check on Angela’s sick cat for some reason. Seeing that the cat is in pain, Dwight euthanizes the cat, but tells Angela it was dead when he got there. Angela gets hysterically sad. Also, earlier, Pam’s computer crashed because she tried to download and buy a celebrity sex tape. Michael decides that all these negative events are because Dunder-Mifflin has been cursed. He then holds a meeting where he rambles off various animal combinations for like ten minutes.
The hijinx continued with a fun run, including some further Dwight/Angela drama and Michael puking up Alfredo. My issue with all of this isn’t that there weren’t some funny moments: Matt picked out a few, including the great bit with Darryl and the squirrel. The problem is that the setup itself, the plot, pretty well ignored the most intriguing parts of this new season. It felt like they were forcing a complicated situation into the series as opposed to letting the office adjust to being the office.
And that’s what made the beginning of the third season so good, the adjustment to the Stanford/Scranton into the show’s dynamic. Here, it felt like the show lacked such a force behind it, and as a result a complicated situation was necessary. And, well, I’d tend to disagree, and I hope the office (And thus, The Office) can get back to being the office (Again, The Office) next week.