Category Archives: The Office

The Office – “Goodbye, Michael”

“Goodbye, Michael”

April 28th, 2011

As many of you know, for reasons I discussed last fall I’ve spent this season writing about The Office at The A.V. Club. It was a position I took in part because I was extremely excited to work with a great group of people, but also because I thought the seventh season of The Office would be a particularly interesting one. Knowing that Steve Carell was exiting, and knowing that they would need to transition into a new lead given that NBC is in no position to cancel their highest rated comedy, it seemed like a nice critical challenge that would be especially compelling given the A.V. Club’s engaged comment base.

The experience is not over, with the remainder of the season (and, unless something changes, subsequent seasons) still to come, but tonight may well prove to be the climax. Over at The A.V. Club, I have my extensive analysis of “Goodbye, Michael,” Steve Carell’s final episode of the series and one of the sharpest episodes the show has produced.

“Goodbye, Michael” | The Office | The A.V. Club

If you have any specific comments about the episode that you’d rather make here than there, please feel free to do so below – and, if you’ve been following me over to The A.V. Club these twenty-two weeks, thanks!

Leave a comment

Filed under The Office

Why Will Ferrell on The Office Worries Me Immensely

Why Will Ferrell on The Office Worries Me Immensely

January 26th, 2011

In my reviews of The Office’s seventh season at The A.V. Club, my focus has inevitably fallen on Michael Scott’s imminent departure. Note that I did not say Steve Carell’s imminent departure: while I understand that the actor is the one leaving the show, my interest lies in the conclusion offered the character rather than in the loss of Carell’s presence. While I very much appreciate Steve Carell, and think that he should have already won an Emmy for his work on the show, I think that the real questions relating to his exit have to do with his character. That is where my investment lies, and that is where I’ve felt the entire season has channeled its focus in order to offer final moments for Michael to interact with his various co-workers and his potential love interests.

Inevitably, however, Carell’s exit moves from the realm of the narrative into the realm of the press, as news leaked that he would be exiting ahead of the season finale (thus creating a transition period towards the end of the season) during the TCA Press Tour. To some degree, I would have rather not known this information, but I’ve sort of accepted that Michael’s final episode will feature an enormous buildup, an extensive ad campaign, and probably even a “Best of Michael Scott” clip show leading into the episode in question (which will probably be an hour long itself). Steve Carell’s exit from the series is going to be a media event far removed from the narrative, and so there was always going to be some level of distraction away from Michael Scott’s character amidst that circus.

However, news that Will Ferrell will be appearing in a four-episode guest stint in order to help send off Carell is enormously disheartening, stripping away any sense that this exit actually belongs to Michael Scott. While I enjoy Anchorman well enough, and find Ferrell to be a fine actor when divorced from his most juvenile characteristics, this pairing threatens any sense of long-term characterization simply to chase after a larger audience, prioritizing the actor over the character and the hype over the show.

And, at least to me, that seems like a huge mistake.

Continue reading

18 Comments

Filed under The Office

The Office @ The A.V. Club – “Nepotism”

“Nepotism”

September 23rd, 2010

As discussed earlier this week, I’ll be covering The Office at The A.V. Club this season, and my thoughts on the season premiere, “Nepotism,” are now up.

The Office – “Nepotism” [The A.V. Club]

…I went into “Nepotism” more curious than expectant: this season is going to be fascinating whether it falls apart or whether it rises to the occasion, and as a critic either option works for me. It would certainly be convenient if the premiere were to answer this question definitively, but the show is clearly not interested in offering a clear path to Carell’s exit. Instead, the episode is like a restaurant sign reassuring customers that they are still open for business during construction: change may be coming, but the series’ commitment to outlandish comedy and charming characters remains.

And, for at least tonight’s premiere, it’s even in pretty solid form.

If you want to find my previous Office reviews here at Cultural Learnings, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Office

Transitions: Covering The Office for The A.V. Club

Transitions: Covering The Office for The A.V. Club

September 21st, 2010

As a freelance critic with an emphasis on the “free,” my goal is to write about what interests me: while I am, admittedly, in the midst of transitioning back into the world of academia, criticism is simply part of how I watch television, and so my goal is to find those series which compel me to write about them despite my lack of free time in which to do so. This includes complex serialized dramas like Mad Men, unsung comedies like Cougar Town, intriguing new drama series like Lone Star, or complete – if pleasurable – messes like Glee.

It also includes The Office, although it might not under different circumstances. Last season was a disaster for the show creatively: while Jim and Pam’s wedding was a highlight, the rest of the season was a meandering affair which tried to find comedy in corporate turnover and came up empty-handed. The problem with the Sabre arc was that it presented itself as an insurrection but was in fact wholly ineffectual: in fact, the office actually devolved under Sabre’s leadership, with Michael and Jim returning to their original positions and Andy and Erin offering a rewind to the days of Jim and Pam. While things appeared to change on the surface, the structures of the show were more stale than ever before, and this discrepancy forced myself and many others to reflect on why we were still watching the series.

If the result of this reflection was “Michael Scott” or “Steve Carell” (it was neither for me), then the seventh season promises to be testing: with Carell officially departing at the end of the year to move onto other opportunities (and to spend more time with his family), the show is in a period of transition unseen in television comedy since Spin City (where Michael J. Fox left the series in 2000, replaced by Charlie Sheen). The question becomes whether the show can survive without Carell, both in terms of how Michael’s departure will affect the office ensemble and in terms of how viewers will respond to the unquestionable star of the show departing.

While many may find this concerning, I’ll admit to finding it pretty fascinating: the show is in the unique position of being able to plan an entire season around an impending change in the series’ structure, which makes the seventh season an exercise in transition and preparation that is not often seen in television comedy. Suddenly the show has a purpose again, balancing the end of Michael Scott’s arc on the series with the process of preparing to introduce someone entirely new next year. I may not have complete faith that they’ll be able to pull this off, but instead of watching one of my favourite shows slowly melt away in front of my eyes I get to see the show scramble to ensure it can continue on without its star. While creatively I am a bit apprehensive, I am more critically intrigued than I’ve ever been with the show, and that’s really what matters.

And it’s what led me to accept an offer to cover the show for The A.V. Club, as my title gave away long before you got to this particular sentence – with A.V. Club staffer Amelie Gillette writing for the show, they needed someone from outside of the inner circle to cover the series, and so I have the ominous task of filling Nathan Rabin’s shoes in the season ahead. It’s a tremendous opportunity to engage in a more public form of critical discourse, as I am looking forward to seeing how the commenters respond to the changes and how the critical community at large responds to the (hopefully) creative behind-the-scenes efforts to pull off this transition. I too, of course, will need to transition to a different environment writing for TV Club, but that will simply be part of the journey: I’ll avoid listing names so as to avoid turning this into a laundry list, but I’ve got a huge amount of respect for the collective team writing reviews for the site, and to be in their company is truly an honour.

Whether or not the show will live up to this honour is yet to be seen, but frankly I’m just glad that The Office feels like a journey again: after a season without direction, the show has a clear purpose heading forward, and for better or worse I’m along for the ride.

The A.V. Club – TV Club – The Office

So, look for my first review on Thursday night – I’ll likely post a notice here as well as include a link in the sidebar.

7 Comments

Filed under The Office

Season Finale: The Office – “Whistleblower”

“Whistleblower”

May 20th, 2010

Last week’s episode of The Office was absolutely, unfathomably terrible: it embodied the absolute worst characterization of Michael Scott (as a purposefully ignorant jerk with no self-awareness or human decency) until the very end, where it tried to claim that a moment of quiet reflection finally forced Michael into realizing what we, and the rest of the show’s characters, had known for the entire episode. It was a bizarre decision because it only frustrates me more: if Michael is inherently a decent human being, why are they forcing viewers to sit through twenty minutes of the character acting like a complete jerk when it’s not nearly as funny as they think it is?

I’m aware they aren’t forcing us to do anything, but when you’ve been watching a show for six years you have a certain attachment to it. And while I may have despised “The Chump,” at least I had some sort of emotional response to it. By comparison, “Whistleblower” was listless to the point of boredom, failing to feel the least bit conclusive and struggling to make anything out of what has been a complete mess of a season from a narrative perspective. None of what happened in the episode felt like it came from anything that we care about, or anything that was even developed adequately in early episodes.

And just like last week, a single moment at episode’s end is meant to make us feel like this unengaging exercise was all worth it; I’m not falling for it, and I may just be to the point where I’m falling out of even an abusive relationship with the series.

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under The Office

The Office – “Body Language”

“Body Language”

April 29th, 2010

In my piece for Jive TV this week, I took a brief look at what Steve Carell potentially leaving The Office means for the series. Ultimately, I think that the show could evolve creatively to fill his absence, but the question is whether anyone would keep watching. The show is suffering from some pretty serious backlash as of late, and Carell’s departure might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for a large number of unhappy viewers.

However, when I voiced some displeasure with “Body Language,” which I despised, on Twitter, Alisa Perrin rightfully called me out on it: I’m still watching the show, so how bad can it really be? Ultimately, I would make the argument that the reasons “Body Language” almost entirely failed have more to do with problems the show has had since the very beginning and happened to be the focus of this particular episode, but it has to be said that many of the people who complain the most about the show are the same ones who might never stop watching. Is it such a habit that people will never give up on it, sticking around to play the “Viewer who cried Jumping Shark” for a few more seasons?

As a critic and as a viewer, I keep watching because there are parts of this show that I really enjoy, and that are occasionally not quite as buried beneath as much humourless material was they were here.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under The Office

The Office – “Secretary’s Day”

“Secretary’s Day”

April 22nd, 2010

If there were a single quality that defines The Office at its most enjoyable, it is “earnest.” When the show starts heading into the territory of cruel, it is able to survive so long as it remains earnest about it. The show can feature embarrassing and often cringe-worthy moments, and it can have characters do things which are ultimately south of decent, but so long as there is a sense of earnestness in their actions, or their intentions, or even their realizations regarding their behaviour, I’m generally okay with it. When the show goes for earnest without bothering with cruel, it is at its emotional best; when it uses earnest to temper the cruelty, it’s pretty solid.

“Secretary’s Day” ultimately falls into the latter category, but in a season which has been on the inconsistent side I’d say that’s nonetheless a good step for the show. There’s some solid negotiation of the new corporate engagement and some fun office dynamics mixed in with an earnest (and dramatically complex) Erin/Andy story, which is the sort of dynamism that has been missing from the show as of late.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under The Office