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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.

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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.

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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.

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