Tag Archives: Jim

Season Finale: The Office – “Company Picnic”

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“Company Picnic”

May 14th, 2009

In what may perhaps be the Office’s most daring and diverse season, with the most substantial disruptions handled with the most impressive cost/benefit ratio, “Company Picnic” plays like a greatest hits of all of the things that have worked so well in the past year, and even a chance to help rewrite something that didn’t work quite as well. It’s not a daring episode designed to paradigm shift our expectations (I’m being facetious using that term, by the way), nor is it really about indulging in the drama-laden situations which could have emerged at the annual retreat.

Rather, it’s an episode about how humanity, and the people at Dunder-Mifflin who we enjoy so much in particular, are above all of that on some level: building more directly from “Cafe Disco” than I could have ever expected, the joys of group sport go from a lesson in anger management to a true bonding exercise, and a comedy routine with little to no actual comedy (for the crowd, not the viewer) stands as nothing but a life’s lesson learned as opposed to some pivotal stage in someone’s life.

What makes “The Office” so great, and what in this episode recalled perhaps my favourite Office finale in “Casino Night” (Favourite does not equal best, I’ll discuss this), is that the biggest moments come exactly when you’re not expecting them: just when you think that one thing is about to happen, or that a joke is about to come, real life comes and sweeps it all away.

The result is the most sweet and real finale I’ve seen in a long time, for a show that’s in no rush to end and no rush to close off this really quite awesome chapter in the series.

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The Office – “Cafe Disco”

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“Cafe Disco”

May 7th, 2009

About halfway through “Cafe Disco,” I admittedly wasn’t amused: here we are a week out from the half-hour finale (which is a move away from the one-hour finales we have been getting for the past few seasons), and the show is spending its time on the most throwaway of episodes. Not only that, but it appears as if the episode is going to be my least favourite kind of episode, where it boils down to Michael being incompetent, Pam and Jim having their dreams crushed, and Dwight and Michael both being so irresponsible that they’re unwilling to give someone proper medical attention.

In the end, though, I was really charmed by the episode, even if it was limited by its lack of scale: the episode never devolved into demeaning Michael, or Dwight being incompetent, or Jim and Pam losing their will to love. Rather, the episode was pretty much like one big stretching exercise for the cast, a chance for them to let loose on the dance floor before having to film the, likely, emotional and powerful finale. I had a lot of fun with the back end of the episode, and much as the epoynmous coffee shop/dance club got off to a slow start but was eventually a hit with everyone involved, I ended up liking this one.

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The Office – “Casual Day”

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“Casual Day”

April 30th, 2009

Alan Sepinwall posted a link on Twitter to a piece at NPR’s Monkey See Blog about The Office Season Five that I would tend to agree with. In the article, Linda Holmes makes the argument that on a character level this season has been one of the show’s strongest, especially for Michael. Considering that we started the season with Holly, and then eventually moved onto the Michael Scott Paper Company, this has been a big year for the show’s lead character, and a year that has almost never been defined by sheer comedy.

I don’t know if Holmes had seen tonight’s episode when she wrote the piece, but it’s a fine justification of her central thesis: it was almost as if the episode was Michael trying to fall into his former broad comedy and rather selfish attitude but the show around him demonstrating that it isn’t willing to let it happen. As the Michael Scott Paper Company and Dunder Mifflin merge together, tensions are certainly high, but letting the more laidback “Casual Friday” element of the storyline play out alongside the more legitimate tension of the reunion really made this half hour stand out.

I’m not quite sure if I’m in a position to call it the best season ever, but it’s certainly making a strong case for it with only two episodes left.

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The Office – “Two Weeks”

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“Two Weeks”

March 26th, 2009

I always thought Michael got a bad rap: he’s a good guy, and he’s super funny…yeah, maybe I should tell him before he goes. Oh…he’s all the way over there.

There’s a moment in “Two Weeks” where Kevin says the above, and I found it kind of hard to relate: it is not as if we are actually going to be losing Michael Scott, the office’s goodbye to Michael being quite distinctly different from our own. Even as Michael walks out the door of Dunder Mifflin for the last time, we know it’s not the last time we’re going to be seeing this character. Rather, this episode does some really subtle and effective things that I felt weren’t as clear in last week’s episode, and worked better here.

Everything just felt a bit more on point: Idris Elba was given a chance to be legitimately funny, Michael was a little bit more in his element, the office as a whole got a chance to react to Michael’s antics with a rather unique perspective, and Pam’s small but ultimately quite impactful arc was nicely handled and opens up some opportunity for the future. So if I found that “New Boss” was a bit too much setup and not quite enough follow through, I think this is a solid second shot.

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The Office – “Golden Ticket”

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“Golden Ticket”

March 12th, 2009

In a rare instance of a cold open serving as a fairly strong thematic connection to the episode itself, we see Michael Scott’s view on comedy: it’s hilarious when he is responsible, but when it suddenly turns against him, himself becoming the source of the comedy, it’s not even close to being funny. So when he drops a cheap knock knock joke, he laughs – when Dwight subjects him to one, he bans knock knock jokes. Of course, the next moment, he’s absolutely captivated by Jim’s Ding Dong joke, demonstrating that Michael Scott is never able to resist whimsical humour, except when suddenly aren’t so whimsical after all.

What we have in “Golden Ticket” is such a scenario, the initial whimsy of Michael’s scheme shattered by reality, at which point he does everything in his power to take a potential embarrassment for him and turn it into one for someone else. What follows is not so much an episode built for comedy (which is sparing), but rather sheer social observation: what happens when the office’s usual power dynamics are put to the test by a failure so potentially catastrophic? Or what happens when Kevin tries to have a completely normal relationship around people who do not have completely normal relationships?

While certainly not a great episode, suffering from a portrait of Michael devoid of redemptive qualities, it nonetheless felt very true to these characters, and an investigation of humanity that only this show, with these pre-existing types, could really pull off successfully.

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The Office – “Blood Drive”

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“Blood Drive”

March 5th, 2009

I don’t know if the Super Bowl plans or just some weird scheduling resulted in the situation we find ourselves in here, but it’s Valentine’s Day in the world of The Office, which means that the single people are sad, and the couples are feeling particularly smug about their happy futures. And on that note, “Blood Drive” investigates the state of romance in the Office through a very subtle, perhaps too subtle, lens.

With Michael Scott leading the charge for the single people, organizing amongst other things a singles mixer and a support group for bad relationships, and with Phyllis inviting Jim and Pam along on a one-joke lunch double date, there was something about the entire episode that felt really lightweight, which it shouldn’t considering that we left Michael buoyed by hope regarding Holly in the last episode. And yet there’s not even a mention of her letter, and for him to go back to “Woe is me because Holly left” like this doesn’t feel right.

It’s not that I wanted the series to deliver a highly dramatic episode, but this was the first time they’ve confronted a couple of relationship issues (in particular the season’s central love triangle) and it felt like the episode’s subtle approach at times was more of a tease than a real parallel or comparison. I think I liked the episode, especially as it relates to some of the more subtle things, but there was so many notes the show tried to deal with here that you couldn’t help but feel it was missing that one moment of either really effective comedy or emotional resonance, and it never came for me.

Oh, there was lots of innuendo too, by the way.

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The Office – “Lecture Circuit Part 2”

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“Lecture Circuit Part 2”

February 12th, 2009

One. Big. Letdown.

That pretty much sums up my thoughts on the second half of “Lecture Circuit,” which will go down as an entirely uneventful piece of comedy for a whole lot of reasons. Alan Sepinwall really sums it up best in arguing that this is just like every one hour episode: spreading it out over two weeks and throwing a “previously on The Office” in front of the second half doesn’t change the fact that it was one story stretched out over two episodes that really wasn’t in any position to handle it.

Combine this with the show’s bait and switch, shoving the potential of seeing Amy Ryan again in our faces and then snatching it away only moments into this episode, and it just feels like this one was operating on borrowed time as soon as it began. And while I think anyone would agree that the actual dramatic events of Michael and Pam’s trip to Nashua were engaging, and that there was some comedy there in relation to last week’s events, the rest of the episode did not provide a substantial comic element to feel as if extending the rest of the storylines through to another week

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The Office – “Stress Relief”

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“Stress Relief”

February 1st, 2009

I am not conditioned to enjoy this hour of The Office.

First off, I don’t think the show should be in this position in the first place: Chuck has a special 3D episode ready to go tomorrow night, and is much more vulnerable to audience erosion than what is quickly becoming NBC’s flagship series.

Second, I don’t like hour long episode of The Office: they are often overblown, and rarely is there enough comedy to justify the longer running time. Combine with the always frustrating reality that they will eventually be split into two parts in syndication, so they’re forced to split into two separate stories at some level, and they are rarely worthwhile (“Goodbye, Toby” and “Weight Loss” could be seen as a reversal of the trend, but the Amy Ryan variable is the more likely explanation for their quality).

And third, as if that all wasn’t enough, we have the blatant stuntcasting of Jack Black and Jessica Alba, a principle that has been a bit of an achilles heel for NBC’s other Thursday comedy, 30 Rock, all season. The Office has always been pretty immune, being as it is about the mundane life of office employees, but now even that is bleeding its way into the series.

So going into “Stress Relief,” my expectations were fairly low, and I was fully prepared to harp on all three of the above points for 1500 words.

And, well…old habits die hard, I guess – this was a mess of an episode that tried too hard to be worthy of the Super Bowl, was too scattershot to be a cohesive hour, and represented the most superfluous and tangential use of guest stars that I could possibly imagine. So in the end, my opinion remains the same: it shouldn’t have been an hour long, it shouldn’t have cast celebrities, and it shouldn’t have even been airing after the Super Bowl in the first place.

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The 2008 Television Time Capsule: The Office – “Weight Loss”

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“Weight Loss”

Season Five, Episode One

Airdate: September 25th, 2008

If I had a time machine as opposed to a time capsule, I would go back in time and keep Amy Ryan from being nominated for that Oscar.

Don’t get me wrong: she was stunning in Gone Baby Gone, a film I watched for the first time recently and enjoyed a great deal, and she deserved that nomination and maybe even a win for her performance. But it made her an actress in demand, someone who could guarantee herself juicy supporting roles for years to come.

It also meant that Holly Flax, introduced in the great fourth season finale “Goodbye, Toby,” would eventually be leaving Dunder Mifflin. With her laidback style and willingness to ham it up with Michael, Holly was the best addition that the cast had seen perhaps since day one. Not only was Ryan quite hilarious in terms of her comic timing (the woman can do anything), but Holly as a character did something even more important: she humanized Michael Scott.

This was no more evident than in “Weight Loss,” what I believe to be the best hour-long episode the series has ever done. Using a unique structure that follows the office’s attempt to lose weight over an entire summer, the episode never plays out a single joke for too long, letting the episode tell itself in short stories and build naturally to its conclusion.

In the process, we get numerous highlights: Holly and Michael’s rap (which will forever go down as one of the most surreal, and hilarious, scenes of this show), Holly’s believe that Kevin is mentally challenged finally exploding, and…well, a lot of things involved with Holly. The show developed her and Michael’s relationship all within one episode: their moments of awkwardness, their moments of jealousy, and eventually that moment when it’s clear that they are both big dorks and made for each other.

The wonder of “Weight Loss” is that its compartmentalization works wonders on every storyline: Dwight and Angela’s trysts become even more hurtful towards Andy as they take place over an extended period, and what could have been (and eventually kind of did after the premiere) a contrived separation of Jim and Pam was helped by the illusion of time. When the time came for Jim’s surprise rest stop proposal, the episode felt more like a journey than the show ever has.

And while the season has had some strong one-off episodes (the end of the fourth season had quite a few that could easily have taken this spot), I feel as if this is the kind of Office I want them to move forward with: human, hilarious and worthy of the 2008 television time capsule.

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The Office – “Surplus”

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“Surplus”

December 4th, 2008

Last season, an episode like “Surplus” would have felt like a godsend at this stage of the season. After getting bogged down in hour-long episodes with no direction, something so driven by office politics and Michael’s inability to make a decision would feel like a breath of fresh air.

Instead, it felt a little bit too slight. While the charm was there, and it was a nice showcase for Jenna Fischer’s Pam in particular, I think I was missing something to set the episode apart. While the central storyline had its charms, the B-Story felt more like a predictable distraction, and I’d rather have eschewed the plot entire in favour of a more complete reaction to the crisis of Copier vs. Chairs.

But, nonetheless, I consider it a good sign for the show: a show that has a problem with excess needs one of these every now and then, an episode that is almost entirely fat-free and plentiful in, if not stuffed with, comedy.

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