September 25th, 2008
There’s something very ironic about the desire to slim things down that pervades this evening’s much-anticipated season premire of NBC’s The Office. The show’s biggest problem in an uneven fourth season was its hour-long episodes, those which felt too bloated and out of control; it was at its best in shorter segments which left no room to breathe between their humour and their awkwardness (“Dinner Party” as the best example). But here we are with another hour long segment, an awkward concept wherein two half hour parts (which will be split for the purpose of syndication) must come together to introduce us to the season ahead.
But, in the vein of “Goodbye, Toby,” this episode feels more an investigation into this office and its character than last season’s opening episodes which felt much more mundane, much more perfunctory. Choosing to, for a change, show us an entire summer at Dunder Mifflin as opposed to dropping us into the fall, it allows The Office to follow up directly on the great elements of last season’s finale: from the wondrous Amy Ryan continuing to impress, to Ryan’s fall from grace, and both Andy and Jim’s ill-advised engagement strategies.
As the episode unfolds, and the ramifications of last season’s finale echo amidst the weight loss storyline, this never feels like an overstuffed episode: it feels like a welcome return to a familiar environment, an episode where characters get to be characters, histories get to be histories, and more importantly almost every joke lands. Not overwhelmed by any one storyline, and ending with a satisfying note on which to jump start our season, “Weight Loss” is everything I wanted in a premiere.