Tag Archives: Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam

‘The Office’: Truth or Consequences

As we’re a bit late to the party, just some (hopefully) quick thoughts on last week’s Office entry, “Shareholder Meeting.”

The theme for this season (and probably the entire series), as we have already talked about in great detail, has been the vacillation of Michael Scott from mildly idiotic but well-meaning and somewhat competent to completely oblivious, self-absorbed and wildly unqualified, and finding that the best episodes seem to be when Michael trends towards the former.  Indeed, in their review Vulture notes that, “as a general rule, the less Michael Scott is a Homer Simpson–esque boob, the better The Office becomes.”  In “Shareholder Meeting,” we get a glimpse of both Michaels, and I think this episode just missed the mark, not because Michael again veered of course (although, he sorta did), but because the show shied away from the opportunity to let things get even uglier.

Read on: What could have been. Douche or consequences. The return of Ronni!

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Will the Real Andy Bernard Please Stand Up?

In our thoughts on The Office last week we posited that the Andy Bernard we currently know and love, the “‘nard dog,” is drastically different from the Andy we first met when Jim transferred to Stamford.  Then he was more of a pompous douche, and now he leans more towards well-meaning dork.  Once he returned from his anger management training at the end of season 3 he was a understandably a changed man, but it’s sometimes hard to believe that the dandy, over-polite Andy Bernard we know now is the same person who put his fist through a wall in a fit of rage.  However, in a deleted scene from last week’s “Double Date” Andy does acknowledge his past temper problems, which helps soothe our unease over the character’s evolution.

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We also spoke last week about the equally drastic shift in the character of Ryan, and indeed this is demonstrated by his new threads, as discussed in today’s Office recap.

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‘Threat Level Midnight 2: Savannah Nights’ (Thoughts on “Murder”)

Mexican StandoffAt this point, midway through its sixth season, it seems that with every episode of The Office we are taking the temperature of the series, gauging if it’s on the decline, on the way back up, or holding steady.  It’s unfair, and ultimately a disservice to the show and the viewer.  However, it’s the truth, and it’s going to continue, especially because this is a show that has exceeded expectations and reached rare levels of brilliance but has also always seemed to be walking a tightrope.  Can the show continue once Pam and Jim get together?  Will it lose it’s direction after Pam and Jim get married? Will the magic chemistry between the ensemble cast run out? Or will the writers no longer be able to supply interesting but plausible office-related storylines?  Even though the show has been so consistently damn good, there’s still this pervading feeling that all the inventive writing and superior acting could disappear one week, never to return.  While we have not actually been faced with this reality, we learned last night that the employees of Dunder Mifflin are very much in this predicament, as it seems all but certain that the company will file for bankruptcy.  While we have been fearing a sudden, painful demise of The Office, the characters are now fearful of a sudden, painful demise of their office.  It’s a new storyline that hopefully, while putting the employees on the chopping block, allows the show to continue to flourish.

Which is not to say that last night’s outing, “Murder,” was a real step towards silencing doubters.

More: Belles, Bourbon & Creed!

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Dr. Michael and Mr. Scott (A Few Final Thoughts On “Double Date”)

One last note on yesterday’s discussion about Michael Scott and the inverse relationship between his inanity to the quality of The Office (and then we’ll leave the show alone until next week).  Just came across a post from Time TV columnist James Poniewozik, who essentially argued the same thing in his round-up of the best comedies currently on air.  However, we disagreed about which Michael showed up in last night’s episode.  Poneiwoznik asserts that “Double Date”s main problem was that it fed us the “too crazy” Michael.  While I agree that it was just a “decent” episode, I don’t think it was because of an over-the-line Michael.  Indeed, he straddled the line, but he ultimately came down on the side of tolerable.  Instead what I think made this just a decent episode is that, as Alan Sepinwall notes, “the episode really didn’t know how to end.”  I wonder if there was a big debate about whether Pam should actually hit Michael.  Oscar belittles Kevin for betting on Pam, remarking that there is no way she can lose.  But, as we saw, by (eventually) slapping him she did lose.  They both lost.  Perhaps it would have been better for Pam to just walk away, but  I guess that would be the old Pam.  And while the Michael-Helene romance was never going to last, it did feel a bit tossed off.  I only wish the Michael-Jan affair could have ended just as quick.

Similarly, and to a greater degree, the B story with Dwight and Andy constantly trying to out-polite each other turned out to be a dead-end.  It was amusing, if a bit too silly, but while it seemed to be leading up to a reveal of some evil Dwight plan, it just escalated to nowhere.  This was far more of a let down than the Pam/Michael showdown.

For further reading see Vulture, AV Club, & PopWatch

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If You Slap Michael Scott, Does He Not Bruise? (Brief Thoughts on ‘The Office’)

And does he not need a Schrute Farms frozen chicken to ease the pain?

Well, he might bruise, but he definitely needed the makeshift ice pack.

Michael Scott: Bruised Face, Bruised EgoAfter we argued for the usefulness of the lovelorn Michael Scott earlier today, tonight’s “Double Date” served up another helping of that quixotic Scott, while also mixing in his cringe-inducing, myopic unpleasant side.  Realizing that Pam’s mom (aka “Pickle”) is a (sorta) much older woman, Michael slowly, painfully, tries to extricate himself from the relationship.  He’s selfish and inconsiderate, but in this case it’s not so much his intentions that are wrong, just his actions.  His epiphany that being with a soon to be Grandma would hinder his life plans, which still include having children (and maybe snowboarding) is understandable.  Why he didn’t see this before is open for debate, but we must keep in mind that this is Michael Scott, master of obliviousness.  However, instead of waiting another day or two, or at least until after the birthday lunch, Michael decides to break it off right then and there, just as Pam begins to accept him as a suitable mate for her mother (and perhaps as a possible step-father to herself and step-grandfather to her unborn child), creating the awkward tension that Michael has elevated to an art form over the years.  But his heart was in the right place.  Just at the wrong time.

Read on: Michael and Holly = Desmond and Penny?

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If You Prick Michael Scott, Does He Not Bleed?

“What is so wrong about me?  I’m caring, I’m generous, I’m sensual. Is it really so horrible that I could possibly go out and find happiness?” – Michael Scott

We’re back from vacation here at Jumped The Snark and before we march on to more relevant subjects (and tonight’s new The Office), we wanted to take a moment and comment on the last two weeks’ of Office entries, most notably in regards to our recent list of the Five Least Awesome Office Episodes.

Prick in a Box! After compiling the lists of the “worst” Office episodes we discovered that the quality of the show most often hinges on which Michael Scott we receive, the childish, clueless but ultimately well-meaning and redeemable Michael Scott or the obnoxious, selfish, boorish borderline psychotic Michael Scott.  In the worst episodes we find ourselves with the latter, a vile, unseemly and ultimately unbelievable character.  In the best episodes we might not always find the former, but he is frequently present in the show’s best, most emotional moments, when he demonstrates his humanity and vulnerability, such as the truly uncomfortably honest beat at the end of season 4’s “The Deposition,” (You expect to get screwed by your company.  But never expect to get screwed by your girlfriend.”) or at the close of this season’s “The Meeting” when Michael brings Jim his very own “World’s Best Boss” mug.

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The Five Least Awesome Episodes of ‘The Office’

In honor of last week’s rare Office misstep, “Mafia,” and in preparation of tonight’s new episode (which will hopefully wash out the bad taste from last week) we’ve decided to compile the Five Least Awesome The Office episodes, because really, it doesn’t sound right to say the “Five Worst,” as even their five poorest efforts are better than almost anything on TV (looking in your direction, Til Death).  We’ve also gone ahead and disregarded the six episode first season, because during this very brief mid-Spring run they were still trying to find their rhythm, and were basically staging The Office UK re-enactments every week.  For our purposes, the show really started with season 2’s premiere, “The Dundies,” (and indeed when I tell people to watch the show I encourage them to begin at this point and then go back to season 1 once they’re hooked).  So, in descending order, let’s get to it!

Continue to the worst of the cream of the crop…

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The ‘Office’ Has Not Jumped The Shark

Office LunchAfter feeling like I was in the minority with my mild disappointment with last week’s wedding episode, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was not alone in my distaste for last night’s The Office, “Mafia.”  I watched it in a new place, with a large dinner still digesting, the mood already soured by another messy, frustrating episode of Glee (a story for another day), so I gave this latest Office entry the benefit of the doubt, even though I found it much too silly and the premise (Michael, Dwight and Andy believe that a local insurance salesman is “connected”) too far fetched, even for this show.  Something seemed off, and I sensed there were far too many stretches without laughs, and even the ones that occurred often felt forced.  So I was actually rather comforted when I flipped on the ol’ Internet and found near unanimous negative reaction for this episode.  However, my appreciation was short lived, as it seems that after one episode, the blogosphere is hitting the panic button, fearing The Office is past its prime, and maybe should be put down like an injured thoroughbred.  Indeed, Cinemablend titled their recap, “NBC’s The Office Isn’t The Show It Used To Be.”

Relax.

Seriously. Relax.

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Redefining sitcom romance through Jim & Pam

Piggy backing on my earlier Office commentary, Allan Sepinwall of the Newark Star-Ledger penned a great article explaining why the Jim/Pam romance is so refreshing, and reverses the unfortunate “will they-won’t they” sitcom trope beget by Moonlighting.  As he points out, there’s nothing wrong with resolving sexual tension.

(although did we really need to take a shot at Ed?  I think never finding an audience was  punishment enough)

The Office: Why Jim and Pam’s wedding is good for TV comedy

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‘The Office’ Wedding: I Do.

Jam KissI’ll admit, I didn’t love this episode, and I’m a little surprised that initial reaction is exceedingly positive.  Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and obviously shed a tear during the closing, aww inspiring moments.  However, historically reception of The Office’s one hour episodes has been spotty, and the build-up to this episode felt like just one rung below a series finale so expectations were high.  It’s always difficult to succeed when presenting “a very special episode” (an episode with actual life changing moments, not an episode when Jessie develops an addiction to caffeine pills), either you give the audience exactly what they want or you try to do something a little more challenging, a little more self-gratifying to the creative team (see: Seinfeld “Finale”) and then face some negative reaction.  So while I wasn’t  astounded by this episode, I was far from disappointed, and I think it absolutely succeeded in combing both those concepts, providing humor and drama for the audience, but also stamping it with the unique Office sensibility.  Press regarding the episode noted how emotional it was for the cast and crew  after so many years of being a family, and it truly came through that these people (both the actors and the characters) enjoy working together, so it’s probably debatable who enjoyed the episode more, the audience or the cast.

First, what I didn’t like:  Pam causing a vomit chain around the office after Dwight refused to stop peeling his hard boiled egg (over at EW’s PopWatch they called this the “Office: Exorcist Edition,” but it reminded me of that childhood disturbing pie-eating contest in Stand By Me).  This was probably my least favorite cold open in a long time (maybe since the “fire drill” Dwight started in the opener of last season’s Superbowl follower, “Stress Relief,”  which makes sense because that also crossed the line of absurdity for me, although I do recall laughing hysterically).  Sure, projectile vomit is always funny (unless you don’t think it is, and I’m on the fence), but it felt a little cheap, and I expected something more creative to kick off this episode (but considering the over the top open from “Stress Relief,” it seems that they’ve decided to go extra broad during these very special episodes, perhaps to appeal to the assumed larger audience).

Wedding ProcessionI also felt that Michael Scott veered a little too far into imbecility; it’s always a fine line for him, but (as I’ve argued before) what makes this character ultimately (sorta) believable, or at least tolerable, is that he occasionally shows some humanity (see: last week’s gift to Jim) or even better some degree of common sense.  I actually expected and sort of hoped that Michael would step in and maybe save the day after Jim derailed the Rehearsal Dinner (I guess shame on me for having that inclination; I probably should have known better).  But as Michael went on extolling the virtues of unprotected sex, it was clear this was one train he was not getting back on the track.  Even when he went upstairs to visit the offended Mema in her hotel room, he continued to dig the hole a little deeper, but then again, that’s Michael Scott (see: “Gossip.”)  However, we did see Mema at the wedding the next day so I guess Michael came through after all (maybe he explained that Bruno is satire.  I’m sure she can appreciate that).

I even initially found the YouTube wedding video reenactment a little too silly (I’m a tough crowd, but only because I expect a great deal from this show), but then I realized how much it made sense, these people really are a family.  Because you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.  And most likely Pam and Jim wouldn’t pick these people to be their friends (well, maybe Toby.  He seems like an all around nice guy.  And maybe Oscar.  Anyone from the Finer Things Club).  And the dance number was the perfect juxtaposition to what was the best part of the show…

…that obviously being Pam and Jim’s covert nuptials on the Maid of the Mist. The inanity of the dancing was all worth it for this wonderful moment, and sure, yes, it was schmaltzy, and arguably too cute,  but c’mon, have a heart.  What this show has been able to do with these characters of the course of six seasons is rather remarkable and unique in the history of television couples.  They have truly honored the relationship, and in effect the viewers as well.   While the show was smart by letting the Pam-Jim romance take a back seat over the last few seasons, it still remains as the core of the show, what keeps it grounded.  And this is never more evident than inter-cutting Oscar and Kevin vogueing down the wedding aisle with a passionate, long awaited kiss in the shadow of Niagra Falls.  When the show finally put these two characters together (Pam and Jim, not Oscar and Kevin, although I guess this was hinted at last night) at the end of season three, there was a bit of a “where do they go from here?” feeling to do it.  But what has made The Office special, beyond the incredible writing and acting, is that they’re never afraid to take a chance and break a mold, willing to veer from convention if that’s what respects the characters.

The closing shot, Pam resting her head on Jim’s shoulder while all we hear is the sound of the falls parallels two very early moments from “Jam” history, providing a nice bookend for the story of their love.  First, the tableau, Pam leaning on Jim, echoes season one’s “Diversity Day,” in which Pam falls asleep on Jim’s shoulder after a long day in the conference room.

Diversity DayAnd second, the closing shot references probably my single favorite moment in the history of the show, Pam and Jim’s silent exchange on the deck of the Princess, during the second season episode “Booze Cruise.”  This was 27 seconds of agonizing, uncomfortably real quiet, and it was then that this show reached a new level and became something brilliant.

(Unfortunately the silence is ruined by a Snow Patrol song in this video.  No offense to Snow Patrol).

But at the end of what feels like an eternity of knowing, longing looks Pam walks away, leaving Jim all alone on the boat.  Still waiting for his moment.

Lonely Jim

But with our closing shot last night, the hero finally gets the girl.  [tear]

Mr&MrsHalpert

In case you missed it, “Niagra” Parts 1 and 2 (but, of course, had you missed the show I’ve just completely ruined.  So in case you want to watch again):

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