We very clearly remember the moment that we fell for The Office, the NBC stalwart that closes up shop at Dunder Mifflin tonight after nine mostly great seasons. It was the fall of 2005, when The Office was starting to find its legs after a rocky and uneven six episode first season, and we in our first autumn post-college, back at our parents’, and for the first time since we were four-years-old not attending school. We were at our best friend and future roommate’s house, hanging out, maybe barbecuing, maybe drinking a few beers, maybe watching the first season of Lost on DVD, which dominated much of our time (and thoughts) during that period. We knew about the The Office, another blatant attempt to import a UK hit stateside, but missed its brief run earlier that year, as was the case with the aforementioned Lost, as the only shows we watched religiously during our final year of college (and last few months before true adulthood) were The Simpsons and Survivor. We did, however, recall reading that it was an imperfect translation of the original, and the Steve Carell-led vehicle – who was then best known as the other Steve from The Daily Show – was not likely to resurrect NBC Thursday night Must See TV, let alone make it past Season 2. So with the middling reviews in mind, and the fact that we were unfamiliar with the original Ricky Gervais version, we didn’t go out of our way to watch the show. But that night changed everything.
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First, some context: we are not especially devoted Seth MacFarlane fans. For a time we watched Family Guy semi-regularly and certainly were a part of that groundswell that helped resurrect the show from its premature grave. But do we consider ourselves MacFarlane evangelists or advocates? Not at all. We still haven’t seen Ted, and are not exceptionally eager to do so. We rarely watch American Dad and we can’t say for sure that we’ve ever caught an episode of The Cleveland Show. We were, however, impressed with his performance hosting the SNL premiere, and it demonstrated that not only could he do funny voices and write an off-color (and oft-humorous) joke, but he could also perform, and perform live, which is not always second nature for a writer-producer-voice actor. Did that mean we were thrilled to learn he was tapped to host this year’s Oscars? No, not really. We thought it was somewhat a knee-jerk, ill-advised decision (probably due, paradoxically, to his mess-up when presenting at the 2012 Emmys). But we knew, at least, that he could hold his own on stage, singing, dancing, cracking wise, and thinking on his feet. Was he going to offend some people? Probably. But that would come with the territory. Wouldn’t that be by design? If you wanted someone with only a love of musical theater and a flair for singing and dancing, then wouldn’t you just turn to Billy Crystal for a record 74th time? So, with Seth MacFarlane, that’s the package, that’s the deal (a faustian bargain, depending on your point of view): some dick and fart jokes and some mildly anti-Semitic and racist humor mixed with some sprinkles of old Broadway.
So were we surprised that MacFarlarne’s hosting turn this past Sunday night was met with a mix of disappointment and outright scorn? No, not at all. That was to be expected. But, after seeing the show, we were taken aback at the amount of criticism leveled at MacFarlane because, frankly, for someone who trades in abortion jokes and greased up deaf guys, we found his material relatively mild. It was almost as if we were watching a different show, different from the one that so much of the (tweeting) public found so repugnant, so misogynistic and racist and base. And, to our surprise, we found ourselves in MacFarlane’s corner. Not because we found his turn especially remarkable. But because it wasn’t that bad. And, more importantly, it wasn’t that vile.
This week we’re looking back on the just completed/completing seasons of NBC’s Thursday night comedies. Today we check in the senior member of the team, ‘The Office.’
For quite some time we were religious with our Office recaps, but then two things happened 1) we were working a paid job more than full-time and 2) the show became, well, inessential. We hoped to check-in during Steve Carell’s final season, but analyses was few and far between. But even though we weren’t providing regular reviews, the series was still required viewing. We might not follow-up the next morning with our thoughts, but we were still going out of our way to watch it Thursday night, as much out of habit as desire. But this season, with Carell’s Michael Scott off to Colorado, the show became the least appealing, least critical member of the lineup. Wait til Friday to watch Community? We’d rather not. Skip an episode of Parks and Rec? No way. But go a week without watching the latest The Office? Sure. View an episode of Robert California’s Dunder Mifflin out-of-order? Fine. We just didn’t care that much anymore.
But a funny thing happened at the end of The Office’s eighth season. We were actually invested. We almost felt things, things that just nearly came close to approximating the real emotions that the show’s best seasons elicited. For the first time all year, the series seemed to find its voice.
Remember in the cold winter days of December 2005 when “Lazy Sunday” premiered and basically made YouTube an inextricable part of our lives? That was a seminal, society altering, comedy-changing moment. Well, that’s not what people were looking for on our blog, they were searching using the term “michael scott dick in a box.” But, unfortunately, we don’t have that, a combination of Steve Carell’s Office character and the cultural successor to “Lazy Sunday” that became a phenomenon in its own right. But, what we do have is a combination of Michael Scott and “Lazy Sunday.” So, here we go, the ode of suburban Pennsylvania, “Lazy Scranton”:Vodpod videos no longer available.
That’s how we felt about The Office. As much as we’ve harangued the show this year for underusing or misusing Jim, rendering him no more than the Greek chorus, it turns out that we really need him. Absent for the entire episode, save the cold open, we kept waiting for the camera to cut to him, to confirm the absurdity of the situation. But he wasn’t there (Jon Krasinksi off shooting a movie, we assume), and without Jim to ground Michael’s insanity it was a runaway train. Now, they could still cut back on some of the Jim reaction shots, but as long as Michael is around, we’ll need that balance.
Speaking of Michael, we’ll wonder if we’ll feel the same way when he’s gone. Because, right now, we’re eager for him to get moving out of Dunder Mifflin. The act has finally grown tiresome, and it often suffocates the other characters and the show. We’re sure we’ll miss him, but that doesn’t mean we’ll want him back. However, Kudos to Mindy Kaling and Craig Robinson for continuing your MVP seasons.
Parks and Recreation, welcome home! Thank goodness you gave us that season two recap to get us back up to speed (we could have used that for The Office and 30 Rock as well, frankly), and it seems like you haven’t missed a beat. We think it got a little too broad at times (Andy with April’s new boyfriend, for example), and the overuse of things like the “Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness” worry us, but it’s definitely picking up where it left off, as the second best show of the night.
Which brings us to Community. Oh how we missed you! And you were only gone for six weeks. Don’t stay away that long ever again! You guys came back from the Christmas break without any rust, setting up what we can only assume will be an even better second half of season two. Looking forward to it. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.
Oh, and Outsourced was awesome (jk! jk!).
In last night’s The Office episode, “Viewing Party” Michael comes to view Gabe’s presence as a direct threat to his power, and subsequently sabotages said viewing party of Glee. But wasn’t Michael Scott all in a dramatic tizzy a couple weeks back because he felt that Darryl was challenging his authority? That just happened, right? And he had the same reaction to Charles Miner (the indomitable Idris Elba) a couple of seasons ago, didn’t he? And last year he grew petulant because co-manager Jim gave Phyllis permission to dress as Santa for the Christmas party, in turn sending Michael on a holiday cheer sullying temper tantrum. Which is to say, we’ve seen it before, and, we think, we’ve seen enough.
Well the good vibes had to end at some point, and after a string of strong and then stronger episodes, that run ended rather abruptly with last week’s episode, “Christening.” We actually don’t have too much to say about it, which is to expected since it aired a week ago, but also because it was a rather forgettable episode.
And it didn’t have to be, that’s what was so frustrating about it.
More: Michael and Andy drink the Kool-Aid, Jim and Pam drink NyQuil, and Toby gets hosed down with Holy Water