It’s a sad state of affairs when my biggest hope for the ‘Office’ premiere is that it won’t suck. I want the show to be better than it has been. I want it to be the show that made me tell my wife, “Look, I know the baby needs formula, but they’ve got these DVDs out. So…you know.” And there was really no better reminder of that than the premiere’s opening scene. The gang dancing around to “Nobody but Me” made me remember how much I loved these characters and how much fun I had had watching them in the past. It also made me realize that I must murder Jim Halpert and take his bride as my own.
This is an important season for the show and not only because last year was such a train wreck. Steve Carell has announced that he won’t be returning next year, and love him or hate him, without Michael Scott the show could really fall apart. So it’s got to bring in new characters who are potentially going to be auditioning for Michael’s job while at the same time incorporating Carell’s departure in a way befitting the character who’s almost solely responsible for turning ‘The Office’ into a distinct entity from its British forbearer. Given their recent fortunes, there’s very little chance NBC is going to pull the plug on the show anytime soon. If fact, if you’ve read any interviews with Paul Lieberstein lately, he seems to believe anyone who would dare breathe word that it’s time to wrap up the show is hopelessly stupid. All of this is helped in no small part by the fact that none of the cast’s movie careers are what one would term successful. But anyway, the show’s got its work cut out for it. Its hit homeruns before so I’d like to think it can do it again.
Based on their first episode back, there’s a chance my faith may not have been misplaced. There haven’t been any huge shake-ups since the end of last season. Things with Sabre are still chugging along, and we caught a small glimpse of Kathy Bates, who’s two-minute return as Sabre exec Jo Bennett was better and made more sense than her entire part in last season’s finale. We caught a small talking head segment in the beginning detailing what a few of the characters did over the summer, which teased a few upcoming storylines. Gabe is now dating Erin, who felt she was forced to say yes to a first date because he’s her boss. While most of the characters on the show are outcasts to one degree or another, Gabe is an outcast among outcasts and I’m glad the show has found a permanent spot for him.
Dwight now owns the building, so in a small way he’s finally achieved the dominance over his coworkers that he’s worked toward for so long. The episode’s main story dealt with Michael’s nephew, who had been hired as the office assistant. The kid so lazy, incompetent and such a typical, bastard teenager that everyone in the office is begging Michael to sack him. The show did something a little unexpected with the whole thing that in the end I felt was probably the right decision. We saw a few examples of how lazy he was, everyone got fed up, Michael put up some token resistance and ended up causing him to quit. Done, done and done. Nothing was dragged out, the story hit its beats and it was over.
Turning on his nephew so quickly brought Michael a little more down to Earth than he had been in past episodes, which I think is always a good thing for the character. He acted realistically (or as realistic as Michael Scott can get) and he was still funny. Michael’s always been an uneven character, and that’s okay, but when he gets too crazy he becomes a little hard to stand, so it was nice seeing things played a little more subdued.
The episode’s B story was all about Pam trying to apologize to Jim for ruining one of his pranks against Dwight. I thought there was more potential with the two of them stuck in the elevator, but maybe the shortness of it was a blessing in disguise. I should also mention what the show has got Kelly doing this season. Over the summer she took the Minority Executive Training Program at Yale, so now she’s got the management swagger down with nothing really to back it up. She got a few jokes in this week, and I’m sure we’ll see more in the future, but this is probably the best thing the show’s ever given her to do.
I’m not sure “Nepotism” could be counted among the show’s funniest episodes, but it was definitely a solid outing and made me genuinely happy that the show was back. Let’s hope it can keep it up for the rest of the season, and the eight or nine after that.