I felt like this episode had more highlights than some of the recent episodes, but The Office is still on life support. We may see shadows of its former spark, but it’s gone, people. I can only hope that NBC lets it fade away in peace at the end of this season.
So, what’s good? Erin. Her innocent and naive act is a little annoying at times, but most of the time, it’s just the kind of un-self-aware goofiness that made this show’s best characters memorable. When she very seriously told Gabe that Waco was pronounced wacko in the cold open, it’s hard not to find her well-intentioned ignorance a little endearing. GayMike, best friends?
But for every cute moment (not particularly funny, but cute), there’s also Michael’s grandpa/space station fantasy which is just awkward and makes the audience feel guilty for thinking that Michael is such an idiot. I get that it’s supposed to make his character sympathetic, but you just feel bad that this guy is so socially maladjusted that these dreams are probably never going to come true for him. Womp womp.
As usual, Dwight comes out with a few amusing lines – “Of all feelings to base a show around? Glee? Thirst – now that’s a show I’d watch.” And of course, the line I’ll be co-opting for my own nefarious purposes: “Join the real world. Sex contracts exist!” I hope his “situation” with Angela is going somewhere – I’ve got to believe it is because it’s starting to drag, and I’m anxious to see what the writers have been building to.
It’s so strange that The Office can be so good about building some storylines for entire seasons – Dwight and Angela’s relationship, Andy pining for Erin, and Michael’s growing dissatisfaction with his work – and with others, they seem to come from nowhere and go nowhere. What was Michael doing in the first scene (not the cold open) when he was running around pretending to be busy and important? If he was imitating something from pop culture or trying to pull off an elaborate and ill-conceived joke, there would’ve been some context, but instead, he does it for no apparent reason and the “pay-off” is him telling Erin, “I was just kidding. I was kidding. I wasn’t mad.” Um, okay.
And the exchange between Michael and Erin? The daughter/father thing? Awkward and horrifying and completely without set-up or pay-off. Are we supposed to read into that strange silence, after Michael says “I am not your father” that Erin has some kind of father issues? That’s a pretty big leap or the audience to make on their own.
Michael bringing the old “that’s what she said” back was fun and familiar, but even that lacked the enthusiasm of previous seasons. I feel like I’m saying the same thing every week – it’s not bad, but it’s not good. The bar was set too high – both by this show in previous seasons and by other shows in the same time block – and now The Office just falls flat. When the best part of the episode is the small piece of 30 Rock I caught on my DVR, that’s not a good sign. But seriously, how hysterical was John Slattery on 30 Rock? Absolutely brilliant.
P.S. God bless Kelly and her spot-on Glee analysis. It’s hysterical to hear those kinds of insights coming from someone as vapid as her. But it works because if she’s going to have valid insights on anything, it’s going to be a pop culture phenomenon.