Category Archives: recaps/The Office

The Office, “WUPHF.com”: Bigboobz

I could relate to a lot in this episode. For starters, I frequently run my space heater and fan at the same time, at top speed. Don’ t judge me. What can I say? I’m hot-headed, and I’ve got cold feet! Ba-dum-bum-shhhh. Also, I’m not naming any names or companies, but let’s just say I have personally witnessed social media bandwagonry and what we’ll call “marketing without substance.” But the part about lacking motivation to work and the boss trying to convince you that you don’t do it just for the money? Nope. Don’t know anything about that. Definitely not.

/whistles nonchalantly and walks away with hands in pockets

Aaaaaannnnyyyhoo, so, Ryan has come up with WUPHF.com, a service that harasses you at all communication points when someone wants to send you a message – so, basically, what Facebook will be in about six months. He’s convinced most of his Dunder Mifflin coworkers to invest, and now he’s got enough cash for nine days and a strategy that amounts to “throw WUPHF-branded condoms out of a helicopter during spring break.” Michael is the prime patsy, of course, and is starting to plan for an investor ski weekend before he finds out that the company is broke and everyone wants their money back.

Meanwhile, Dwight has opened “HayPlace” in the parking lot, where he is rectifying a childhood injustice of not being named “Hay King” while Angela finds a new man right under his nose (Hey HRG! Good to see you on another floundering NBC show!) Other than finally seeing the Dwight/Angela storyline go somewhere, this plotline was pretty uneventful. Meanwhile, back in the Dunder Mifflin offices, Michael begins his sales pitch to the office

Michael: “SEX! Now that I have your attention….”
Stanley: “You don’t have our attention.”
Michael: “MONEY!”
Stanley, perking up: “I’m listening.”
Kevin: “You had me at sex.”

In early seasons, this would’ve been a pretty standard, high-humor exchange, but given where The Office is these days, this was downright milk-out-of-your-nose funny. It turns out, Stanley is already an investor, because he has a dream to live isolated at the top of an abandoned lighthouse (yet another thing I can relate to in this episode) that will then go into space (you lost me there).

Blah blah blah – Ryan’s a douche, Dwight’s a psychopath. Michaels’ an idiot. Blah blah blah. The investors meet and decide they want to sell, and Andy turns out to be surprisingly business savvy – maybe it’s that college degree (Where did he go to school again?) But as the majority investor, Michael refuses to sell, saying, “I’d rather go broke betting on my people.” It’s another one of those great, albeit brief, redemptive glimpses into Michael’s psyche.
In any event, it made me want to see something good happen to Michael – and I was even secretly hoping that WUPHF would be come a huge success, even if it meant success for weasely Ryan, if only to see Michael’s faith in people rewarded. Sadly, no. They sell, but Michael leaves us with a great, classic Office monologue:

The world sends people your way. Ryan came to me through a temp agency. Andy was transferred here. No idea where Creed came from. The point is you just have to play with the cards that you’re dealt. Jim – that guy is an ace. Dwight is my king up my sleeve. Phyllis is my old maid. Oscar is my queen. That’s easy. Give me a hard one – that’s what Oscar said. Toby is the instruction card you throw away. Pam is a solid seven. And yeah, you know what? Ryan is probably, like, a two. But sometimes twos can be wild, so watch out. And I am obviously the joker.

I thought we were going to see another callback to The Office’s good old days with an awesome Jim prank at the end – he had been cutting dialogue from Jo Bennett’s biography-on-tape, and I thought he was going to find a way to get his hard-earned commission from Gabe and Sabre. Disappointingly, it was just a prank on Gabe, and a pretty mild one at that, though I guess I can’t fault the writers for not wanting to turn Jim into an embezzler. I do wonder though if Jim might’ve found in Gabe a new target for his pranks … it wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying as sticking it to Dwight (that’s what she said?), and Gabe’s a pretty sympathetic (but still annoying) character, so it might not work. But, Office writers? A change (a change) would do you… would do you good (A change would do you good)

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The Office, “Viewing Party”: I wanted to eat a pig in a blanket… in a blanket.

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.

The Office, “Christening”: Do you smell, like, a wet, warm cheese?

There’s really nothing wrong with The Office. Really, there isn’t. It’s just a show that’s run its course. It used to be SO funny and cutting-edge, and now, its lead-ins are the two funniest network sitcoms, and it just can’t keep up. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s done. I didn’t take notes for the first half of the episode – what was there to comment on? Jim and Pam’s relationship and new-baby mishaps are cute and funny in a facebook-update-from-a-new-parent-before-their-posts-get-so-boring-and-repetitive-that-you-want-to-kill-yourself kind of way, but they’re not “Diversity Day,” “Healthcare” or “The Alliance” funny. Was spontaneous dental hydroplosion really that funny? Or was it just a more innocent time?

Funny thing, extensive experience watching TV only gives you enough insight to say what’s wrong with a show, but not quite enough to tell you how to fix it. With the office, these characters and their social dysfunctions have just been done to death. Each week, they’re put into a new scenario or “situation” if you will, and either Michael or Dwight or both will act crazy. Jim, Pam, Phyllis, Darryl and Stanley will play the straight men and women, and everyone else gets to be a quirky side character. It’s like the writers expect some kind of “situational comedy” to emerge from putting the simple act of inserting the characters into a new scenario.

That might’ve been enough twenty years ago, and hell, it may have even been enough five years ago, though I truly think The Office used to have a certain irreverent quality that it’s lost, but it’s not enough any more. Dwight selling Sabre products at the church was typical Dwight. And it made me think “oh, that crazy Dwight! Always the salesman!” but it didn’t make me laugh. Ryan playing the anti-establishment card and complaining about the password-protected Wi-Fi made me think “oh, that hipster Ryan! Always with the ironic glasses!” but it didn’t make me laugh. And Toby’s sad sack struggle with even entering the church made me think “oh, poor Eeyore Toby! Always with the uncomfortable references to his screwed up life!” but it definitely didn’t make me laugh.

There were parts that made me smile…

  • everyone sneezing on Dwight
  • Michael’s godfather impression (though even that got a little sad and uncomfortable when Pam forced him to acknowledge that he was not, in fact, CeCe’s godfather)
  • Erin telling Michael “I wish I had a job that I could just leave”
  • Jim accusing Angela of stealing CeCe, only to find out she actually stole the scones
  • The kid who decided to bail on the mission trip
  • Erin telling Michael to “get in quick.” “Why quick?” “Because it’s faster”

It’s all solidly mediocre humor, but that’s the best I can say, and I think that these days, that’s the best The Office can do.

P.S. Looks like we missed reviewing The Office’s Halloween episode – insert the word “costume” after every sixth word above, and you’re good to go.

The Office, “The Sting”: Stark Industries isn’t real. I run Google.

I was writing on my “I Love Jim”** notepad today with my Office-themed pencil, which I pulled from my “World’s Best Boss” coffee cup, which is right next to the five Office-themed magnets I have holding up very important papers, and I had to sigh. This show used to be so good – so quick and witty, so unexpected and, not always, but at times, edgy. Now, the high points are few and far between, and the biggest laugh for me came from Dwight’s attempt to intimidate rival paper salesman Danny Cordray (Timothy Olyphant). “That’s the biggest penis I have ever seen, and I said ‘I know,’ that’s why I brought you to the penis museum, where tickets are $1000. Oh hello, Danny!”

Now, believe me, I’m as game for a good penis joke as the next person, but this shouldn’t be the high point of an episode. Remember when they tricked Dwight into hiding in a box for an entire day? Remember when they sent him faxes from himself in the future? Remember the gaydar that looked suspiciously like a metal detector? They used to try for more complex humor, and maybe I was a fangirl, but I like to think my obsession with the show wasn’t entirely unjustified.

Here and there, we still get glimpses of the show’s former greatness, but the writing is consistently lazy and the characters are increasingly manipulated by the plot. Take, for example, Jim calling in Michael for a challenging sales pitch. There are two directions we can take this – either Jim has completely forgotten what a colossal screw-up Michael is and just needs to get him into the scene for the purpose of setting up the rest of the episode’s crazy antics, OR, we’re going to see one of those all-to-rare moments when Michael proves that he doesn’t actually suck at his job completely. We get the former.

As much as I think Jim is one of the only remaining redeemable characters, mostly because of his facial expressions, he’s also supposed to be the straight man to Dwight and Michael. Why would he invite Michael into that original sales pitch? Why would he go along with the “sting,” setting up and monitoring a mock selling opportunity to get insight into Danny’s selling techniques? He’s better than that. Meredith, on the other hand, is absolutely not better than pretending Oscar, and then Ryan, are Spanish-speaking members of the janitorial staff when Dwight and Jim send them in to stop Meredith from seducing Danny. I loved that when we’re in Meredith’s wheelhouse (seduction? *shudder*) she’s suddenly capable and quick thinking. She’s not letting the sales team’s objective get in the way of her sealing the deal… ifyouknowhwhatimean.

The B-story was Andy’s attempt to compete with a college friend by forming a band with Darryl and Kevin. It didn’t like it, and I won’t respond to it. The only decent part was the novelty frog song at the end. Oh, and when Creed likes Andy’s song, which bums Andy out. I just wish I knew where Andy went to school.

Long story short, Danny Cordray ends up joining the Dunder Mifflin team as a traveling salesman (which prompted me to immediately write down – “What about Todd Packer?” so kudos to the writers for acknowledging that loose end), and we do get one of those rare moments of Michael actual acting like a competent manager. Also, Danny’s really good looking, so when she finds out he’s joining the staff, Kelly busts out with “$%^& me,” which was pretty classic. I wonder if Danny will become a new man-crush for Michael to replace the wholly underutilized Ryan – that could be an interesting storyline, in which Ryan in his desperate need for attention and validation – tries to “win back” Michael from Danny. But my guess is that Olyphant’s gig is a limited time deal (with an open-ended story so he can come back at some point), which is a shame, because something needs to happen to shake this show out of its mediocrity.

**This review was written by Ashley. I’m a happily married man.

The Office, “Andy’s Play”: I have no filter.

“Andy’s Play” was one of those episodes that didn’t necessarily have me holding my sides the entire night, but did a good job of reminding me why I’ve stuck by these characters for as long as I have.

Every now and then it’s nice to be reminded of the fact that, no matter how much these people get on each others’ nerves, they’re still friends and all care about each other on some level or another. So it was good to see everyone rally around Andy and come out to see him in an (amateur) production of Sweeney Todd.

I don’t know how interested people are going to be in these will-they-or-won’t-they relationships between Andy/Erin and Dwight/Angela, especially after following Jim and Pam for such a long time. I had completely forgotten about Dwight and Angela’s sex contract until it was brought up again, and was forced to realize all over again that I really didn’t care about it that much.

There were a few moments from this week’s episode that made me feel as if the show was truly treading on new ground. One of these came when Michael told Andy that if he thought he had performed horribly, he would have told him. He said, “I have no filter.” And for some reason Michael acknowledging how absurd a character he sometimes is felt as a real a moment as I’ve seen in the past several seasons. Like the writers had found the perfect level to play the character. Another moment came in the episode’s opening scene, when Michael asked Andy and his theater company which role he’d be playing. It was a pretty awkward moment and reminded me more of the British version than anything else. I know the show has strayed into this territory before (and “strayed” is the operative word here), but it doesn’t feel like we’ve really seen it since “Diversity Day” in the first season.

One final thought. Jim and Pam getting drunk in their car with CC was a nice moment between the two, but did no one pay attention to the fact that these are two parents with their child in the back seat, and they’re selfishly getting sh*tfaced before driving home. No MADD awards for you this year, Jim and Pam.

The Office, “Counseling”: I hate looking at your face. I want to smash it!

It wasn’t that this week’s episode of ‘The Office’ was bad, it’s just that it was so damn boring.

After spanking his nephew in front of the entire office in last week’s premiere, Michael has to undergo six hours of counseling to head off any sort of legal repercussions. I’m not really sure how that’s supposed to work, but we’ll go with it anyway! So. Right. Counseling. Here’s the twist: Michael’s counselor — the one he’ll have to spend six hours with talking about his feelings — is Toby! Isn’t that nuts? Michael hates him, and now they have to hang out and talk! It’s crazy. Just think of how much mileage the show will be able wring out of all these jokes we’ve heard a hundred times already.

I think it was a little telling that the most interesting part of their story was when Michael actually opened up and started talking, if for no other reason than it was something we really hadn’t seen before. The rest of the story just felt like filler. Really, how many times are we going to hear that Michael hates Toby? And I understand Toby is that woe-is-me character who takes everything lying down, but there’s nothing even remotely believable about the amount of crap he takes from Michael. When you get right down to it, this story’s just run its course. The show needs to move on because this horse is dead. I mean, not just dead. It was covered up with privacy curtains and euthanized in the middle of a race. With kids watching.

The Jim/Andy/Dwight story, with Dwight “Pretty Woman-ing” himself to get revenge on some people at the mall who wouldn’t let him into their store turned out to be a lot of time spent on a joke that really wasn’t that funny. Oh wait, that was beet juice? Okay. Well, our mistake. Looking back on it, it seems like a lot of the humor in that bit was dependent on Dwight’s new clothes and haircut. Which is funny, I just don’t know if I would have centered by B-story around it.

But the episode wasn’t all bad. I liked watching Pam maneuver herself into a completely made-up job, even though I was a little surprised to see her do something that will, in the end, defraud the company out of thousands of dollars. I liked that Gabe didn’t want to definitively say that Pam was making her story up, and so was willing to just let her carry on with it. But hey, get the man a nameplate and he’s good to go. It doesn’t take much to keep Gabe quiet.

I liked the talking head there at the end with Ryan riffing on different quotes. “Earth. You don’t have to be crazy to live here, but it help.” Is it funny that he’s a more interesting character now than at any other point in the show? And all they had to do was dress him up like one of Kanye West’s entourage and take away half his lines.

Funniest of all had to be the episode’s teaser, with Dwight showing Jim and Pam the building’s new daycare. Mose finally came back, and I loved the fake baby strapped to his chest, and the fact that he said, “Welcome, children,” and Pam asked him if he was painting in the dark. This whole sequence was a gag that would have worked perfectly on ’30 Rock,’ but ‘The Office’ did a really good job with it. I think the lesson we’ve leaned from it is that we need more Mose.

Again, not a bad episode, just not terribly interesting. The show needs to remember that it’s only got Michael until the end of this season, so they to do something different with him and not just repeat his Greatest Hits.

The Office, “Nepotism”: Don’t don’t bother Luke.

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.