So, it turns out I may be slightly addicted to television...

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's Back to the Office

Phew, for a while there I was a little worried. The Office seemed to have lost its way this year. The jokes were not as laugh out loud funny, the drama a little more intense, and Michael grew a bit of a brain. Well, actually, I enjoy what I will call "New Michael". One of the best things about The Office is its ability to take a character right to the edge, to push all the boundaries until the character becomes more like caricature and almost senseless, only to reel them back in and show you a softer, more human side.

The writers have been especially adept with the character of Michael. As a fan of the British Office, I have to say I think they've done a better job on Michael. Just when I think he's completely insane and irrational and you wonder how on earth he ever got a job in the first place, let alone keeps one as the branch manager, they give you little glimpses that suggest he is not all corniness and wackiness. Take this episode for example. Here we have Michael, whom we generally assume is the idiot boss, being asked by corporate what he is doing right. As all the other branches struggle miserably, Michael's is showing strong numbers. And for the life of them they can't figure out why. I think it's because, deep down, Michael really cares about his people and, deep down, they for him. There is a community to the Scranton branch, whether it is acknowledged or not. The episode of the Dundies comes to mind, when Michael was booed and didn't want to finish and the group rallied around him. And then the way, in his own way, he cared about Meredith's alcohol abuse. And how, when push came to shove, he finally stood up to Jan. And while I loved that he did that, I didn't love how the Jan character played out. I'm not sure they knew what they were doing with her until one day a head writer woke up and realized they probably couldn't redeem her.

However, Michael was not the main story of The Duel, this episode of The Office. The main plot centred around the Andy, Dwight, Angela love triangle that has been going on for months now. I wondered how they would sort out this mess. And it became somewhat ridiculous before Christmas when the entire office knew and Andy didn't. In fact, Andy, who had been such a funny character became something of a putz. He was hardly used any more, just as the wedding-planner-come-train-wreck-waiting-to-happen.

So Michael, finally, is the only one with the guts to tell Andy the truth, even if it's only while pulling out of the parking lot, and Andy and Dwight agree to duel for Angela. There was some very good "Jim time" in this episode. Honestly, John Krasinki's facial expressions are priceless. And I loved Jim wandering around The Office collecting weapons that Dwight had stashed. And his look when he realized what would happen if he took a sick day and left Dwight in charge. And then the final scene when Dwight pulls out the bow and arrow from under the bench and Jim is right there to collect it in the box.

And the anticlimactic conclusion to the Andy/Dwight duel was satisfactory. If not as funny as it could have been, it certainly turned the tables on Angela and has set the show up for what I think will make some funny moments in the second half of the season.

But the strength of this show lies in it's "throwaway" bits. Those moments and characters that in other shows would only be used as filler or to kill time between important shots. It's lines like the exchange between Meredith and Oscar where Meredith says she knew something bad was going to happen that day. Oscar replies "You said that yesterday." Meredith; "And my neighbour was murdered." So casual, so quick, that you would almost miss it. But not an Office fan, who is rewarded for such scrutiny with those hilarious moments. Or Oscar's "A Prius is silent under 5 miles an hour. He should win." Yes, it's the little moments in The Office; the throaway one-liner, the facial expression, the accessories on a desk. It is this that takes The Office beyond funny to sheer genius for those who take the time to spot the difference.


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