Friday, May 04, 2007

"Attention: I am removing all bananas from the kitchen.": The Office

(Alternate quote that was just TOO LONG for Blogger: "Sometimes the clothes at Gap Kids are just too flashy, so I'm forced to go to the American Girl store and order clothes for large colonial dolls.")

See, that's some good Office! I've been getting guff from some of you for taking the show to task for getting too weird and whimsical from time to time. My argument is that if the show veers too far from realism, it won't work as well. Some of you feel that if the show is funny, what does it matter? Well, The Office is only as good as its verisimilitude. If the wacky antics aren't grounded in something approaching emotional truth, they just don't work.

Tonight was a good case in point. Now, technically, it stretched credulity that Michael would be that clueless around his female coworkers and so openly engage in sexism in front of them (even though he's been established as an utterly classless character) but because he turned to them for relationship advice in his relationship with Jan and because he seemed genuinely broken by trying to figure out what to do to salvage that relationship (until he realized, with Phyllis' help, that what he really wanted was to break up with her), it was easier to go with a lot of the other stuff.

I don't think that every episode of The Office has to have a tragic or even bittersweet core, but it certainly helps the proceedings. The scenes at the mall, where Michael went to bond with the XX set, were perfectly done, from the long conversations about how bizarrely wrong Michael and Jan's relationship was to Michael getting the girls anything they wanted at Victoria's Secret (and Kelly running in ahead of everyone else) to Angela having to buy doll clothes to fit her petite frame (loved the cutaway where she had to stand on the chair to reach an object on top of a shelf).

The story element that kicked the whole plot off was a flasher approaching Phyllis in the parking lot and her shocked reaction to it (followed by Michael behaving completely insensitively in reaction). A chastened Michael put Dwight on a task force to capture the flasher, and Pam made a sketch that looked a lot like Dwight (simply because Phyllis couldn't remember what the flasher looked like anyway). There's nothing better than penis humor, and this episode did more with the word than I've seen in quite some time.

Some of the women on the show have been a bit underused this year, especially Meredith, who's had basically nothing to do outside of shouting "SHUT UP, ANGELA!" By focusing the episode on the office's females, the show highlighted a group of players that is often overshadowed by some of the flashier company members.

And, hey, we got some Jim/Pam/Karen triangle action that didn't feel completely tacked on as well.

1 comment:

That Fuzzy Bastard said...

It was a good episode---Michael's "dishing" with the girls was great, as were the Meredith's-minivan scene (I suspect that Meredith is next in line to be the secondary Office character who we get to like lots).

But it also had some of the weakest moments the show's had in a long time. Some of the Creed bits felt a little obligatory, and Stanley's leer is getting overdone. But the worst was the very end---Dwight's shout of "Paaaaam!" belonged in King of Queens, if not the Honeymooners---it was so agonizingly sitcommy that it very nearly wrecked my enjoyment of this very good episode.

The show's succeeded mostly by being willing to leaven its bittersweet core with sitcommy goofiness, but I'm a little terrified that the latter is about to take over.