Friday, May 18, 2007

"I'll give you a billion Stanley nickels if you never talk to me again.": The Office

OK, look. It was just fine, and it was sweet and all, but it wasn't this or this. All right? It wasn't even this!

It seems a little unfair to bring up the UK Office in the context of the US Office, especially when the US version has so clearly grown in such a different direction from the original (still one of the most perfect series ever broadcast). But the Jim and Pam relationship has wandered along so long that when it has moments that feel like callbacks to the original show (or even the current show's recent history), it's hard to not compare and contrast. In particular, the Jim/Pam thing is starting to no longer feel organic -- it feels like two people being pushed together. I like Karen a lot (and know she's leaving for another show), and I liked Roy before he randomly became insanely angry. And I even like the Jim and Pam relationship. It just feels as if the time has passed and now the gang's trying to go back. But I realize I'm alone in this.

And I don't mean to detract from what was a solid season finale overall. There were bits that went on a bit too long (as there are in all super-sized NBC comedy episodes), in particular some of Michael's speeches, but I thought this was by far the most successful of the super-sized Offices this season. Overall, in fact, I thought it was better than Casino Night, which I found short on laughs at the time. Tonight's episode had some instant classic bits -- like the Schrute bucks or the Stanley nickels or Creed's blog. And the final tag, where the person you weren't expecting at all got the corporate job, was maybe the funniest thing all year (particularly the look on B.J. Novak's face and the way Ryan broke up with Kelly).

Meanwhile, the Jan/Michael storyline was hilarious. I didn't quite buy the pairing all of last season, but it's become so clear this season that Jan's completely nuts and that Michael (now) wants to take care of her that the whole thing is hilarious. Melora Hardin made her case for Emmy glory in the episode, showing up with new, gigantic breasts, flying into a rage then breaking down in the car after she was fired. Michael's genuine concern for her but his skepticism about whether the relationship was the right thing humanized his character as well as anything the show has done.

The story with Dwight assuming control of the office mostly worked because it avoided the excess of some of the previous Dwight-centric storylines. Sure I didn't buy that he could paint the office that quickly, but many of his other ideas rung true as the ideas of an office drone who always dreamed he was meant for more and now wanted to carry those plans out. I particularly liked that Andy, who had recently been his enemy, was suddenly happy to do whatever he wanted, so deep was his desire to suck up to the powerful.

But the Jim/Pam/Karen triangle took up much of the episode. I like that the writers have resisted painting Karen as an outright bitch (even though it seems at times that they really want to), and I liked her concern about Jim moving away from Scranton, where the temptation of Pam always waits. Some in the fan community have portrayed this as her controlling nature, but it makes perfect sense for her to want her boyfriend to herself. And I liked the idea that Pam had concluded that the timing was just off and it was time to move on to something else, right before Jim opened the door and asked her on a date (that seemed to leave enough leeway for the writers to weasel out of it being a "date" date if they needed to). The look on Jenna Fischer's face was almost worth it, but the whole thing felt forced, particularly with the note Pam left Jim (which put me in mind of clip 2 linked above). The show now so rarely uses plot elements from the original series that when one turns up (purposely or not), it seems jarring. most of the time, it's easy to pretend that it wasn't a remake of something, until the show does something to remind you that it was a remake.

I'm not going to say that the Pam/Jim stuff was completely unbelievable, but it felt a bit rushed (and I know it's taken three seasons). Still, I liked the flashback to the scene at Beach Day, and I'm interested to see if the writers try to build the couple as an adult one without turning it into more will they/won't they action. Check out Marshall and Lily on HIMYM, Office writers! It can be done!

So what did you think of season three? I thought it was less solid than season two, but still very, very funny. I don't know that it's head and shoulders above every other comedy on TV (HIMYM and 30 Rock both made strong cases for themselves this season), but it's still remarkably well done. And what was your favorite episode? Mine's still the premiere -- Gay Witch Hunt.


Andy Scott said...

You are not alone!

I agree that the ending felt forced. I wanted something more, especially since last week's episode kinda really sucked.

But it was still a good finale to a great season. And yes. Gay Witch Hunt was by far the best episode.

David Sims said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Sims said...

I think Business School was the best episode, but Gay Witch Hunt is probably #2.

And Todd, how did you like Roy? He was extremely lame in season 3 (before the anger), and a total jerk in season 2!