Sunday, October 21, 2007

"How do you tell someone it's over? You send them a notarized letter, right? Well, what if the recipient is your notary?": Three weeks of The Office

(Contributor Erik Anderson and I got together over the ol' MSN to discuss our very general thoughts on the last three episodes of The Office, the highs and lows. We should have weekly posts on the show from now on. Sorry for the delay. -- ed.)

EA: Oh, i HAVE to say ... since no one has mentioned it yet ... my favorite line of the night was "It's Scrantonicity II, not Scrantonicity!" because, like, with The Police, Synchronicity II is totally their best album

And so, yeah.

TV: I am sadly unfamiliar with the works of The Police. But I did like this latest episode quite a bit. I thought it was the first hourlong episode this season that worked all the way through.

EA: Yes

EXCEPT

The doc crew following characters way outside of work doesn't make sense. Not all the time. Especially to Dwight's farm?

Yeah it was funny but like, on a Jim/Pam date? Overnight?

TV: Well, heh, that's a criticism that I think will always follow the show, I guess. One of those suspension of disbelief things you'll just have to go with.

EA: Well, sales calls, yeah. Date nights, no

TV: They're been bending the limits of what the doc crew MIGHT conceivably film since late season two. Which I'm fine with.

EA: Yes, but you're easy. Like a Sunday morning.

TV: Sadly, I am.

EA: Also brilliant was Pam's Embassy Beets, Beets Motel, Radish Inn.

TV: Heh. Now, the criticism flying around that the last four have been so bulky BECAUSE they're hour-long episodes is kind of reductive, though, I think.

EA: What's funny about these hourlongs too is that if that strike happens, NBC could have had four more weeks of the show instead of dumping their comedy load up front

TV: Indeed. But the show's ratings are huge, so it was clearly the right call from a business perspective.

My biggest problems with the hourlongs are that their conclusions often stretch the bonds of believability. But that's a complaint I had with a lot of late season three episodes too.

EA: And still no Phyllis time! Except her thing with Angela, lol. That was funny.

TV: The show right now is sort of caught between three worlds -- workplace satire, character-based comedy full of nuance and zany single-camera stuff (like you might see on Arrested Development).

EA: I agree. It is kinda trapped. Or at least it doesn't balance its worlds all that well.

TV: And I like the first two worlds, but the third just doesn't work if we're to pretend this is a realistic documentary. The show aims for verisimilitude for its first two-thirds, then veers into farce at the end, often. Like, I could buy Earl and Randy from My Name Is Earl driving into a lake while following a GPS. Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock has probably done it before.

EA: Good point.

TV: But it's just too unbelievable when Michael does it, even if he's a manchild. This week's episode, when he loudly declared bankruptcy, stayed on the good side of stupid, I thought. But the previous three all had moments where they seemingly forgot how to write Michael.

But, yeah, the way for them to go is to delve into their characters more. Like they did with Angela and Phyllis. *tying things together*

EA: Well, I'm getting worried there are too many touchy feely moments

TV: Oh yeah? Explain.

EA: Dwight and Jim on the stairs. Jan pep-talking Michael on the train. It just went a bit long, and the episode as a whole then felt like a 'very special episode.'

TV: Hmmmm. . .I can see that.

But.

Dwight and Michael have become such caricatures through the first few episodes that I felt it was a nice touch to have their "other halves," as it were, humanize them. Dwight, in particular, bounces back and forth between about four different personalities, depending on which one the writers need that week.

EA: Yeah, in real life he would be in jail. LOL. He's a total creepy freak.

TV: I don't mind a character who has a lot of emotions or moods (better than just having him be the office nerd or something that a CBS comedy would do), but there's a real sense that Dwight's a different person from week to week.

And he's OUR creepy freak.

EA: Pairing angela with andy should make for many comedic/stalker/crazy moments for him.

TV: Yeah. The Angela/Andy storyline is really great. In fact, everything with Angela this season is really great.

EA: And I love that Kelly's just 100% fucking gonzo now. And that Darrell might whip her into shape?

TV: Really, what's interesting, is that everything with the supporting players this season is 100% excellent. And everything with the main four cast members is hit-and-miss.

(I don't count Ryan as a main cast member, apparently.)

EA: More Phyllis!

TV: I DO like that Ryan is just a younger version of Michael. Or, as some commentors have said, he's more like David Brent from the UK Office.

EA: Except that i'd sex Ryan.

TV: Well, that's hardly surprising.

EA: Bitch!

Oh, it was a nice touch to see that at another office Michael is deemed 'cool'

TV: Definitely. His whole second job plotline was really well done. Especially when he talked about how his boss' meetings were unnecessary. He's apparently completely lacking in self-awareness. Which is not a surprise.

EA: He has to be; otherwise, there's no comedy with him. He has moments where he does see himself and his behavior but they're shortlived, thankfully.

TV: Oh, surely.

Anyway, to tie back in to what I was saying before (I think).

Any sitcom in its fourth or fifth season has to get broader and broader to keep drawing laughs. It's just the way the format works, even one with soapy elements like this one (and promise me we'll talk about Jim and Pam soon).

EA: I think the Jim and Pam stuff is actually better now.

TV: We'll talk about that in a second. My frustration with the above is that it's just harder to watch The Office get broader and broader because it was originally so small and intimately detailed.

EA: Yes.

TV: I don't think they should be doing every episode about a workplace story because they've clearly just about run out of those. But they also shouldn't be taking pizza boys hostage.

EA: Ugh. That was HORRIBLE, but the kid was funny.

TV: And then there were no repercussions! I wasn't expecting anything SERIOUS (after all, TWO NBC comedies can't be set in a jail), but I thought something might come of it.

Anyway, why do you like Jim and Pam better? Because I'm kind of sick of them.

EA: I dunno, since being outed they're just randier and somehow funnier. Besides, it let Michael have the line "Whaddya talkin' about, Jim and Pam havin' sex? Oh hi Pam."

TV: It is nice that they're close again. I didn't realize just how much they drove the comedy in season two, still my favorite season.

EA: Mine too.

TV: I like that they split that up in season three, as it forced them to develop the characters outside of their relationships to Jim, but it's nice to have that back now that the other characters are more clearly defined.

THAT SAID.

Three out of four Jim/Pam plots have been about how they're a couple now, which is sort of irritating, and I'm getting sick of them, especially as I was on Team Karen.

EA: Gross!!!

TV: I know, I know. I'm America's worst person.

But, I mean, we're supposed to find all of this coupledom adorable, and most of it is, but I think their plots should extend beyond "Hey, we're a couple now!"

EA: I like their preciousness, and I normally would vomit over it.

TV: It seemed they were heading to another "We're a couple!" story this week, but it ended up being more about how the two of them helped Dwight.

EA: I'm sure they'll move away from that. It's only the beginning of the season.

TV: (Oh, sidebar, I also loved when they pranked Dwight by being the SUPERCOMPUTER.)

EA: Sidebar: I want to marry Mose

TV: I know how you feel about the Amish.

EA: Return sidebar: yes, the supercomputer thing was effing BRILL. And in re: Amish...you have NO idea. Iwould totally raise his barn

TV: My mother is going to cluck her tongue at this.

Anyway, as I talk about this, I realize how much of each episode I really DO like, but there's always one BIG fly in the ointment that ruins the whole thing and rips me out of the show's reality. Where this week's mostly avoided that, I guess, and had that perfect whoever/whomever scene.

EA: Yep and yep

OMG, I forgot, Andy's "wide stance" while talking to Pam? LMFAO

TV: I was going to say that Andy has been my favorite character this season, until I realized how much I'm still liking Creed, Stanley and Angela, who were my old favorites. I'm also enjoying Ryan's blatant antagonism.

EA: Creed is always awesome. And don't forget Kevin and Toby! And more Phyllis!!!!

TV: I think the thing is, we know so much about the central four that anything we learn about them just starts to feel tacked on, whereas the other characters are still relatively unknown to us. This show's got such a huge cast that it could run for literally years before having to go broad and farce-y, but they're not utilizing some of their best assets for whatever reasons, so they ARE going broad and farce-y.

Granted, I'm not sure a Meredith-centric episode would be all that memorable, but who wouldn't like to see Stanley's home life, say?

EA: Except he doesn't even like PHONE CALLS at home. Dunno if that'd work. But Creed? Gold mine. Sweeps?

TV: That would actually MERIT a one-hour episode. It might require all three hours of NBC's primetime real estate that night.

If not all 22 hours in that week.

EA: A miniseries.

TV: Yes. The Creed Bratton Story. As told by those who loved him.

(Then we mostly talked about Ugly Betty for some reason, before I promised to post some scenes from Erik's favorite scary movie to pad out the post length.)

1 comment:

Bianca Reagan said...

I agree, more Phyllis. She is so cool.

And re: Jim and Pam. Yeah, I get it. They are a couple. And?

Less of them, more scenes like the whoever/whomever debate in the conference room. Hilarious!