Sunday, October 07, 2007

"It's Only Meredith" : The Office

Season four of The Office finds us a few months after last season’s delicious final salvo of former temp Ryan (show producer and writer B.J. Novak) sharking the corporate job from Michael, Karen and Jim recently vacated by Michael’s superior (in every way), Jan. Jim and Karen have broken up (guess Rashida Jones thought her fall pilot was going to get picked up) and he and Pam are now seeing each other on the D.L. Or as much D.L. as a camera crew that follows them around can afford them. There isn’t a more slippery slope in television romance than putting two characters together after a drawn out period of longing. The good news is that Jim and Pam’s banter and flirtation is actually better, brighter, and funnier, making it even more of a show highlight.

After Michael accidentally hits Meredith with the company car he commits to a “5K Fun Run” to combat rabies. I’ll explain how that connects with the hit-and-run later because I’m more interested in the little makeovers that both Pam and Ryan have undergone since we saw them last. For Pam it’s a fresh but subtle sexuality in her more playful clothes (I always thought her beige button-downs made her look like she could be Angela’s only slightly less prudish sister) and tousled hair. For Ryan it’s a more dramatic change with a carefully manicured five-o’clock shadow that would make George Michael proud and a black on black suit and shirt topped off with a $200 haircut. He seems to have taken the corporate job by the seat of its very expensive pants but for some reason it seems false. Maybe this is the real Ryan that’s been waiting to hatch and if that’s the case it’s too bad. I’ve always liked Ryan’s wide-eyed discomfort at Michael’s overt passes at him but now he’s a tough-guy hatchet man.

Also suffering a distinct change were Dwight and Angela. Their relationship hits a rocky bump when Dwight kills her beloved cat “Sprinkles” (“I’m a farmer,” he says) by putting it in the freezer. Alive. A bit morbid I’d say. It was an antic that, to me, signified a u-turn in the way that “Will & Grace” sidekicks Jack and Karen went from hilarious weirdos to completely unbelievable idiots in their respective season four.

Rabies. So Dwight once put a bat in a bag and put the bag over Meredith’s head, resulting in her contracting rabies (her divulging that she was also bit by a rat on a separate occasion notwithstanding). This opens the door for Michael to relieve himself of some guilt by positioning himself as her savior, getting her to the hospital on time to save her from the “silent killer.”

Just when it seems like the episode is wrapped up, and at the 20+ minute mark after my DVR skipped the commercials it seemed about time. But no, this is an hour-long episode. Oddly, it doesn’t feel like a single episode but more like two unceremoniously stitched together. I kinda feel bad as it appears I'm just bagging on the show. It certainly wasn't without some killer zingers, trademark Jim camera mugging and fantastic subtlety. I'm just used to the funny stuff outnumbering the unfunny or the downright uncomfortable. Sadly, in this episode at least, for a show about an office, it started to make me feel like a clockwatcher.

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