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The Office double-bill recap: Dream Team and Michael Scott Paper Company

April
12

Thursday night on NBC was all a bit much, and that’s a shame because the quality matched the quantity.

This was a night of television I’ll look back upon wistfully in late July when all I’ve got to choose between will be Mets-Nationals and Entourage reruns. The bounty of hilarious TV NBC foisted upon us all at once will make the summer TV hiatus feel longer and bleaker than hot summer nights ought to.

Between Parks and Recreation, the funniest debut of a new sitcom since 30 Rock, a brand new episode of 30 Rock itself and two new, nonconsecutive episodes of The Office, it was an embarrassment of comic riches. Not to complain, but it all kind of flowed together in the end.

That said, flowing together was what I was aiming for when I employed my DVR to watch The Office installments back-to-back, hour-long-style. Where “Dream Team” jumped off the screen with a new kind of Office vibe and lots of yuks throughout, “Michael Scott Paper Company” dragged a little even though it had its share of yuks too.

All in all, though, I really like where they’re taking things. (Here’s my P&R review, and I’m still working on a holiday weekend-delayed 30 Rock recap.)This isn’t Season 2 by any stretch, but it’s a marked improvement over the aimless wandering that has defined Season 5. And the best part is that there isn’t an off-week in sight. After the April 2 break (that was entirely unnecessary given Thursday’s double bill), we’re finishing up with six straight weeks of new episodes. That’ll be 11 new episodes in 11 weeks going into summer, dating back to February’s “Crime Aid.”

Anyway, the writers found a way this week to take things out of the office without really leaving the office, or at least without leaving the office park. Though it never sat right as a plausible turn, the launch of Michael’s own paper company sits pretty well with me now. They’re not whitewashing the challenges or overstating the assets Michael and Pam bring to the table. He’s got sales mojo and the smarts to line up prices with suppliers. She’s got the initiative to make a to-do list, albeit a sketchy one with song parody titles, and to make sure he gets dressed after a few dozen batches of French Toast.

The best part about “Dream Team,” or the first half as I like to call it, was the parallel between Michael’s initial anxiety attack and Pam’s crisis of confidence at the end. Both episodes were a rare Pam showcase, but what I really liked was the interplay between Jenna Fischer and Steve Carell. There was less of that in “MSPC” because of the return of Ryan. Man, what a !@#@% @#$#@ %%#@! that guy is. The blond hair rocks, though, as does the banter: “I wish my iPod could make phone calls. No I don’t want an iPhone, I know what an iPhone is.”

Stuck in a closet with the flush of Dunder Mifflin’s busy office showering down past them, sending its business to the sea, this wayward trio faces a true challenge. But the fact that Michael wangled that closet-cum-office from Billy  — nice to see him, by the way — was impressive. And they’ve got a laptop, not that Pam and Ryan share well. All they needed was Vikram, who could have stuck around longer, if you ask me. But he was as wise as Nana to bail on Michael. No one should bank on his success unless they’ve got nothing to lose, i.e. Ryan and Pam. It was weird to see Pam beg for her job back, but it was worth it to see her savor the air and the soft chairs upstairs.

Upstairs, it’s business as usual under the despotic tyranny that is Charles, a.k.a. Jerky McJerkerson. Why’s he hate Jim so? At first I thought it was a ploy to motivate the slacker who he knew could be his sales ace. But no, he’s really clueless, as putting Kevin on phones and Stanley on productivity czar duty was meant to show. I thought those were brilliant schemes too. And he’s even easily manipulated by Andy and Dwight until he’s wasting everyone’s time talking soccer — Stanley’s a big Maradona guy — instead of working. And Dwight puts next to no effort into successfully pranking Jim right into an impromptu soccer match that ends worse for Phyllis than Toby’s football clinic did for Meredith. And still Jim takes the blame, even though Charles kicked the ball!

While I like where the show is going, I hate how they’ve wasted Idris Elba so far. I’ve seen enough of him on The Wire to know he could be doing more.

A couple funny moments stick out, from Michael’s paper-shaped pancakes at the pancake luncheon that even Creed wouldn’t steal to Creed’s assertion that Charles indeed goes to the bathroom. They dropped the B-word twice, when Ryan is called Shoe Bitch by his bowling alley boss and when Michael pulls up in the convertible Cruiser with Britney Spears blasting and declares “It’s Britney Bitch!” Dwight’s and Andy’s dueling banjoes over the new girl was hiarious, but as funny and less overt was their developing playful bromance. And of course there’s the observations that P, when she’s not being a major B, is a  New York 6 but a Scranton 7. Lastly, Rajini Ghanda is a weird name. For a girl, I mean.

Well, there’s your Office rundown. You know what that is don’t you? Good, now send it off to everyone on the distribution list.

This entry was posted on Sunday, April 12th, 2009 at 9:24 pm by Brian Howard. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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