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The Office

The Office is a comedy set in a paper sales company Dunder Mifflin. Shot in a mockumentary style the show follows the exploits of regional manager Michael Scott whose excruciating behaviour can make life difficult for his fellow employees. NBC 2005-???

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Episode 2 - Business Ethics

29 March 2012

Synopsis: Thanks to Ryan’s behaviour, corporate is insisting on everyone taking an ethics seminar. Michael is more concerned that Holly make the seminar entertaining. In the course of an open discussion Meredith admits that she sleeps with a supplier in order to get a discount. Holly wants to report it to corporate and Michael wants to sweep it under the rug. When they call corporate, Kendall, the corporate HR rep decides that they need the discount more than they need to punish Meredith.

The Good: This is a strong episode for looking at Michael’s character. We get a very clear insight into his hatred for Toby and all things human resources related. It comes down to a simple disagreement. Michael wants to make allowances for Meredith because she is part of the family. Holly states simply that “it’s not a family, it’s a workplace.” As soon as she says that Michael turns on her and begins treating her as he treated Toby.

It’s a very revealing story and gives a boost to the credibility of the show. The Office always has to fight the logic gap created by the fact that Michael is in charge and yet is so incompetent and offensive. However by making clear the way Michael sees the office we can begin to imagine that if he treats his employees like family, then to some extent they are going to appreciate that. At the end of the episode he yells at them all to get into the conference room just like an angry father and they all do what he said.  If you can make the audience buy into the idea that this office has morphed into more of a dysfunctional family then it is easier to accept some of the ludicrous things which go on.

Jim’s scenes timing Dwight are fun and it is a simple, relatable workplace story. Everyone has stolen time from work and the writers manage to be creative with Dwight’s attempts to be better than that (see Comic Highlight).

There are some other good jokes here. Michael admitting to looking at Youtube for five days is relatable and plausible as is Kelly’s irritation that smokers get to take breaks. The opening scene where Jim tells everyone that he and Pam are engaged is a nice character montage too.

The Bad: It took me a second to remember that Meredith was in charge of supplies. As the show doesn’t regularly feature some of its smaller characters these details can be lost on viewers.

There is something off about Meredith’s story. It seems to lack an obvious moral side for the viewer to take. Meredith has long been considered the alcoholic, slutty character and hasn’t been featured in a positive light very often. So when she confesses to feeling good about herself after being “tipped” with free steak vouchers, how are we supposed to react? Should we pity her, laugh at her, laugh with her?

When Kendall decides to overlook this it seems ridiculous. Surely they would be horrified by the legal implications of an employee using sex to gain discounts? We have heard one mention of Kendall before (see 323), so it is possible the story is setting him up for something, but in the meantime it looks like a bizarre cop out by the writers.

By the end of the episode it seems clear that Holly and Michael are at peace again. But after seeing his naïve and foolish behaviour, shouldn’t she see look down on him a bit? Particularly after his ridiculous suggestions about giving Meredith a chastity belt.

Dwight’s grin at the camera after having sex with Angela seems at odds with his character as well. Despite his misplaced sense of social etiquette Dwight has always stuck stubbornly to his moral code, even losing his job (312) and his volunteer sheriff position (220) when he breached his own ethics. So either his sexual morality differs from the rest of his moral code or the writers have made a misstep. It’s not a cut and dry case so I will give them some largesse.

It’s sad to see after one episode that Stanley has given up his diet and is back eating ribs.

Comic Highlight: Jim comes across the ideal way to taunt Dwight into having a personal conversation. He talks to Andy about Battlestar Galactica (Dwight’s favourite show) giving him lots of false information. Although lines such as “Dumbledore Calrissian” and “Klingons and Wookies” get an easy laugh, I think Andy’s oblivious reactions are what really make the joke.

That’s what I said: A confusing episode in the end. The story has some strange holes in it which the writing doesn’t sufficiently explain. It’s still got good jokes and explores Michael’s personality well but it should have been more clearly written.

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