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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 7 - Business Trip

29 March 2012

Synopsis: Michael, Andy and Oscar head to Winnipeg to meet with a big client. It’s sort of a favour from David Wallace to make up for moving Holly. Michael chats up the concierge while Andy and Oscar bond over a few drinks. Pam learns that she has failed her flash course and will have to stay another twelve weeks in New York.

The Good: The Office has become like a comedic soap opera this season. With Ryan and Kelly getting back together it means almost all the plot development this season has revolved around inter-office romance. This episode is full of touching character moments rather than jokes. I like it because I think it plays to the shows strengths and creates a different feel to most work place sitcoms. However the show has morphed into something quite different from what it was originally.

Michael has had a great season in terms of his character’s development. Rather than being ignorant and offensive as he so often was he has become quite a sympathetic leading man. I give the writers a lot of credit for how they have handled his relationship with Holly. This week even sleeping with another blonde woman can’t make him feel any better about losing a girl he really liked. His phone call to David Wallace is quite moving because Michael always avoids confrontation with those he likes or wants to impress. But he finally lets his emotions out at the right target. And even after that he confirms that ultimately he still thinks David Wallace is a good boss. Wallace remains a sympathetic figure too because he tries to do something nice for Michael when he didn’t have to.

Meanwhile Oscar and Andy steal the show with their bonding. There are so many things to like about what happens with these two. First their own characters are well established and explored. Oscar is an adult, who packs sandwiches for the flight, checks in for the group and tries to warn Michael off his foolish behaviour. Where as Andy is an overgrown frat boy, messing around with his silly acronyms, asking for chest bumps and hitting on guys in inappropriate ways. But more than that is his immature relationship with Angela where he won’t confront her about his frustrations and he can’t come up with a good reason as to what he sees in her. The two stay true to those characters but once their guards are down they bond because Oscar tells Andy what he needs to hear and Andy allows Oscar to relax a bit. Oscar’s drunken giggle is really funny and such an understated bit of acting.

The drunk dial to Angela is the first sign of Andy cottoning on to what is really going on. What is so valuable about that is that we begin to see Andy as a sympathetic and more real person. Dwight and Angela are both very unlikeable (as Dwight reminds us with his thoughtless criticism of Pam’s art) and with Andy being screwed over, he should be the sympathetic figure. Finally here, we see he can be. Oscar’s thanks to Andy and Andy’s description of Oscar as “Delightful!” begin to make us warm to Andy and his naïve enthusiasm.

Andy also makes one of those points which television shows occasionally make with real eloquence. “I had to come all the way to Canada to get to know a guy who sits twenty feet away from me.” That says so much about the way not only businesses and offices can depersonalise people but also says something about urban living in general. In the stilted life of the office Andy and Oscar never worked together enough to see that they had anything in common. It’s a lovely moment, well written and further bonds us to Andy.

Pam’s decision to come home because she doesn’t like graphic design is a brave one from the writers. It is tempting to look at her decision as a step backward or a failure. But perhaps it genuinely is how she feels about this one particular aspect of art. I hope the writers don’t leave her ambition entirely thwarted though now she return to being a receptionist. The whole office’s concern with Jim’s feelings is a nice touch. It allows for some amusing grins and touching to go on but also illustrates how well Jim and Pam are thought of by their colleagues.

Finally the scheming jerk Ryan gets back with Kelly but ultimately realises he is a loser no matter what. It would seem he was desperate for a challenge he could overcome to gain some sort of success. However when Darryl cheerfully hands Kelly over to him, it would seem Ryan has gained nothing. His manipulation of her and comeuppance is fun to see.

The Bad: Once more I question the reach of the cameras on the show. The producers need to be consistent with it, they can’t have cameras go everywhere and have the characters wearing microphones all the time. The plane journey here is a step too far. Even if you could believe that the airlines would allow them on, there are two cameras. Did they really need to have two angles on that shot? It seems ridiculous to believe that two cameramen paid to go to Canada and filmed the flight from their business class seat.

Comic Highlight: Michael putting his sleep mask on and then chatting to the camera when the drinks cart slams into his leg.

That’s what I said: Another quality character episode from The Office. I would rate it higher if it were funnier. But if choosing between good character development and humour, I think the show is making the right choices. It has a fine cast and is using it well. Relationships will always be a key hook for a comedy and this season has remained interesting throughout.

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