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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 25 - Cafe Disco

27 March 2012

Synopsis: Michael is using the former Michael Scott Paper Company office to drink espresso, have a dance and relax. When no one will have lunch with him, he concludes that Charles made them all focus too hard on work. So he invites them all to come to his cafe disco. He entices them by playing dance music loudly and it works as Phyllis joins him. She hurts her back though and Dwight takes her to the conference room to massage her. While he uses methods he learnt on horses, she confesses to being worried about Bob’s secretary. Meanwhile Erin and Kelly begin dancing and soon everyone congregates in the Cafe Disco much to Michael’s delight. Jim and Pam had decided to elope but seeing the ensuing cheesy fun, they decide that they would like a wedding after all. Andy and Kelly impress everyone as they have an impromptu dance-off.

The Good: To create television which makes you feel something is an achievement. To make television which can warm your heart is something very special. The Office has had a wonderful season for creating happy moments. The backbone of this change to pleasantness has been Michael Scott. He has been slowly transformed this season, becoming more and more likeable and sympathetic.

This episode starts like so many others. Michael’s neediness leads to a big stunt which ultimately hurts and distracts his employees. But for once, Michael’s desire to make work fun and thereby make his employees his friends, actually works. They eventually all warm to the idea of having a dance to finish the day’s work.

For me plausibility is key of course. But the seeds for this were sown when Michael was replaced by Charles and we got to see people comment on Michael. There was a sense then that many of the employees actually appreciated some of Michael’s shenanigans because they made work entertaining. Even last season (407) we got a sense that Michael’s sense of fun was appreciated on some level.

Then you have the individuals themselves. Self absorbed Kelly and lonely entertainer Andy are both believable as their dance off escalates and they produce some memorable moments, including Andy squealing as the closing moment of the episode. Kevin and Lyn make out like teenagers, nice continuity with their childish courting (517). Jim and Pam end their hasty decision to elope, which was predictable, but again was a feel good moment as they don’t want to miss out on sharing their fun with everyone else. Dwight and Michael bump into one another, like the dean and principal at the school dance. Finally Michael looks delighted that even Angela’s feet can’t fight the music.

The whole Cafe Disco plot is like the end of a cheesy high school graduation movie. But unlike a movie, we know these characters. Their actions have meaning and can draw emotions from the viewers because we cheer them all on to be happy. Taking joy in the joy of fictional characters is a sure sign that you are watching good television.

The writers throw you off suspecting where this episode is going in the way it was all set up. Michael looks set to irritate all his employees once more through his selfishness. But again he shows a more human side by dancing with Phyllis instead of rejecting her and genuinely trying to get her medical attention even though he is still concerned with himself. As he sits alone in his office he says his lunch “might as well be dinner” because here he is once more alone. By drawing our sympathy rather than pushing on and annoying everyone more, it makes his delight in the end result all the more enjoyable.

The injured Phyllis looks set to be the casualty of Michael’s latest foolishness, but instead she picks up on her unlikely bond with Dwight (504). The quick glimpse of Bob Vance’s assistant (who looks like a young Phyllis) added another bit of depth to her character. Seeing Dwight treat her like a horse (see Comic Highlight) was typically silly, but seems believable coming from him. He is a farmer of course and only last week claimed the meat in his sandwich was pony. So he treats Phyllis as he might treat a horse without batting an eyelid and of course he is successful. It’s so much easier to believe in the jokes where Dwight is abusing people when we can see a softer side to him.

This episode is more fun than funny. I wouldn’t say that is a criticism at all. This episode feels unique and different to most episodes of other comedies, it is something special.

The Bad: The joke where Kevin behaved like a dog being fought over by Michael and Angela didn’t quite work for me. He seemed a touch too stupid even for him. As Phyllis was then treated like a horse the joke also lost its uniqueness.

Comic Highlight: Dwight feeding the prone Phyllis a carrot as he would a horse was pretty funny.

That’s what I said: Michael really has become a likeable central character and without sacrificing the traits which make him who he is. His performances remain outstanding, so believable, showing such a range while definitely playing a character. He isn’t being “himself” the way say Jim is a lot of the time. He is having to play a self absorbed overgrown child and then fill in the depth and warmth as he goes along.

This episode is a completely unexpected surprise. Happiness is perhaps underrated. Unlike so many shows The Office isn’t building up the tension toward the season finale, they have resolved most of the ongoing dramas. It’s refreshing and this episode was all the more fun for the lack of drama.

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