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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 17 - Golden Ticket

27 March 2012

Synopsis: Michael decides to mimic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and put Golden tickets in random paper shipments. The company who finds them will get 10% off their paper for a year. When Blue Cross find all five tickets in their shipment, Michael’s mistake looks set to cost the company and Jim a lot of money. Michael tries to convince Dwight to take the blame for him. When David Wallace arrives he tells them that Blue Cross were so happy that they have made Dunder Miflin their sole office supply company. Dwight takes the credit but Michael eventually tells the truth. Meanwhile Kevin asks Lyn out after ignoring conflicting advice from Jim, Pam and Andy.

The Good: The KGB jokes to open and close the show are pretty solid “Jim versus stupidity” stuff (see Comic Highlight). Dwight’s strict upbringing can create amusing lines and I enjoyed his description of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as fetishising chocolate.

Jim and Pam congratulating Dwight on “his” idea as a way to stick it to Michael was nice and for a minute some justice was being meted out. Kevin’s story has the bonus of making him and Andy seem more likeable. The Office has done a good job this season of emphasising the long term effects of break-ups and Andy’s pain and sadness are well emoted. Where as Kevin’s slightly too honest approach to Lyn is nice simple comedy and tells the pleasant story of two shy people liking each other.

The Bad: It’s a simple sitcom plot. Character A is about to be blamed for a mistake. They convince character B to take the blame. The mistake turns out well so B gets credit while A fumes and get what they deserve for their lies (see Spin City 324 for example). Unfortunately this story does not follow those simple rules. Or rather it tries to and fails badly.

For a start the mistake Michael makes is either too serious or not serious enough depending on your perspective. At first glance you could say it should be easy enough for Michael to speak to Blue Cross and reason with them. They didn’t mean to put all five tickets in their shipment, but the 10% discount is theirs and how nice is that?

Or if you can’t take the tickets back then it is a huge deal. Clearly the account is worth thousands of dollars and Michael has just given away thousands in one foolish blunder. If you accept that then it is a terrible, immediate termination type mistake. Michael’s panic follows this line of thinking and his very real terror of being held responsible makes this story seem too real.

Certainly too real for the flimsy solution. Blue Cross are so delighted by the discount that they decide to buy more from Dunder Miflin. By the way did we know they sold more than just paper because I don’t remember other stationery ever being mentioned? But anyway, just because Blue Cross have rewarded them doesn’t change what a huge mistake Michael made. David Wallace should be able to see that the promotion went horribly wrong and could have cost the company money. Even if it turned out ok for them. But Wallace claims the promotional idea was genius and gets Dwight to explain it to the corporate marketing department. It makes little sense this way and it undermines David Wallace. So far in the show Wallace has been the voice of reason. He is the show’s buffer against stupidity. When Jan or Ryan go crazy he is there to fire them. When Michael steps out of line he fixes things. He sees through Michael enough not to promote him. But here his character is weakened through bad writing. How many bosses do you know wash their hands of a major incident like this and go home without any kind of proper discipline having been given out?

This season has told the story that the Scranton branch have somehow bucked the trends of other branches and increased sales (511, 514, 515). This episode would seem to finally answer the question of how with the answer “blind luck.” Which is a shame because the story of why the office succeeds would be an interesting one.

And although Michael’s selfishness and plain meanness to Dwight are consistent, they aren’t fun to watch. Michael is so nakedly self serving and grasping that it damages the good work done to humanise him and make him likeable (this season). It’s also difficult to know why Dwight would still respect Michael after this debacle. Dwight looks down on everyone and yet his admiration for Michael is becoming harder to accept after all the abuses he has suffered. The two of them shouting ridiculous horse and toilet inventions at one another was a low point of childish writing.

It wasn’t explained exactly how Jim’s remuneration would be effected by Michael’s stupidity. But if he has lost a lot of money he should be way angrier at Michael than he is.

Comic Highlight: Michael tells a bad knock knock joke and is very pleased with himself. So Dwight leaps up to tell his own and impress his boss. Apparently it’s the KGB knocking and as Michael asks “KGB who?” Dwight slaps him and says “We will ask the questions” in a Russian accent. Like a school boy Michael slaps back at him and is mad. “No more knock knock jokes” he announced angrily. But Jim isn’t having that and says “Ding Dong” Michael is excited to find out who’s there. But when Jim says it’s the KGB again Michael asks Dwight to answer the door. They argue and of course Jim slaps Dwight and says “The KGB will wait for no one!” Michael finds that hilarious and even Dwight isn’t too annoyed – “It’s true” he says to the camera.

That’s what I said: This is a misjudgement from The Office writing team. The story is meant to be a silly sitcom plot but the show has done such a good job of building a sense of reality that it looks like Michael is really going to pay for his stupidity. Unfortunately that sense of reality bites them hard when the weak twist comes. It undermines the reality by ignoring what a serious mistake Michael made.

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  • Interesting. This certainly seems to be the period when the writers began to vary his reactions to situations.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 08/01/2012 11:45pm (8 years ago)

  • Looking back, I think this is the point where Dwight lost his obedience to Michael. The point in the show where Dwight lost what made him a great character.

    Posted by Ben F. , 07/01/2012 4:42am (8 years ago)

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