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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-???


Episode 15 - Lecture Circuit (2)

27 March 2012

Synopsis: Upon arriving in Nashua Michael learns that Holly isn’t there but her new boyfriend Ajay is. Pam encourages him to go on with his lecture but he uses it as an excuse to grill Ajay. Then he steals a file from Holly’s computer which says “Dear Michael.” Pam reads it for him and tells him that she still has feelings for him. Back at the office Jim and Dwight continue to argue over Kelley’s party. They finally offer her an hour of television or an hour long knap and she is satisfied with that. Angela sets up a nanny cam for her cats and then Oscar and Kevin end up seeing her licking them clean.

The Good: Michael remains consistently characterised. He is so childish and selfish throughout. “How could she do this to me?” he asks when hearing that Holly has moved on with Ajay. He cuts Pam off when she tries to relate a story about her because he is so preoccupied with his own feelings. He plays his emotions very convincingly and there is a definite car crash feeling when he begins his lecture and you realise where he is going with it. His subsequent breakdown has the impressive result of making you feel genuinely sorry for him at the same time as making him look pathetic and unprofessional. The conclusion to his story feels like the right one as Pam reads the document and tells him that Holly still has feelings for him. Regardless of what she actually said Michael is satisfied and can go back to being himself.

The Bad: I didn’t find Pam stepping up to continue the lecture a very convincing idea. Even ignoring her shy retiring nature, it seemed unprofessional for her to try and do the lecture in Michael’s style when she has no sales experience to call upon. Picking up the chainsaw and trying to use that just seemed completely out of character for her, especially as she was seen disapproving of it in the previous episode.

Back at the office there was more poorly thought out humour. The exaggerations in Angela and Dwight’s behaviour completely crossed a line. Angela cleaning her cats with her tongue is just too much. The writers have taken a simple piece of characterisation – lonely uptight woman using cats as a baby substitute – and crossed over into freak show territory. They are desperately reaching for a way to get a big laugh from her strange behaviour but they don’t get it. Her behaviour is presented as a genuine part of her personality and as such makes her look psychotic and deeply strange. So strange that she must need psychological help if she is really licking cats.

Similarly Dwight’s bizarre upbringing can be a rich source of jokes but is taken to far here. His list of suggestions for party games and food include “Fights to the death”, “blood” and “mating.” You can’t have him suggest things which are either completely unreal or deeply unprofessional. Those jokes take you out of the show and remind you of the writers trying to make you laugh. Worse than that those suggestions contradict Dwight’s character. Two episodes ago he went to extreme lengths to teach everyone about fire safety, now he is suggesting fights to the death and mating as suitable office-based activities?

Perhaps even more annoying than these poor attempts at humour is the lack of normal behaviour from some of the others. When Angela announces that she sold Andy’s ring for seven thousand dollars no one asks how Andy feels about that. No one looks concerned that he has lost thousands of dollars and she has so callously used him like that. Then having complained about the half inflated balloons Jim doesn’t blow them up himself or ask everyone else to blow one up he just leaves the massive collection of barely inflated balloons on the table for Kelley’s party. Her happiness at being offered a knap or television was a passable joke but again her childishness was perhaps overplayed.

Comic Highlight: Dwight is in his element as he grills Kelley about her time in juvenile detention. Nothing gets his juices flowing more than attacking criminals, his volunteer sheriff duties and love of shows like 24 have made this clear. He makes her tell Jim what she did. Predictably it was an overreaction to being dumped which cost her a year inside. “It was the worst year of my life and I can’t believe you guys are making me talk about this on my birthday.” Now remember that Jim and Dwight forgot her birthday and so have arranged a party for this day to make up for it. But Dwight pouncing on his chance to attack her snarls “I thought you said yesterday was your birthday!” and points an accusing finger at her face.

That’s what I said: A really disappointing follow up to last week’s episode. I don’t have a problem with Holly not being at the office, it was still a good idea to address Michael’s feelings for her. But like so many of the double length Office episodes the chance to write longer stories for the secondary characters fails badly. The jokes are particularly inappropriate and poor here. It’s a shame and a reminder of the limitations of the writers after a string of good episodes.



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