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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 21 - The Michael Scott Paper Company

27 March 2012

Synopsis: Michael organises a pancake luncheon and invites all his contacts to it. In the meantime the small office space causes a lot of tension between Ryan, Pam and Michael. The luncheon attracts very few customers but does lead to one sale which invigorates them all. Upstairs at Dunder Mifflin Dwight and Andy bond despite both vying for the affection of the new receptionist Erin. Charles asks Jim for a rundown of all his clients and Jim doesn’t want to admit he doesn’t know what that means.

The Good: Once more Michael and Pam carry the episode’s main story by remaining sympathetic likeable characters whose first sale saves them from the despair and regret of their new venture.

Pam’s desperate approach to get her old job back is a nice way to deal with the obvious solution to her woes. It also provides quite a touching moment when Michael quietly asks her where she’s been, it seems that he knows where she really was but is relieved to have her back so won’t say anything about it. Pam plays her discomfort with her awkward situation really well. When Russell asks her for a business card (which she doesn’t have) her fake laugh reaction to cover up her embarrassment is excellent.

Michael remains a wonderfully balanced character. He manages to run the gamut of human emotions but pull through in the end. His pancake luncheon shows initiative and does get them a sale despite his bad pancakes and poor attendance. He is smart enough to recognise the poor working conditions but still offers a foolish solution to the problem (amusingly counting the four corners of the room) by offering everyone personal space in their own corner. He calls his mother for support (now that he has no Jim or Dwight to vent to) and his one track mind solution to his problem is to leave and start another paper company.

The revamped credit sequence is a nice fun way to focus the episode on them including a picture of Jim and Dwight going to the bathroom to get them featured. The cramped office space provides several nice moments of visual comedy and the chance for Ryan and Pam to bicker. Stanley even pops in to giggle at the mere sight of Ryan working with Michael again (see 312 amongst others for why this is particularly appropriate). To cap off the comedy we have people using the toilet next door and the flushing sound being far too audible in the new office. The coup de grace on Michael is when Toby comes to pee and is on the phone droning on. Even in his new company Michael can’t escape him.

Upstairs a new friendship forms between former enemies Dwight and Andy. I love the surreal suggestion from Dwight that “as these things often do” hatred turns to friendship. This has great potential as two idiots enjoying each other’s company is far more enjoyable to watch (at length) than people being mean to one another (see Comic Highlight). Dwight and Andy actually seem like a natural pairing because Andy is a follower and Dwight a leader. As quickly as their new friendship forms, they are confronted by an old conflict as they both flirt with Erin (the new receptionist). I liked the goofy ways they both flirted, it fitted their characters and it seemed believable that she would play along. She is new so would want to make friends and get along with everyone. Their mutual love of music allows for a really fun showdown as Andy and Dwight compete to impress her with the most unexpected of conclusion. They both abandon her and get lost in the enjoyment of one another’s playing, until Toby wisely tells them to stop. It was such a pleasant, amusing and unexpected twist. This new friendship could have great comic potential.

Finally Kelly Kapoor continues to throw herself at Charles in amusing and just about believable ways.

The Bad: The Jim story is a problem. He isn’t George Costanza (who famously refused to ask for clarification on work because he was such a weasel. In Seinfeld, both in 508 and 721-22), he is a normal guy, he really should just suck it up and ask Charles for more details. The first time he doesn’t ask is plausible enough but once Charles asks him to fax his rundown to the distribution lists we have a problem. Jim sends a fax to his Dad instead because he doesn’t know what the list is. But now logically Charles will come and ask why he didn’t do it and he will have to admit to his deception, plunging him further into Charles’ bad books. It just doesn’t fit Jim’s character to be so foolish.

The friendship between Dwight and Andy develops too fast. The writing probably could have kept the new receptionist out of this episode and let us see them become friends. As it is it feels too rapid and the conclusion that they really have become good buddies (as pleasant as it is) feels slightly contrived.

Comic Highlight: Dwight comes to see Andy to address the impending confrontation over Erin. “Listen when I saw you talking to Erin earlier, I noticed that your pupils dilated and your skin flushed and I’m assuming that a little bit of blood rushed into your penis.” Cue a hilariously disgusted look from Stanley sitting behind him.

That’s what I said: With a tweak here and there this could have been brilliant. As it is though it is still a strong story with some nice comic touches to accompany it. The Michael Scott Paper Company really has provided an enjoyable new dynamic for the characters.

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