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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 19 - Two Weeks

27 March 2012

Synopsis: Michael decides to start his own paper company but no one will go work for him. When Charles hears about it he has Michael escorted from the office. But he returns crawling around the office begging everyone to come with him. Pam spends the whole day working out how the new photocopier works. She decides to leave with Michael and tells him that she wants to be a salesman.

The Good: One of the key things I judge television shows on is how much they drive you to watch the next episode. That is one of their key functions, to ensure that their audience has a reason to tune in next week. This episode does a really good job of that. Really good.

The Office has a formula, like almost all shows. And it certainly seems likely that by season six Michael will be back in charge. But the writers need to keep things interesting and this latest development certainly does that. Michael and Pam miscommunicating as their new business struggles should provide for entertaining viewing. And an intriguing conflict of interest between Jim and Pam. Meanwhile back at the office it will be equally fascinating to see how Stanley and Kevin respond to their new found responsibilities. And indeed how Charles Minor manages to handle the needy employees who Michael happily coddled.

The characterisation was spot on here too which fed the jokes which flowed consistently throughout. Michael, as usual, goes from overconfidence to the depth of despair in the same working day. His attempts to recruit everyone for his new company lead to some choice moments (see Comic Highlight). Jim reminds him that they are a business in decline to which Michael assures him “I practically invented decline.” In a similar misunderstanding Andy asks if he is really going to start a new company in this climate. To which Michael, missing the economic point responds “In all climates!” Very appropriately Michael and Dwight make it clear that they have no interest in working with one another anymore. Again the characterisation is so good because Dwight admires Michael’s power and authority and not Michael. Michael of course thinks Dwight is a geek. Toby gives a very clever analogy to explain why he and the other employees have put up with Michael for so long. He says he is like a movie on a plane. It may not be good but it is something to watch. He basically implies that Michael is what kept work interesting and now he is gone it’s clear just how dull working for Dunder Mifflin really is.

The photocopier storyline was a simple and effective way to keep Pam involved in the story and show us why she would risk a steady paycheque and join Michael. The writing is skilful because Michael uses language which wouldn’t appeal to anyone but her. “Are you being the best that you can be?” he asks. They all probably think they will be a lot better without Michael around, except for Pam who sees her job for the dead end which it is.

Charles remains efficient and professional and that begins to feed nicely into his talking head jokes – “For regional manager I’ve decided to go for an outside hire. For obvious reasons.” And as he will clearly remain an important part of the story for the rest of the season it’s interesting that the writers have begun to sow seeds for the potentially negative sides of his personality. As Kelly and Angela shamelessly flirt with him we cut to him saying “I am aware of the effect I have on women.” A touch of arrogance perhaps? Then of course he puts Kevin on phone duty and Stanley in charge of productivity. A brilliant strategy or a complete misunderstanding of their personalities? Perhaps we are unearthing the secret keys to Michael’s success as manager.

One of the clues to a good Office episode is that there are too many good lines for me to name-check them all. But Michael accidentally logging onto Monsters.com complete with scary sound effects was a very nice touch. Kelly claiming to Charles that Angela will turn fifty soon was suitably desperate. Pam declaring that the photocopier will not defeat her “like that wireless router did” seemed deeply plausible.

Throw in a rather tragic reference to the Prince Family Paper company (512) having gone out of business because of Michael. And his very logical choice of which employees he tried to recruit and which he didn’t (Kevin, Creed, Meredith and Angela) and you have an episode chock full of moments to enjoy.

The Bad: The only false note was Michael drinking so obviously in front of Charles. Surely he would have put a stop to that quickly.

Comic Highlight: Michael kicks his recruitment into overdrive and meets secretly with Oscar in the parking lot. But that fails and the scene cuts to a low camera which can only see Michael’s feet in the bathroom as he talks to Stanley.
M: “Stanley.”
S: “Can’t you see I’m urinating?”
M: “Listen Stanley, you don’t need to answer me now.”
S: “No.”
M: “Just, I want you to think about it. I am starting my own company.”
S: “No.”
M: “Ok, you’re not letting me finish. And you just lost out on a million dollars.”
S: “No I didn’t.”

That’s what I said: This is excellent television. Logically written, with characters behaving as you would expect them to. Jokes flow from the very real developments going on at work.

Pam choosing to leave with Michael is a very intriguing development and shakes up the show’s formula. It should lead to another string of enjoyable episodes to close out the season. Credit to all those involved.

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