Friday, November 20, 2009

TV's The Office

I'm as big a fan of the TV show "The Office" as anyone--both the British and the American versions--and have found that the various characters seem to get better and better as the season runs on. The Jim and Pam romance has actually been touching and amusing, while normally on shows such a pairing would be a sign of sure shark-jumping crapulence (see, Friends). The Dwight character has become multi-layered, as he has proven gullible, evil, insane and deviously charming all at once. The addition of Andy "The Nard-dog" Bernard has been nothing short of excellent--from his insecure name-dropping of his alma mater ("Cornell--ever heard of it?") to his absolute hangdoggedness around women and his sad attempts to get the nickname "Tuna" to catch on. His battles with Dwight are a regular highlight of the show. The side characters--Stanley, Kevin, Oscar, Toby and Meredith in particular--have provided great comedic support. And Creed? That old rascal is one of the best on there. That's not to leave out Kelly, Ryan, Daryl or Phillys either--there's just so much comedic gold there.

However, I've been getting to a point where the main character--Michael Scott, the boss--has crossed the line from funny to cartoonishly stupid and rotten. It has gotten to the point where I'd like to strangle him, from when he tried to deny Jim a deserved promotion (and ended up also denying himself a promotion--instead they both had to share a "co-manager" position) to when he dated Pam's mom and dumped her on her birthday in front of her daughter. (Simply because she was "too old" as though he was some real catch). For example:

1) The time his GPS told him to turn right and he saw there was no road and just a lake ahead, and he drives into the lake anyway because the GPS told him to. Really?

2) When he tries his "magic ticket" promotion, and it fails at first, he snivellingly tells his boss that it was Dwight's idea. When his boss tells him it turned out to be a success, and praises Dwight, Michael turns around and says it was his own idea all along--as though the boss would give him credit after seeing him disown the idea and try to pass blame onto a flunky? Really?

3) When he's in a deposition, and the attorney says something that could be taken as an innuendo, he can't stop himself from saying "that's what she said!"--like some dude with Tourette's Syndrome--and even sticks by his childishly stupid comment when it is read back to him. In a legal proceeding. Really?

4) Company picnic when during his stupid skit he mentions that the Buffalo branch is going to be closed down--which was information his boss told him in confidence. This is of course revealed right in front of the employees of the Buffalo branch, who naturally cause an uproar. Really?

5) Last night's episode--the shareholders meeting--when despite Michael's history of saying stupid things and being a wild card, the management invites him up on the dais, giving him the chance to speak out of turn and promise the shareholders something that the management couldn't deliver (that they'd have a plan to save the company in the next hour). Really?

The problem isn't just that the show makes Steve Carrell--the great comic actor playing Michael--overplay his part as a stupid and insensitive "boss from hell". Making him a bit less obvious would help, of course. But at a certain point it makes little sense that management would tolerate the things he does--after he betrayed his boss's confidence about closing the Buffalo branch, why would he trust him to be on the stand at the shareholder meeting? We're made to understand that Michael is actually a good salesman, and this may explain why his branch (Scranton) has been profitable. But clearly he can't manage--anyone watching even one episode would see that--and it'd make more sense to bump him down to salesman and let him rake in the commissions.

Am I overthinking a TV show? Yep. Favorite moment though? The awkward dinner party Michael and Jan hosted. The meter stick by which all dinner parties should be judged!

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