I recently found myself in a hammock at a nifty seaside resort, smiling. Not about rum cocktails or warm trade winds, but at the thought of Michael Scott’s tryst with Jan at Sandals Jamaica. (I was, to be specific, appreciating the wisdom of keeping all digital cameras away from sunbathing activities.) That’s when I know I love a TV show: when it follows me on vacation. (My thanks to Erin Stevenson for managing the Scranton branch of TV Watch while I was away.)
Based on the comments on the message board, last week’s episode, ”Money,” was polarizing. I’m in the camp of fans who found the recent 60-minute broadcasts bloated. Not to say they weren’t peppered with stellar character work: Last week alone there was Michael moonlighting in night-shift hell, Dwight grieving in his bedroom at the beet farm, Pam beaming over Jim’s impulsive PDA, and (one of my favorite moments this season) Andy catching Garbage the Regift Cat. That was Garbage, wasn’t it?
Say what you will, I’m glad the half-hour format is back. The premise of this episode, ”Local Ad” — the Scranton staffers shoot a commercial — was strong, and allowed almost every ensemble member to shine. Jan and Toby were MIA, but dominating the other end of the camera-time spectrum was Andy Bernard. He never gave us a break from that Kit Kat jingle, from the first scene to the last, and never once figured out the lyrics for those final three syllables! (”Football Cream,” ”Lumber Tar,” and ”Fancy Feast” all just about did me in!) Tonight — probably thanks to all the ad time that Dan in Real Life bought on NBC — I saw the future: If Steve Carell leaves The Office to do films full time, I want hilarious Ed Helms at the helm. I don’t ever want Carell to leave, I’m just saying…
I appreciated that Michael’s antics weren’t as over-the-top as in recent weeks. Kicking off this episode by drumming up bad ideas from the troops for a corporate-mandated commercial, Michael was soon mocking the lame ad Ryan’s consultants had made (and rightfully so — samba lite, anyone?). He then quibbled with Ryan on speakerphone about whether ”creativity” was part of his job; on a tangent, he even asserted that he could certainly open a restaurant though he didn’t cook (”Mike’s Cereal Shack”). A classic Michael-on-a mission theme developed, with the ad dudes being told to come back in ”never-hundred hours” and Ryan being called a ”little bitch.” Finally, Ryan’s boss, David, gave in to a next-day deadline and Michael’s surprisingly reasonable vow to let the professionals reshoot if everyone in corporate didn’t love his work.
Michael doled out assignments — Oscar on costume-design duty epitomized Michael’s uncreativity — as a very endearing Hey, Kids, Let’s Put on a Show! fever took hold. I wanted to hug poor, blubbering, raccoon-eyed Phyllis when she returned from a book signing at Steamtown Mall, crushed by her failure to deliver star power in the form of Sue Grafton. T is for Thwarted! Angela, who said she shunned the entire mystery genre (”I hate being titillated”), was surely pleased.
How great were those groove-tastic rehearsals for the work-in-progress song that (I’m presuming) Darryl composed? Sing it loud: ”the people-person’s paper people!” Kevin, Andy, dance-happy Kelly, and (the jack of all random trades) Creed provided some not-bad backup harmonies. Sadly, Darryl’s ditty was rejected by Michael, who said he hoped for something more urban. (Am I misremembering, or does that joke echo the U.K. Office? Both times that clueless Michael said ”urban” to Stanley and Darryl, I had the strangest sense of David Brent déjà vu.) After Michael insisted that he hated the music, the keyboardist simply walked. Tangling with Darryl never pays.
NEXT: Does Angela miss Dwight?