Saturday, September 27, 2008

Guiltless Review: The Office: Weight Loss

"Summers going great. Just spent two hours listening to Michael Clump. I have a weird pain in my left side that I'm convinced is an ulcer. My girlfriend lives in New York and I haven't seen her in 10 days. How's your summer?" - Jim Halpert

Comedy is really the hardest thing to write a review about. Its purpose for existing is to provide us with honest laughter, through any means necessary. The means to accomplishing this goal is going to vary greatly from show to show, and the reactions that people have to these attempts will vary even more. Some things just need to be seen to be understood.

That being said, I feel I can describe what makes The Office, now in its 5th season, so special. I've never before seen the intentionally wacky characters of a TV sitcom come across as so fully realized and so relatable. From the insecure attention mongering of office manager Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) to the sincerely hilarious Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck-style rivalry between salesmen Jim Halpert (John Krasinsnski) and Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson), the characters on The Office are funny and sympathetic in the best way possible. The humor comes from the characters' personalities; their fears and hopes are all laid bare in unexpected, embarassing ways, creating comedy from the social discomfort that results.

If you haven't been following The Office before now, I strongly recommend catching the old seasons before watching the current season 5 (they are all available at Hulu.com I believe). Watching the current season can still be funny without doing this, but due to the nature of the character-driven comedy on the show, being informed of the character's histories makes being up to date so much more rewarding than with your average sitcom. Also, the remainder of the review contains major plot spoilers, so don't read it if you wanna have the complete "Office" experience (highly recommended).

On to the review of "Weight Loss" the typically funny season 5 opener.

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON

Summary:
There's a new summer HR initiative at Dunder-Mifflin: the branch that loses the most weight is going to be rewarded with 3 vacation days. Naturally, this means everyone at Dunder-Mifflin Scranton gorges themselves before the first weigh-in. Meanwhile Michael attempts to sort through his feelings for the new HR rep Holly (Amy Ryan), and Jim & Pam (Jenna Fischer) deal with the pitfalls of a long-distance relationship.

Laughs: 9
Nine is about average for an episode of The Office, the bad ones might go as low as 7 or even 6, while the best ones will break the scale. "Weight Loss" didn't have many big belly laughs in it, but there were a few character moments that were just perfect if you are a follower of the show. My favorite was Jim painfully reminding his former boss Ryan (BJ Novak) that he indeed was fired, publically disgraced, and sentenced to community service for engaging in corporate fraud last season. There was an art to how Jim effortlessy peels away Ryan's self-estem just by asking him very simple questions. Like with most laughs in The Office, it is understated, and pretty difficult to describe, but extremely satisfying if you understand the characters' histories.

Investment: 11
Like I've said, this is what The Office has over every other TV comedy I've seen. The characters are truly three-dimensional. They may have some personality quirks that are exaggerated, but their motivations as people are all very real. For example, Dwight Schrute may be considered a very broad character at first glance: an overbearing, socially incompetent dork. Lesser shows would just leave it at that and use him for easy laughs by bringing him into scenes Kramer-style (no knock on Seinfeld, I like that show, but The Office is just so much funnier). The genius of The Office is that they have managed to give a character like Dwight an inner life, they actually manage to make him a very sympathetic figure on several occassions.

In "Weight Loss" we have 4 years of personal baggage from Michael, Jim, Pam, Dwight, Angela, Andy, Ryan, Kelly being avoided, exploited, and misinterpreted as usual, which will no doubt lead to many funny episodes in the future. There was however, one notable exception; which lead us to. . .

Twists: 11
Ok, who saw that scene between Jim and Pam at the service station coming? This episode did everything in its power to lead us to believe that it was trying to intentionally complicate Jim & Pam's pending engagement just like EVERY other TV show has done when it tries to put off the union of its two "will they-won't they" characters. Then they went ahead and did it: Jim proposes to Pam in quite frankly the most natural, un-TV-like, and romantic way possible. I mean seriously, does being engaged, and eventually married really remove all prospects for comedy from characters? I really think not; there is plenty of awkwardness, deception, and personality clashes in even the most loving relationships. I for one am ecstatic The Office's writers are willing to meet this challenge head on.

Final Word:
Love, love, love The Office, quite possibly my favorite TV show ever, can't wait to see the next episode.

3 comments:

Lauren said...

You would love a character who proposed in a very spontaneous no-frills way! ;)

(Did I mention I am Pam in the which office character are you quiz?)

Corinne said...

Everyone gets Pam! Unless they pick the ridiculous answers that don't really apply to anyone.

Stacey said...

Strangely, I usually get Dwight or Jan...

I agree, this episode really was trying to throw us off about Jim and Pam. So relieved.