If you haven’t read my TV section before, I’ll sum up a recurring theme in my reviews: “The Office” sucks.
The only reason I, and many people nowadays, watch is out of total sentimentality for a series that, for a few years, was the best comedy and one of the elite shows.
“The Office” imploded last season when Steve Carrel left, but honestly, the cracks had been forming a couple years prior.
Last season bumped Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) to leading man and he promptly became a whiny, insecure headcase who needed to be reminded every week that his peers really did like him.
This season opened, though, with a hint of promise. Former showrunner (during its prime), Greg Daniels, re-focused the center on Jim and Pam, while slightly tuning down the Andy debacle.
The jokes may have remained in the same broad register plaguing the most recent seasons, but at least I felt like somebody was trying again.
The third episode of the season, however, was “The Office” at its worst. The revolting B-story of Nellie calling a Dwight bluff by insisting he cut off her hand was followed by an even worse one. Dwight teaching Erin Dothraki (fictitious language from “Game of Thrones”) has to be one of the five dumbest gags the show has ever pulled.
Then, a bad premise gets butchered when Erin decides to exclusively speak in Dothraki (which she speaks fluently in one day), despite the fact that she’s an incoherent mess. And the whole thing isn’t played with a shred of irony! Erin really thinks she’s flaunting high culture. God help us all.
Then there’s the case of Nellie, a misfit and reprehensible character. Nellie tricks Andy into thinking he’s a distant relative to Michelle Obama which leads to a lot of Andy hubris followed by the communal scorn over the implication that the Bernards were slave-owners. The whole thing rings horribly hollow and fails to be funny once.
Pam and Nellie hook-up for a classic odd couple “Office” excursion, and in the middle of it all, Pam tells the camera that Nellie … gasp … is actually kind of fun. The subtext is egregiously glaring – Nellie is fun now! You don’t hate her! It’s a shallow move by a group of writers who know they painted themselves into a corner with the Nellie character.
How about the new boss? The writers appear to realize Andy, the sad sack, was a big miss. So he comes back from an off-screen work retreat newly decisive and affirmed.
The result is that Andy is still socially tone-deaf and occupationally negligent, except now instead of puppy eyes, he’s just kind of a jerk. This new Andy is hitting so many of the old Michael Scott beats, it’s reeks of desperation from the writers.
In an episode that felt comically flat and logically disillusioned, they of course mangle the only potential saviors in Jim and Pam.
Jim finally decides its time to reveal his exciting, risky new career venture to his wife. The buildup had been done fairly well, and yet when the big moment comes, Jim and Pam discuss things behind closed doors while the audience suffers through a trite miscommunication joke between Daryl and Nellie. He’s actually talking about a job. She’s secretly talking about an affair. Uh-oh! Why would the writers preclude us from the only meaningful conversation on the show for a hackneyed joke?
So this is “The Office’s” destiny: toiling with cartoonish humor and flippancy to the people who matter, in creative Hell.