Ok, “Office” fans, let’s huddle up for a second—we need to talk. Season six has been a pretty rough one for the once near-perfect TV comedy, and I think we all know why: this is the season where “The Office” succumbed to the kind desperate sitcom scriptwriting that it used to so naturally fly above.
Celebrity guest stars to boost ratings? Kathy Bates, check. Retelling major plot arcs from previous seasons (Kathy Bates as Charles Miner from last season; Andy and Erin are like the mildly mentally challenged—but still sweet—pre-nuptial Pam and Jim)? Check, check. A Very Hyped, Very Special Episode? Christ, we were given two, the first being Pam and Jim’s wedding in “Niagra” followed by Pam and Jim’s baby in the “The Delivery” two-parter. Check, check, check.
Remember that episode of “Arrested Development“, “S.O.B.s,” in which the show openly mocked the fact that it was near cancellation and self-consciously hurled every desperate sitcom gimmick imaginable at the screen (3-D scenes, a live performance, a character dies, celebrity cameos, all within a 20-minute span) with a knowing wink and smirk? The show knew its time was up, and instead of asking for a life preserver, it simply tossed anvils at every other flailing sitcom around. “The Office” has now officially begun to flail, and the gimmicks remain gimmicks because they’re all happening with a straight face. For the first time, “The Office” isn’t in on the joke.
Last week’s episode, though? Well, “Happy Hour” wasn’t anything new, being one of those sub-genre “going out at night” episodes of the series, but still one of those half-hour chunks that the show does so ridiculously well—no gimmicks (well, outside of not being in an office), no cameos, no saccharine Pam/ Jim moments; just the series’ emotionally/ psychologically crippled characters tossed into the real world for a night and forced to survive an endless barrage of awkwardness and hilarity.
- Director: Matt Sohn
- Writer: B.J. Novak
- Honorable Mentions: Greg Daniels (Developer), Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant (Creators)
- Cast: Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, B.J. Novak, Ed Helms, David Denman, Leslie David Baker, Brian Baumgartner, Creed Bratton, Kate Flannery, Mindy Kaling, Ellie Kemper, Angela Kinsey, Paul Lieberstein, Oscar Nuñez, Craig Robinson, Phyllis Smith,
The Show’s Plot:
“The Office” is a mockumentary following the mundane, yet hilarious, lives of employees of the paper company, Dunder-Mifflin, in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Title of this Week’s Episode: “Happy Hour” Season 6: Episode 21
“Happy Hour” has Oscar the accountant organizing a happy hour party for both the office employees and the warehouse crew in a desperate effort to surreptitiously hang out with Matt, the cute warehouse guy he’s been crushing on since Christmas. Jim and Pam use the opportunity to set Michael up with a friend; predictably Michael goes all manner of bat-shit, embarrasses himself, ruins the date, and ends up attracting the far more intriguing/attractive owner of the bar itself.
- Waaaaaaah!: Kevin, the child-like accountant, spends the majority of the episode appearing next to Pam and wailing like a baby. According to him, after a woman has baby, if she hears baby crying, “her you-know-whats fill up with you-know-what, and then her shirt gets all you-know-what.”
- Date Michael: Realizing he’s been set up with one of Pam’s friends, our hapless manager rushes out to his car to transform from manager Michael into “Date Michael.” This entails a horrid Kangol hat, unbuttoning his shirt to mid-chest, and leering into our collective face and asking “how ya like your eggs in the mornin’?” Oh, and lots of air-guitar on a pool table.
- Yakuza: In perhaps the best moment of the episode, we’re introduced to a new character, an elderly Japanese man who works in the warehouse and regales us with his life story: back home, he was the best surgeon in the country, and was asked to operate on an ailing Yakuza boss, who promptly died forcing the surgeon to flee to the U.S. and secure a job at Dunder-Mifflin. The chilling, deadpanned gag at the end? “I kill Yakuza boss on purpose. I good surgeon. The best!”
- Drama: Both the Erin/ Andy and Dwight/ Isabel (you know, the inexplicably hot friend of Pam’s that he hooked up with in “Niagra”) relationships are milked to the nth degree for awkwardness here, but both come off as trite and more than a little confusing—seriously, the show seems to have lost any idea as to what to do with Dwight, vacillating him from socially crippled uber-nerd to, apparently, a ladykiller who sweats masculinity and pheromonal promise. And Erin/ Andy can be cute in small doses, but when given an entire B-storyline, can fall flat rather quickly once the riffs get old (we get it, they’re the uncool Jim and Pam, we get it). Ed Helms’ Andy and Ellie Kemper’s Erin are both staggeringly odd, charming and winning regular additions to the cast, and deserve better than to be will-they?/won’t-they? placeholders now that Jim and Pam are together.
Not the best episode of the series by far, “Happy Hour” was still certainly one of the very best of this season, with the kind of clever writing and simmering awkwardness that “The Office” has perfected over six years. At this point, the series is clearly spinning its wheels, however when those wheels are stripped of sitcom hackery, man can they roll!
“The Office” airs on NBC on Thursdays at 9PM