The Office: The Meeting
The euphoria of last week led to the belief that The Office had recaptured old glories - re-emphasising laugh-out-comedy over the more plot-driven tone of season five. Unfortunately, set against that quite superb opener, “The Meeting” can only disappoint. We’re right back in the style of episode that we spent much of last season watching - and so David Wallace is back, the emphasis is on ongoing story, and we’re seeing major status quo changes in the offing.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with focusing on plot, of course - some of The Office’s best moments have arisen from character and story developments rather than classic jokes. But where “The Meeting” falls down on this score is that its central plot isn’t hugely convincing. The idea that Wallace would be swayed by a few words from Michael, and a single performance review, into almost entirely dismissing a previously-considered promotion for Jim simply isn’t in line with what we’ve seen in the past - namely the fact that Jim and the CFO get on well, that Jim was an almost surefire contender for a higher-ranking job before withdrawing from consideration, and that even before then he’d been seen to grow into the “office deputy” role. The solution mooted at the end of the episode, meanwhile, feels uncomfortable as well (as a Liverpool FC fan, I can’t help but think “Evans/Houllier”). It undoubtedly makes for an interesting development - and Dwight’s reaction makes it almost worth it alone - but after everything that happened last season it feels like one push backwards too far for even Michael to sit back and accept.
In truth, though, plot issues aside - it’s simply a lack of “big” gags that proves the episode’s undoing. Moments of classic Michaelness are fleeting - and even then, while his attempts to gatecrash the meeting with both the absurd “cheese platter” plan and his fake phone conversations (“Well you tell the mayor he just lost six votes!”) are funny, they feel more like Homer Simpson than Michael Scott. For the most part, though, the jokes that are there simply aren’t hugely strong. The pre-titles sequence is a case in point - a single gag dragged out over an entire conversation might be alright if it were a decent one to start with, but this one just feels tired and obvious. It’s actually the episode’s subplot that gives most of the laughs - although even then, strangely, it’s Toby that gets them, a refreshing change for a character who usually only gets to play cringey awkwardness. Dwight, meanwhile - despite the aforementioned “scream” reaction - is short-changed yet again, leaving the feeling that with the Angela plot all but over, the writers are no longer really sure what to do with him; and the hints at a possible future friendship between him and Toby would be more interesting if the idea looked to have any comedic mileage whatsoever.
It could just be the comparison to last week that makes “The Meeting” look weaker - it’s certainly not a bad episode by any means (with the possible exception of the pilot, The Office is still yet to really do one of those), and set alongside season five it fits in fairly well. But we’ve glimpsed the promise of something more - the show actually evolving to become funnier than immediately before, which it hasn’t really happened since season three - and to see the return to a slight decline is thus naturally something of a disappointment. Let’s hope it proves to be the anomaly rather than the rule.
www.creedthoughts.gov.www\creedthoughts Another character who’s felt a little neglected so far, it raised a smirk to see Creed pop up to inexplicably wonder whether the meeting was about him.
Love that Andy… Dropped in somewhat strange fashion into the middle of the episode, the isolated (and otherwise unremarked-upon) story of Andy’s “weird, flirty, nebulous thing” with his cousin amused. At the moment, the Nard Dog is seemingly hoovering up the weird-but-funny non sequitur bits that would usually be Dwight’s province. Interesting.
The Wisdom of Michael Scott “There has been work… every day! I had to come in on a Saturday! [pause] To retrieve… I left my cell phone here.”
Best moment Probably a choice between two from Toby - his foul-mouthed rant at Darryl, rendered that much more amusing by its sudden unexpectedness; and his “hard-boiled detective” impression (“I’ll punch ya in the mush, see!”).