The Office: The Promotion
I think I’ve figured out what it is about this series. The increased emphasis on plot was something that long-term fans of The Office were happy to accept throughout season five, partly because by this point we were sufficiently invested in said plot to want to keep watching no matter what; and partly because it was good. Michael quitting Dunder Mifflin to form The Michael Scott Paper Company seemed like an insane idea to begin with, but actually injected a bit of life into a flagging season. In this context, it was forgiveable that the episodes weren’t as downright funny as before.
But with season six - and the second successive episode to come up a bit short on the laughs really does start the alarm bells ringing on this front - that fall-back, so far at least, isn’t there. Because the plot - so far at least - isn’t working. Turning Jim into a co-manager isn’t an idea inherently destined to fail - but such a drastic status quo change needs to be done well. On the evidence of the first episode since the promotion, however, ideas seem to be lacking - hence the contrived conflict of he and Michael having to decide how to distribute a paltry set of raises. Simply put, it’s an awkward situation that the writers didn’t really need to put them in - it seems strange that a company that’s just closed an entire branch, and promoted Jim to a manager’s salary, would struggle to find inflation-level raises for their employees. And furthermore, upon seeing their assorted suggestions rejected (despite the performance-based idea seeming fairly reasonable), it’s strange that the pair don’t simply revert to their original plan of distributing a smaller raise evenly.
Nitpicking perhaps, but The Office - for all of its occasional outlandish plots - relies on the internal office developments growing organically from the characters, and at the moment nobody really seems to be acting or talking like we’d expect them to. And it feels like the show’s major strength - mainly the strength in depth of its supporting characters - isn’t being played to. At the moment it’s the Michael and Jim Show, with only fleeting appearances from the likes of Ryan, Andy, Kevin and even Dwight - and their plot, despite the odd good moment of interchange between them, is lacking in pure comedy.
With the burden of providing laughs put upon it, the subplot struggles as well - it doesn’t bode hugely well for the upcoming wedding that the preparations have been so boring, and Pam somewhat neutered as a character; although her excitement at seeing “Mrs Pam Halpert” on Kevin’s cheque is cute, and the closing credits sequence with Ryan quite funny.
It’s not like the show’s suddenly entirely devoid of laughs - and it is at least good to see it trying something new with the plot. But the problem is - with the notable exception of a nice closing moment between the co-managers - it’s simply not hugely likeable at the moment. The US version of the show set itself apart from the UK equivalent precisely by being easier to engage with and care about - but at the moment, that’s not really the case. Hopes remain high for the wedding episode, but it can ill afford to continue this run of mediocre form and maintain its status as the best sitcom on telly.
The Wisdom of Michael Scott “Well, to be fair, Jim… James… Jimothy? To be fair, Jimothy, the conversation wasn’t about planets at first. We were talking about introducing a line of toilet paper, and what part of the body does one use toilet paper upon? So you draw a line from there to the other planets, and I think by the end we all learned a little bit about how small we are. It’s a big universe, and we’re all just little tiny specks of dust.”
Don’t you want to earn Schrutebucks? The promotion of Jim to manager has at least given Dwight the chance to step forward - although one slightly suspects that his attitude is rooted in a time prior to the season four/five mellowing of their attitudes towards one-another. Still, his wrestling description pre-credits felt like classic Dwight simply for the pre-contrived nature of it, and yet at the same time the restrained nature of his dream: “Eighteen thousand dollars and a shot at the title!”
Best moment I’m not sure if Michael’s irrational hatred of Toby will ever get tired: “I just wanted to draw a picture of him”.