Brief thoughts on last night’s Super Bowl-sized Office after the jump:
I watched last night’s episode of The Office live, with the rest of America, still in a state of frazzlement after kamikaze-reviewing the night’s Super Bowl ads, so I didn’t take notes. But if I had, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get anything down through my belly laughs and tears in what may have been the best Office opening segment ever. (And at least the best bit of physical comedy on the show since Meredith encountered the bat.)
From Dwight’s methodical setup of the fire (blowtorches on the door handles) to the panicked reactions (“The fire is shooting at us!”) to Michael’s attempt to revive Stanley (“Barack is President! You are black, Stanley!”) to one of the best Office slapstick gags ever—Bandit flying into, and crashing back through, the ceiling—it was nonstop, and a perfect introduction for Office neophytes. That said, I’m not sure NBC really gained any promotional advantage “introducing” viewers to a show that debuted four years ago. But I suppose without anything suitable ready to launch—say, the new Amy Poehler comedy, which we now know will be called Parks and Recreation—there was a good enough excuse.
The episode seemed crafted to draw in non-fans, and thus there was nothing particularly spoilery in the way of serial plots, and the episode required relatively little knowledge of the show. (Most TV watchers have probably absorbed osmotically the idea that Pam and Jim are a thing.) But it hit all of the elements we love about The Office: the wackiness, the awkward humor, the genius nonsequiturs (Creed’s “That’s where I know you from!”) and the moments of poignance, in Michael’s confronting what his staff really thinks of him. Michael’s stunned step off the roast stage—knocking over the snare drum he’d been using for rim shots—was a beautiful and typically Office mix of comedy and pathos.
If anything fell a little flat for me, it was the Jack Black movie-within-a-show; the scenes were perfectly fine, but the scenes with the regular ensemble outshone the big names hired to draw attention. The Office has all the stars it needs already.