Spoilers for last night’s Office coming up after the jump:
One way I might define the sensibility of The Office is this: it takes scenes and situations that most shows would cut away from, and it keeps the camera rolling, keeps you looking at them, just a little longer. The Michael Scott Paper Company storyline, for instance, is something that another show might have introduced as a season-end cliffhanger, then resolved in the next-season debut, and been done with it. But The Office forces you to keep looking—to watch the consequences of Michael and Pam’s impetuous decision play out—and so far, it’s been pretty satisfying.
For instance, I’m not sure I have ever heard a better description of the result of trying to live out an impractical fantasy than Michael’s peanut butter / tunafish sandwich dream: “Let me tell you, in real life, it is disgusting. It is a disgusting sandwich.” It’s a fairly self-aware statement, in that Michael is recognizing that he now has to eat a peanut butter / tunafish sandwich every day of his life for the foreseeable future. And it is a perfect statement on Michael’s arrested development that he would actually have tried to make that sandwich (the actual one, not just the metaphorical one) in real life, and expected it to taste good because he dreamt it.
Last night’s episodes, which sandwiched (see what I did?) the debut of Parks and Recreation, might as well be treated as one long one, although they ran separately. But they also showed why (with a few exceptions, like “Stress Relief”) the shorter episodes work better than the supersized ones. The double-shot allowed the show to cover the same story—Michael and Pam’s joint what-have-I-done moment—from different perspectives: the outside one, as we saw Vikram’s brilliantly horrified reaction to Michael’s business plan, and the claustrophobic one inside the No Exit quarters of the Michael Scott Paper Company. (The new credits sequence was brilliant.)
Some small moments I enjoyed:
* Stanley’s reaction shot, in the background, to “a little bit of blood rushed to your penis.”
* Phyllis catching a soccer ball in the face. Never not funny.
* “Confidence. It’s the food of the wise man, but the liquor of the fool.” “I’m looking forward to getting to know you, Vikram.” Also: “I’m like Benjamin Button in reverse.”
* The fact that not only did Michael hang up a set of time-zone clocks in the new office, but he labeled one of them “U.S.A.”
* Pam’s moment of triumph at closing a sale, Ryan’s attempt to share the limelight (“We did it!”) and Michael’s closing takeaway: “Who’d have thought that the thing that would save this company would be work?”
Oh, as for 30 Rock—other than having enjoyed Liz as Steve Jobs, I don;’t have much to say, so have at that here as well.