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Office Watch: Double Your Displeasure

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Spoilers for last night’s Office (and, briefly, Parks and Recreation and Community) after the jump:

You probably haven’t heard about this in any magazines, newspapers, TV entertainment newsmagazines or NBC ads, but next week Pam and Jim are getting married on The Office, which means plenty of time to remember how adowable they are and how much we wuv them, yes we do! So it was a bracing corrective to get “The Promotion” this week, which focused on something The Office has alluded to for a while now: while the outside world may be gaga over Jam, to their coworkers, they are not necessarily all that.

Or in this case, Jim particularly isn’t. It’s been a recurrent theme that, for all his ineptness and lawsuit-baiting behavior, Michael Scott is in many ways strangely good at his job. The corollary is that Jim, who is in many ways the anti-Michael, isn’t not as effortlessly great in Michael’s place as you’d think he would be. (By the way, I’m not sure the show has ever as efficiently shown the difference between the two men as when they compared their feelings on a scale of 1 to 10: Jim says he’s a 4 and usually feels a 6, Michael says he’s a 0 and usually feels he’s at 10.)

Now, Jim is right when he lays out Michael’s weakness: that he has trouble making hard, unpopular decisions, and this weakness predictably shows itself again here. But it turns out that Michael’s seemingly defensive response—that Jim overintellectualizes decisions and doesn’t use his gut—is also true, at least in this case. (Michael runs his work life as impulsively and passionately as he would his personal life, which both gets him in trouble and saves him; Jim, on the other hand, didn’t draw up a pro-and-con sheet to decide to kiss Pam.) Jim believes that a combination of his personal likeability and having a well-reasoned rationale will get the staff to respect and accept his decision to give the limited raise pool to the sales staff.

Boy, is he wrong—and what’s interesting is the way in which he’s wrong. Obviously accounting et al. are simply pissed not to get raises. But Oscar—who has had Pam and Jim’s number since his devastating personal critique of her at her art show—puts his finger on the condescension with which Jim delivers his decision. While this wasn’t an Oscar-centric episode, in a way Oscar Nuñez was the linchpin of this episode, not just dressing Jim down but delivering the very funny sum-up of the problem with the two-bosses situation: “Where would Catholicism be without the Popes?”

Parks and Recreation, meanwhile, came down off two stellar season-opening episodes with a weaker, but still solid, installment in “Beauty Pageant.” This episode returned to Leslie’s priorities as a woman in politics—from her women-pols photo collection to her identification with the less-hot pageant contestant—and it also featured the return of one of P&R’s funniest running gags, the Pawnee murals, this one featuring a brawl between a pioneer man and woman. (“The original title of this one was A Lively Fisting.”)

Community’s Dead Poets Society episode was not a great as last week’s either, but I can still get a laugh every time I mentally replay the scene of the desk collapsing; and the denouement about Abed’s autobiographical movie has the show finding a poignancy I hope it manages to do more with. Your thoughts on NBC’s Thursday comedies? Will you be buying off the registry?