Friday, March 20, 2009

An Hour of Goodness: The Office and 30 Rock

Last night's episode of The Office was called "New Boss" and it was so deliciously awkward, so uncomfortable, you had to laugh because of the nerves. It was also a fascinating display of why people at Dunder Mifflin enable Michael's behavior. If you take over his fragile world of make believe, take away his toys and tell him to grow up, he turns into the kid you see throwing a tantrum at the supermarket.

As I mentioned in last week's blog on "Golden Ticket", the writers have been building a house of cards to set up a major fall for Scranton's Regional Manager. The cards finally crashed last night. Michael has been managing his office as if it's his kingdom, perfectly cast like the running sitcom or play in his mind. Jim is his confident. Pam is the damsel. Dwight is his fool. Stanley's the funny black guy. Once upon a time Holly was his queen, but corporate sent her away, which was one of the major injustices that David Wallace and corporate threw his way, another card on the upper deck of that flimsy house. Now, here comes Charles Minor, a hard edged micro-manager from corporate who is there to usurp Michael and take over his court. Well, it was the final straw. Feeling under appreciated and used on his 15th anniversary with the company, he quit. Although Michael's actions are exasperating, you can't really blame him.

Last night's episode was Jim's story as well. As much as we tend to like Jim Halpert, he's no different than Michael. He has his own kingdom, but it's not filled with magic sets, bad credit and neediness. Jim's world is sustained by pranks, smirks to the camera, and a palpable sense of being above it all. Pam is a major part of his landscape. His love for her and his desire to start a family has made him hunker down and take his job more seriously. However, pranking Dwight is his drug. It will distract him. It will sap all his productivity until a revengeful prank battle has been waged. Yet, Jim has two other vices: bad timing and an inability to handle confrontation. He wore a tux to work to snivel at Dwight's ridiculous memo about dressing classy at work on the day, unbeknown to him, the new bad ass boss was in town. He also did not stand up for himself when confronted by Charles about his job position - his very REAL job position.

Jim's job isn't imaginary. It was imaginary when Dwight pretended he was Assistant Regional Manager a few seasons back. Yet, Jim was officially promoted into the ARM position by Jan Levinson in season two "Branch Closing", and it was also mentioned in a conference call in "The Merger". Jim is the official number two manager. Why he said it was an made up job, I'll never know. It's unclear if the writers did this deliberately to show how Charles' intimidating discourse can turn the confident, cool Halpert into the same ineffectual weakling he was when facing Karen in Utica a few seasons back, making a verbal faux pas that would leave someone with the wrong information and impression, or if this is just bad continuity on the writer's part. If the former is the case, then it's an interesting look into Jim's Achilles heel, with potential for evolution. If it's the latter, then Executive Producers Greg Daniels and Michael Schur have to curtail their double duty on Amy Poehler's show and start tending to the original mother ship because the writer's are not being fact checked. However, kudos for the jokes. The "two way petting zoo" where you pet an animal and he pets you back - was genius.

I loved how Kelly was into the really sexy Charles Minor because she thinks she can nab any guy in town, but I could have done without Angela's flirting. We've seen enough of her being in heat for one season. Let's leave that to her cats.

I'm going to enjoy seeing Charles wreck some havoc on the show for the next six episodes. Idris Elba is incredible as the new corporate hot shot, and having read his tweet about filming his last scene on the show a few days ago, it will be sad to see him go. Or, perhaps it will be a relief. He is one intense dude.

Next week's episode is entitled "Two Weeks" (Originally called "Two Weeks Notice"). We'll see where the wind takes Michael now that he's quit Dunder Mifflin.

Although not always as thought provoking or analytical as The Office, 30 Rock just keeps giving us laughs galore. Last night's episode "The Bubble" is the one where we got to find out what was wrong with Liz's super human handsome boyfriend Dr. Drew Baird. Come on, you knew that wasn't going to last. He's was too good to be true. She's going to end up with ditzy Dennis Duffy and you know it.

It appears that her handsome "like a cartoon pilot" boyfriend is so gorgeous that he's gotten through life being coddled by people whose knees have buckled by the brightness of his gorgeousness. His looks get him tables at restaurants. His brilliant counternence gets him out of parking tickets. He went through medical school on the basis of his gleaming smile. He's been so yes'd throughout his life, that he lives in a bubble of delusion, a happy place where good looking people can ride motorcycles even though they crash into cars, and can swing tennis rackets, but always miss the ball while looking spastic on the court. Oh Liz. There has to be someone out there who'll be your baby daddy.

Tracy Jordan lives in a planet all by himself, and Jack Donaghy knows this. When Jack told Tracy that he has so much money that he doesn't even have to work, Tracy realizes that Jack is right and leaves TGS to go record a rap album in his children's rec room. He comes back when Kenneth our lovable page, is removed from his life. And we all know that Kenneth knows that Tracy will want fried ribs and porn magazines before Tracy does.

Tina Fey wrote this episode, and I'm incredibly envious. This show has been pretty strong week by week. It also made me homesick for my old upper west side neighborhood. They filmed alongside West End Avenue with flashes of Riverside Drive on a snowy day. It makes me love this show even more - because although it's the funniest thing around - it's pure home.

NBC has provided a two minute replay for "The Bubble":

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