Baseball Toaster Screen Jam
A Solid Third-Season Premiere for The Office
2006-09-22 09:04
by Jon Weisman

Moments before the third season of The Office began, I realized I would have to dial down my expectations. The second season ended on such a high note, and rewatching episodes over the summer (something I rarely do with shows these days) only made me more appreciative of its brilliance.

Watching the Office webisodes online over the summer, however, served as a reminder of the show's fallibility. To be sure, the webisodes were never meant to be a full-fledged version of the show on any level, but for the most part, I think one would have to say they were nothing more than an acceptable diversion or time-kill. They were forgettable.

Nevertheless, televised Season 3 opened with a solid episode - neither a classic nor a letdown, but one that again showed the series' sophistication in attacking tricky subjects.

The Jim-Pam-Roy storyline took the next step, and once more we find that The Office can plot a love story as well as any show on television. For the first time, we saw a side of Roy, the vulnerable side, that helped explain Pam's interest in him in the first place - addressing perhaps the show's greatest weakness right off the bat. Jim has handled his current fate with an endearing maturity without losing his sense of humor, and of course, you still just want to cry for Pam, or at least get her the therapy she needs. Well done.

On the work front, The Office took on a plot about Oscar coming (or being pushed out) of the closet, and for all the sweetness of Jim and Pam, reminded us that the show will always be about incompetent people and uncomfortable situations. In the face of the possibility that the show might try to reel in Michael in hopes of making him more tolerable to a wider audience, The Office presented him at perhaps his most distasteful - and at the same time, revealed even more of his inner torture and confusion. Steve Carell, by now we know, is a real actor disguised as a silly comedian, and Oscar Nunez (Oscar) offered outstanding work as well.

Does any show get more comedy out of pain, or vice versa? It's really something.

2006-09-22 09:50:24
1.   Benaiah
The show makes light of such serious issues that I find myself shuddering even as I laugh (for example Meridith licking her hand after she puts on sanitizer). I was amazed that they managed to handle such a sensitive issue without being preachy or ever having the joke be at Oscar's sexualities expense. One thing that bothers me is: How is Michael still boss. The off hand comment about "another issue at the Scranton office" really drove home how bad Michael is. He seemingly costs them huge sums of money and it blantly incompetent or worse. Perhaps Jan is afraid to fire him because of the incident in the Chili's parking lot? And as always the episode ended with Michael learning something , but nothing important. "I wonder if he knows?"
2006-09-22 10:01:51
2.   Jon Weisman
1 - The reason Michael is still boss, from what I can tell, is best illustrated by the episode at Chili's with Jan and the Tim Meadows character. Michael gets deals done - perhaps because there are other people out there who like him and don't know his major flaws.

Also, you have Dwight getting that salesman of the year recognition, the fact that Jim is thoroughly competent and worthy of promotion. The accounting staff is competent. Etc.

At the show's beginnings, there was worry about cutbacks and closures, but every little hint since then has been positive. I sense that they will continue to tolerate Michael as long as his branch does well - and/or as long as Jan has her dysfunctional crush on hm.

2006-09-22 10:02:53
3.   nickb
The only other show I've seen that derives as many laughs out of sheer uncomfortableness is Curb Your Enthusiasm. Both shows are kind of like a car wreck in that while your gut is churning from the horrible sitations the characters end up in, you just keep watching and laughing.
2006-09-22 10:22:03
4.   Bob Timmermann
Regarding Michael being the boss, remember that when all the other regional bosses got together some of them were even worse.

For me, I just loved the one line where the female employee in Jim's new office says to the camera "Jim? He keeps making these faces at the camera..."

It was like an aside to an aside.

2006-09-22 11:23:11
5.   nickb
I just realized that I didn't mean to imply that laughing at car wrecks is acceptable...
2006-09-22 11:37:24
6.   Fletch
You mentioned the threat of layoffs and cutbacks. Last night they dropped several hints about the company struggling. I think that will play into the story line this year.

The bad news is I just got back from Sharper Image and gadar is still out of stock.

2006-09-22 12:05:43
7.   Benaiah
I dont think that branch is doing that well. Jan mentioned something about "how you could do this? Especially right now." I think the company is in serious trouble. Plus Michael spends extravagantly on stupid things so I imagine that cuts into the profitability. I loved the look on Dwight's face when the "gaydar" went off over his crotch. The kiss was the real payoff though. It was so long and awkward, with Michael tightly squeezing his eyes shut and Oscar looking away and trying to move away. I was in stitches. Or when Angela said: "I wish Will and Grace sometimes... It makes me sick."
2006-09-22 12:05:57
8.   Benaiah
2006-09-22 12:32:11
9.   Jon Weisman
7 - I think the company is always struggling, but I don't think Michael's branch is the foremost reason.
2006-09-22 13:00:50
10.   Terry A
Kevin's uncontrollable, inappropriate, incredibly immature giggling was a highlight for me.
2006-09-22 13:04:13
11.   Benaiah
10- What about when Dwight suggested that "All Office gays should identify themselves."
2006-09-22 17:22:21
12.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
2, 1 - That is exactly like real life. Managers are too often evaluated based upon achievement of concrete objectives (or the biggest objective for sales: revenue) at the expense of all others. Michael (the character) is a past two-time winner of Salesman of the Year award, too, and may have some credibility because of it.

The only evidence that runs contrary to this notion is one remark I recall when Jan tells him that his branch is fourth (out of five) in the region (and he responds "hey, top 80%!")

I'd also note that I re-watched a handful of episodes from this summer and found the show more brilliant in the second viewings. The shock-value had worn off and the humor was just more apparent. Plus, I started noticing how the camerawork itself was more than just a reminder that it is a "documentary", but also instrumental in telling the story: Ed Helms' character is having a caniption over Jim's reprise of the office-equipment-in-jello gag, and the camera focuses on Jim, who waves off the camera with a disapproving look, and then the camera zooms in more on Jim. Funny!

A great show.

2006-09-22 20:49:04
13.   Andrew Shimmin
I missed it. I figured it would be up at, but I guess they're only doing that for a few of the brand new shows. So, now I get to give iTunes two bucks, even though that goes against everything I believe. Anyway, I'll watch it after the game.

But for Jon and the lively boys of DT, I'd never have watched the show in the first place, and so I wouldn't be out two bucks. So, this is a little bittersweet, now.

2006-09-23 13:31:42
14.   Andrew Shimmin
I liked it very much. Do you think Toby's trying to get Michael fired? It's easy enough to tell someone not to use that word in the office; it's not like it's only offensive if the target is gay. There's no way telling Michael that somebody is gay turns out well, so, if there's no particular reason to do it, it makes me suspect malice.

Angela's new haircut makes her look like an unchaste woman. Which is excellent.

2006-09-23 15:08:57
15.   Greg Brock
14 I was thinking the same thing. After last years finale (Beating Michael felt good...I'm going to chase that feeling), I think Toby will be trying to get Michael axed.

I thought the episode was understated yet great. Glad they didn't go all out in the first episode, and are going to let everything stew for awhile. The company's future will definitely be an ongoing storyline, as will Jan's anger at Michael.

2006-09-25 19:23:02
16.   confucius
"The Jim-Pam-Roy storyline took the next step, and once more we find that The Office can plot a love story as well as any show on television."

That's a great point. I know Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld were afraid to do romance when they were writing their show. Most shows don't do that great of a job of blending comedy and a a good love story. The Office does a great job.

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