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Did Last Night's Episode of "The Office" Give the Series a Second Life?

I am sure all of the JAM 'shippers out there are abuzz this morning after Jim put his arm around Pam on last night's episode of The Office ("Local Ad"), in an attempt to demonstrate that they were dating when the bartender at Poor Richard's hit on Pam ("ever been on a motorcycle?").

It was a small moment but a telling one for the series. Jim and Pam are definitely an item and, as much as I had hoped otherwise, they are definitely front and center this season on The Office. I like the lovebirds as much as the next guy but I had hoped in my heart of hearts that this wouldn't become The Jim and Pam Show as much as it would place their ongoing romance a littler further back from front of stage. Yes, Jim's action was completely justified (I probably would have done the same thing) but it was just the way it was showcased so closely on the heels of last week's extremely Jim-and-Pam-centric episode.

I will say however that I am extremely happy that The Office's experiment with the one-hour format is over... for now anyway, though I'm thinking they'll save that final extended-length episode for the season finale. While "Local Ad," written by B.J. Novak, certainly wasn't the best Office episode ever, it was a breath of fresh air after the painfulness of the last four installments. It might not rank up there with the best Office episodes of all time, but it was at least a decent attempt at humor after The Episodes Better Forgotten.

What worked for me last night? The awfulness of the corporate-mandated ad, complete with inane generic commercial and the waving, especially when compared to what was an incredibly creative Michael Scott joint for once. I loved Pam's animated Dunder-Mifflin logo and the commercial itself (complete with Vangelis' score for Chariots of Fire) was creative, touching, and inspirational, all adjectives that don't traditionally come to mind when thinking of Michael. Darrell's Dunder-Mifflin jingle, especially when accompanied by Kelly and Creed. Pam spending the night at work with Dwight passed out on the couch and Michael editing. Jim being forced to take a ride with Meredith. Michael calling boss Ryan a "little bitch," unaware that Ryan was on the call. Also fantastic: the exchanges between Andy and Dwight as Andy unwittingly grinds Dwight's heart into a pulp by talking about his necking (literally, neck to neck) with Angela ("it was hot but weird")... only for Dwight to learn that when Andy and Angela finally do make out, she calls him by her pet name for him ("Oh, D").

On that note, Andy, Andy, Andy. I was concerned when the Office producers decided to bring Ed Helm back full-time this season, but I will eat my words. Andy is breathing new life into The Office this season and it's his tantrums, confessions, bizarro behavior (such as doing the splits in front of Pam's desk last week) that are keeping me engaged with the series. Plus, I am loving the love triangle set up between him, Angela, and Dwight, quite possible the three least likely character candidates to receive such treatment on a US network series.

What didn't work? The entire, drawn-out Second Life storyline that went nowhere. I'm not sure if this was an idea shoehorned in by NBC (much like microwave storytelling on 30 Rock's TGS) or one devised by the Office's writing staff, but I thought it was just terribly boring and uninspired. There had got to be a better way for Pam to discover that Jim wishes he was a sports writer in Philadelphia with a better build and a guitar slung over his shoulder than this; I also don't buy that Jim would spend that much time creating an avatar of himself when he could have created some prank to play on Dwight.

But what did you all think? Was the Office's return to form (or format, anyway) a strong entry or a weak one? Or was it just a relief not to have to sit through an hour of drawn-out plots and attempted felonies? Talk back here.

Next week on The Office ("Branch Wars"), Karen (Rashida Jones) returns when she tries to woo Stanley from Scranton to the Utica branch, leading Michael to launch an all-out war and drag Jim into the battle, while Dunder-Mifflin Scranton is perturbed by the creation of a "Finer Things Club."

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Ghost Whisperer (CBS); Deal or No Deal (NBC); Friday Night SmackDown (CW; 8-10 pm); 20/20 (ABC); Next Great American Band (FOX; 8-10 pm)

9 pm: Moonlight (CBS); Friday Night Lights (NBC); Women's Murder Club (ABC)

10 pm: NUMB3RS (CBS); Las Vegas (NBC); Men in Trees (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8-11 pm: BBC America.

If you happen to be staying in after a long work week, why not do it in true Anglophile style with back-to-back episodes of The Office, Little Britain, Absolutely Fabulous, Mighty Boosh, and Catherine Tate Show?


Dan Zoeller said…
I thought it was a pretty decent episode. It's still not as good as the stuff from seasons 1 and 2. I'm glad they cut it back down to a half hour because I think all they were doing on the 1 hour episodes was sticking in all the would-be cut-out scenes which don't have any bearing on the plot and aren't funny.

I liked "Break me off a piece of that fancy feast" Nailed it! :)

They need to stick to the stuff that everybody likes, and that is: Jim/Pam playing pranks on Dwight, Michael making a big deal out of stuff that is only important to himself and being completely disrespectful while doing it, and Andy making borderline retarded comments all the while thinking he is a genius.
Anonymous said…
Last night's episode was definitely better. I loved the idea of Michael directing his own commercial but wanted to see more of him in action. I thought the finished product was funny but I wanted to see Michael behind the camera.

The Second Life thing was dull but I do like the Andy/Dwight/Angela love triangle and can't wait to see where that all goes.
Anonymous said…
Yep. The Second Life storyline bothered me a lot.

I love Andy more and more. It's weird.
Unknown said…
The Andy-Dwight-Angela triangle is great, but I wonder if we're expected to have more sympathy for Dwight than we should.

The half-hour format was a breath of fresh air after the hour-long ones. (That feels like heresy to say that, but it's true.) Writers: If you want an hour-long ep, please write two 30-minute eps.

Was the Second Life thread thrown in at the last minute? It felt like it came out of nowhere and went right back. Wha??

I thought this amount of Pam&Jim worked, but last week's was too much.
Bianca Reagan said…
Less Jim and Pam please. Less Andy/Dwight/Angela love triangle. Bo-ring. More "People Person's Paper People" songs. I loved those.

What is the name of the ad guy with the glasses? I have seen him in several commercials probably every day for the past two years, but I don't know who he is. :(

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