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Leave It, Ricky: What Did You Think of The Office's Scranton/Slough Crossover?

I'm of two minds about last night's crossover cold open on NBC's The Office ("The Seminar"), which, if you missed it, can be viewed in full below.

Let's be upfront about this: I'm an obsessive fan of the original UK Office, so the chance to see Ricky Gervais don David Brent's goatee was absolutely priceless, but I've also given up watching the US version for a while now as, in the last few seasons, it's descended into a bit of a tired and humorless mess.

Having said that, I thought that the chance encounter between Steve Carell's Michael Scott and Gervais' David Brent was a bit of a hoot at first, and easily the funniest cold open The Office has pulled off in quite some time (from what I remember of the last few seasons I watched).

Seeing the simpatico spirit that exists between the two men, each versions of each other, was unexpectedly touching, even as the two joked around and David asked if there were any jobs going around at Dunder-Mifflin.

Was it wonderful to see David Brent up to his old tricks, telling vaguely offensive jokes, giggling naughtily, and waxing philosophically about the nature of comedy "tickling the mind"? Absolutely. But there was also something oddly troubling about the sequence as well, something that got under my skin last night.

Could it be the fact that Gervais himself spoke out against appearing on-screen on the American version just a few years back, decrying it as potentially "desperate"? Or could it be the fact that the encounter seemed to establish that the events of The Office, unfolding in Slough and Scranton, are in fact taking place within the same narrative "universe"?

It's true that, over the last few seasons, these two characters have gone in wildly divergent directions in terms of their outlook and behavior while still retaining a bit of the same shared blueprint at their core. I think that Brent would have skewered Scott alive had the two had to spend more than a few minutes together; Gervais' boss is inherently a terrible, awful individual, while Michael is more of a bumbling idiot who fails to read social cues and offends because he's in search of the perfect punchline, a quest to achieve acceptance and (in his mind) fame.

But the fact that we're now meant to believe that these two paper merchant bosses and their similar staffs are in fact co-existing got under my skin in a way that the showrunners clearly did not intend. (Am I alone in this thinking?)

With Steve Carell set to leave The Office at the end of the season, it seemed likely that Gervais would make a drop-in on the show before Michael Scott heads to the paper warehouse in the sky (or, well, wherever Michael is heading next) and while I spent those few minutes chuckling, it wasn't enough to keep me from turning over once the credit sequence began. These days, the Office I most want to visit is Wernham Hogg, if I'm being honest.

But I am curious to know what you thought of the encounter between Gervais and Carell last night: was it a stroke of brilliance or a desperate ploy? Head to the comments section to discuss.


Anonymous said…
You're way overthinking this one.
Andrew said…
I'm of two minds on this. First, it was simply a funny scene. Gervais and Carrell can be very funny playing off each other (e.g. the Emmys "confrontation" from a couple of years ago). But it seemed more stunt-like and disconnected from the reality that the Office inhabits at its best. Might this be a true Jump-the-Shark moment?
Anonymous said…
Smacked of desperation. These people have no ideas left.
Magnolia said…
You're definitely overthinking it.
wackiland said…
I laughed out loud. And I don't get to do that enough these days... But I do miss David Brent.
Laz said…
You're way oversimplifying their characters to make your point. You say they still retain "a bit" of outlook/behavioral overlap, but it's really more than that - they're bosses who think they're funnier/more charismatic than they really are, from which obliviously they delude themselves into committing a series of social blunders, ha ha. I do agree that Brent could have "scewered" (whatever that means exactly), but less because David Brent is a soulless human being and more probably because Michael couldn't compete with a British accent. Michael's definitely more of a softie, a romantic, an innocent. David Brent might be, but he's not as in touch with himself as Michael is. But Michael is certainly not bumbling, at least not all the time. Sometimes we forget that he can slip away into a very anonymous, very average existence. I recall a scene in the park, feeding birds with whole pieces of bread.

I've been a US Office fan from the get-go, and I'll stick up for the last three seasons any day.
D.M said…
So simple

... it was a brilliant cameo and a great way to send off Steve Carell

nothing more or less
Fido said…
Their meeting was interesting rather than classic. Almost made up for the rest of the ep being decidely meh (apart from the scrabble). As for jumping the shark, methinks they did that when the ptb introduce the female Michael character as his love interest.

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