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Rabies is Real: A Rundown on the "The Office" Season Opener

I'm not entirely sure how I felt about last night's season opener of The Office ("Fun Run"). I really did like the first half-hour but felt that the hour-long format really does not suit this series, which definitely dragged in the second half despite a promising start. I do think that the episode--written and directed by showrunner Greg Daniels--would have been a hell of a lot funnier had it been a standard 30 minute episode (well 20 mins after commercials) rather than a woefully padded hour.

So what was last night's episode about in a nutshell? Michael inadvertently runs down Meredith in the Dunder-Mifflin parking lot, putting her in the hospital for a cracked pelvis; unable to accept that she won't forgive him, Michael later learns that because of her stay, the doctors found that Meredith had rabies. Michael then launches a charity 5K fun run in order to raise awareness for this "silent killer" and forces the employees to participate. Pam catches Michael naked in his office; Dwight euthanizes Angela's beloved cat Sprinkles. And so on.

One factoid from last night's installment: the doctor who tells Meredith she has rabies was played by Office writer Justin Spitzer (who wrote last season's "Product Recall" and "Back from Vacation"). Teehee.

Jim and Pam. Remembering my Office Season Four Wish, I'm happy to see that Jim and Pam are a couple but that their romantic situation isn't completely overtaking the plot. After all, their secret romance was hardly the focal point for the season premiere but a delicious subplot that was characteristically low-key. I loved the little hand-hold on the 5K run, their furtive rendezvous around the corner from the office, and the way that they both shifted so uncomfortably when shown the evidence by the camera crew. Happy that it was Pam who revealed their dating status to the documentarians, rather than Jim. Could it be our little Pam is finally happy and secure in her relationship? It certainly appears that way from her new wardrobe and the fact that she's finally literally let down her hair.

Michael. More grounded than he was in some of his over-the-top moments from last season, he nonetheless brought some serious funny, whether it was getting naked in his office, pantsing Toby right before the fun run, or eating an enormous plate of fettucine alfredo in order to carbo-load before the race. Still, I could have done without the vomiting scene altogether.

Meredith. I can't tell you how pleased I was to see Meredith (Kate Flannery) finally have something to do besides be the office alcoholic. It was fantastic to give her an actual storyline that impacted the rest of the office while not, you know, killing her off (I was a tad worried). I thought the scene in which Michael plows her down was remarkably done and looked completely real. (My jaw was on the ground.) Kudos also for the closing scene in which Michael nearly shares a moment with his injured employee. Almost.

Karen. I miss you already, Filippelli. I'm glad that the writers brought her back for a scene to wrap things up (but didn't force us to listen to the gruesome scene between her and Jim), but I already miss her sarcastic-yet-glowingly happy vibe. And it was rather sad to see her desk all vacant and empty already. Sure, I don't know what they'd do with Karen now that Jim and Pam are officially dating (and Rashida Jones has been cast in FOX midseason comedy Unhitched), but I kinda wanted to keep her around. Sniffle.

Angela and Dwight. Trouble in paradise after Dwight kills his beloved Monkey's, well, beloved cat Sprinkles. While it does seem as though Dwight had the very best of intentions (putting a wounded animal down), stuffing your girlfriend's cat in the freezer doesn't exactly scream true love. Or sanity. Poor Angela is hopelessly mired in grief and something tells me that she's not going to be forgiving Dwight any time soon. I was very surprised by how absolutely gorgeous Angela looked on last night's installment (lots of see-through fabrics, even on her mourning wear), which leads me to believe that this prim and proper conservative might be coming out of her shell a little bit. Interesting...

Jan. Glad to see she's still in the mix and is continuing the shame spiral that is her relationship with Michael. Loved the opening scene with her passed out on the bed and her warning to Pam (after catching Michael naked in his office) to stay away from her man. Jan's turned into a deliciously loopy character and I am very curious to see where they take her. Hmm, could she be replacing Karen as a salesperson at Dunder-Mifflin Scranton?

Andy. I can't let this review end without mentioning the nipple-chafing incident. From the scene in which Andy taped his nipples to the groan-inducing scene of the, er, bleeding, it was a surreal and hysterical subplot that perfectly suited Ed Helms' comedic timing. Not to mention awesomely grotesque.

What did you think of last night's season premiere and the one-hour format? What worked and what didn't? And where, oh where, do you hope they go from here?

Next week on The Office ("Dunder-Mifflin Infinity"), Ryan, newly promoted to corporate, returns to the Scranton branch to bring it into the digital age, while Angela is still distraught over the untimely death of her beloved Sprinkles.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Ghost Whisperer (CBS); Deal or No Deal (NBC); Friday Night SmackDown (CW; 8-10 pm); Just for Laughs/Just for Laughs (ABC); Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? (FOX)

9 pm: Moonlight (CBS); Las Vegas (NBC; 9-11 pm); 20/20 (ABC); Nashville (FOX)

10 pm: NUMB3RS (CBS); 20/20 (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Doctor Who on Sci Fi.

This week on Doctor Who ("The Sound of Drums"), The Doctor, Martha, and Captain Jack Harkness return to England just as the Master (John Simms) travels through time to assume his post as Prime Minister Harold Saxon (gasp!) and announces first contact with an alien race. Part One of the two-part season finale.


Jon88 said…
Watched "CSI" (nearly) live while the DVR taped "The Office." Figured I needed to be laughing after "CSI." Had an impulse halfway through to save the second part for Friday. Should have indulged that impulse. Next week, I'll know better.
Anonymous said…
I was happy to finally have a new episode of The Office, and last nights didn’t disappoint. The 1 hour format kind of made it slower, maybe with not as many laughs as normal, but I was actually happy to have a full hour to catch up with the employees. I figure, the more the better!
Anonymous said…
"The Office" was terrible last night. The writers can't sustain an hour of TV writing; they just don't know how to break for it, the show lurches, and it's downright painful to watch. It's not even pure HOUR LONG writing, as they're plotting so that the show can be broken in two for syndication, which Daniels did not even do very deftly last night. There was no indication that there would be a race in the first half hour of the show so that it could be severed from the second in reruns with no one being the wiser. So ep 1 will be Michael hits Meredith w/ his car, feels bad b/c everyone's mad at him, then feels better b/c it turns out the doctor discovered she has rabies b/c she's in the hospital. Ep 2 is Michael's Race For the Cure. It's not an hour, it's two half hours mashed together, which is why it was so disjointed. But they never start well, anyway. By episode 6 I'll start liking this show again.
Anonymous said…
I agree with anon that the show would have been better if they had divided it into two seperate episodes, but I also thought that there were some truly hilarious moments. I really enjoyed last nights episode, much more so than most of the hour long eps from last season. Also, if anyone finds a screencap of Darryl feeding the peanut to the squirrel I would be forever in you debt. Craig Robinson's delivery of that line was my favorite moment from last night.
Anonymous said…
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Sassy Lassie said…
I am a rabid Office fan (pun intended!) and the one-hour opener did not disappoint. Unlike some of you, I didn't find it slow, and my greatest disappointment was that i missed the first 15 minutes! I thought the plots were delicious, and i loved the gentle Jim/Pam moments, and the not-so-gentle Dwight/Angela tension. I think we're off to a great start!
Anonymous said…
I thought it was pretty weak. Some funny moments and glimpses of the show I love, but the whole thing felt forced.
Unknown said…
I entertained myself by cutting scenes in my head--Kelly, nipples, vomit, animal gods, some Toby could all have been cut. This would've been a great half-hour or maybe one of their 40-minute shows.

Still, I liked how they kept Jim/Pam a secret, at least for a little while. I think it might've been better to stretch that over two eps, but this was okay.
Howlin_Hotshot said…
I also felt that the episode opened really well, but as soon as Michael hit Meredith with the car, it went downhill (bar a few scenes). I don't know if anyone else agrees, but to me it feels that they've tapped into the best parts of each character and not only were they forcing it to the surface, but the characters seem to have lost there humility. Everyone seems too be showing too much of their own personality, and are no longer content with blending in to the background with occasional bursts of dialogue - which as we all know is an important factor when looking at the dynamics of your typical office environment! Kevin was OTT, Michael was made out to be more stupid than clueless, they were forcing Creeds wierdness (the painkiller part) and just who would kill their girlfriends pet, to name but a few examples!! I am sure that I was unhappy with last seasons start and yet it came good quickly, and so I am sure that this too will come good. I just hope that in a few years time (when makin office chit chat) i'm not discussin how season 4 went off the rails, but the writers pulled it back for the 5th. I just want this one to become everything we addictively and whole heartedly love the Office for being!!

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