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The Office

The Office is a comedy set in a paper sales company Dunder Mifflin. Shot in a mockumentary style the show follows the exploits of regional manager Michael Scott whose excruciating behaviour can make life difficult for his fellow employees. NBC 2005-???

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Episode 5 - Basketball

27 March 2012

Synopsis: Michael arranges a basketball match between the office and the guys in the warehouse. He irritates the office workers with his team selection. Then he goads Darryl, the warehouse foreman, into gambling on the result of the game. The losing team will work on Saturday. Jim impresses on the court during the game, annoying Roy with his skills. Roy “accidentally” elbows Jim in the face. Michael tries to end the game with his team ahead but everyone sees through what he is doing. He backs down in the face of the warehouse guys.

The Good: Once more the Jim and Pam relationship plays out well. Jim is really happy to show off his skills in front of Pam, in that childish way that any viewer can relate to. When Roy picks up Pam after work Jim is grinning away at his achievement. But his face falls back to earth when Pam walks away with Roy saying “let’s get you into a tub.” Again his frustration is so easy to understand and relate to and Roy is a very plausible “wrong guy” for Pam. He isn’t overbearingly mean, just aggressive and insecure in a way which Jim isn’t.

The Bad: The great thing about using sports in a sit com is that you can throw in physical comedy and highlight the smaller characters. But I wouldn’t say either happens here. The physical comedy isn’t really present because the show plays it pretty straight, which is fine. But the lack of moments for the smaller characters is a shame. Yes we can see that Kevin and Oscar would have played better than Michael. But other than Dwight being silly there wasn’t much to enjoy from a long sequence.

Largely that’s because this was very much the Michael Scott show and it’s a downer to watch. He is racist to employees, he ridicules the fat ones and he even mocks Dwight and disparages him with obvious delight. It makes Michael even more unlikeable that he would think himself so much better than Dwight. For all Dwight’s geeky anal behaviour, he is at least competent in ways which Michael isn’t. The more Michael taunts the warehouse guys, the more obvious it becomes that he is setting himself up to be humiliated.

But on the contrary his teammates compensate for his lack of skill and help his team do rather well. That fact makes Michael’s skills look even more pathetic. His inability to recognise his own limitations begins to stretch the believability of his character. But just when things are getting interesting he decides to cheat to ensure that his team wins. A completely dishonourable thing to do. Worse than that, he backs down in the face of intimidation from Darryl and company. So he is a cheat and a coward. Finally he loses another ounce of respect by not wanting his employees to be upset about working on the weekend and so letting them off.

There’s just nothing to like about Michael here. Surely comedy requires some kind of redeeming message. Seeing someone antagonise, instigate, fail and be humiliated is not fun. Seeing all that happen to a character who only suggested the match for his own personal glorification is even less fun. Without some more human qualities and purer motives, seeing Michael be destroyed each week is going to remain more depressing than funny.

Comic Highlight: Michael’s obliviousness can be funny when it is well written. He marches into the warehouse to show Ryan around and engages with the staff. He introduces Roy to Ryan and explains that he is dating Pam. “You still getting it regular man? Huh? I mean I can tell her its part of the job!” Everyone but Michael looks awkward. Smilingly he glances at the camera and explains “Rapport.”

That’s what I said: The basketball provides plenty of action and is a good hook to keep viewers around to see the result. But once more the tone of Michael’s behaviour is so sad and depressing to watch.

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