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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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/100

Episode 3 - Health Care

27 March 2012

Synopsis: Michael has to pick a cheap health care policy for the Scranton branch. Sensing that the budget plan will be unpopular he hands the work over to Dwight. Dwight takes great pleasure in slashing benefits to save the company money. The rest of the office is angry and Michael hides in his office. When a group of employees corner Michael he once more defers to Dwight before promising a big surprise. At day’s end the Scranton branch has a poor health care plan and Michael has no surprise.

The Good: Michael’s character is easy to understand and well written here. He desperately wants to be loved. He describes his subordinates as family and tries at all costs to avoid telling them bad news which might make them not like him. He is such a coward that he tries to bribe them with ice cream while continuing to take no responsibility for the reduced health care they will receive.

Dwight is also well characterised. He craves power and influence and sees them as their own reward. He doesn’t care about other people’s needs or feelings. His ego and seriousness makes him an easy target for Jim. Jim makes it clear that he doesn’t take pride in working for such a dull company and derives his pleasure from mocking Dwight and bantering with Pam.

The smaller characters begin to develop unique identities here. Oscar comes into sharper focus as concerned and sensible, Stanley as dry and smart and Kevin as a little juvenile and slow. Several of the characters begin to interact with the cameras too. Kevin and Dwight both glance at the camera for comic effect, as they acknowledge their words are being seen by a wider audience.

The Bad: But aside from those asides, this episode is very light on real jokes. In a way Michael’s characterisation is too good to be funny. As his cowardly behaviour is explored it becomes less funny and sadder. He is a deeply ignorant person and his attempts to find “surprises” for his co-workers all fail because of his unrealistic expectations. Those expectations are kind of fun but again his motive is his cowardly neediness which (in this episode at least) isn’t funny. Each time he returns to the “interview set” his boasting becomes more and more hollow. The final scene where he can’t think of a way to lie his way out of his “surprise” feels awkward, not funny. He has lost all respect in the eyes of the office and it is sad to watch.

Similarly Dwight and Jim’s arguments don’t quite become funny. Jim’s poking of Dwight is humorous, but it’s pretty gentle. The embarrassing medical admissions are an obvious joke which doesn’t really get you giggling.

Comic Highlight: Jim asks why Dwight would cut health care benefits when Dwight might need them himself.
D: “Don’t need it, never been sick, perfect immune system.”
J: “Well if you’ve never been sick, then you don’t have any antibodies.”
D: “I don’t need them, superior genes. I’m a Schrute. And superior brain power. Through concentration I can raise and lower my cholesterol at will.
P: “Why would you want to raise your cholesterol?”
D: “So I can lower it.”

That’s what I said: The whole tone and feel of this is sad and depressing. Michael is well written and that makes the sad tone even more realistic. This needed more jokes to make it easier to watch.

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