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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-???

53
/100

Episode 4 - The Alliance

27 March 2012

Synopsis: With rumours of downsizing in the air, Dwight asks Jim to form an alliance with him. Jim agrees and uses the opportunity to mess with him. To boost morale Michael decides to celebrate Meredith’s birthday a month early. He obsesses over writing a funny joke in her card, which of course backfires. Then when celebrating his prank with Pam, Jim is touching her a little too familiarly as Roy walks in.

The Good: The Jim and Pam relationship begins to take real shape here. Their banter finally spills over into overt displays of their affection for one another. “She’s so great” he accidentally confides in the camera crew. Then finally as he excitedly tells her of his new prank on Dwight, they end up holding hands. In walks Roy and yells at Jim. After all the silly awkwardness of Meredith’s party this sudden jolt of reality is all the more effective. It establishes Roy as the jealous, aggressive type and exposes Jim to public embarrassment. It feels like a much more “real” moment than the rest of the episode.

Dwight’s gullibility is played very broadly but doubtless it will amuse some. Seeing him clamber out of a cardboard box and dye his hair blonde are fun moments.

Angela (who has strong Christian morals) and Phyllis (who has very low self esteem) get a scene to slowly establish their characters. I suppose Michael’s attempt to boost morale by having a party is a nice idea. Ryan the temp has a great line (after Michael’s disastrous behaviour) where he admits to Toby that it’s his birthday but is adamant that he doesn’t want anyone to know.

The Bad: But the fun is forestalled by how stupidly naïve Dwight comes across throughout the episode. The British Office built its entire structure on characters behaving like real people. Like the annoying people you meet in the real world. Dwight does not come across like that here. He comes across like an American sit com character. He is not believably naïve, he seems fake throughout the episode.

The joke is obvious. Dwight is taking a Hollywood view of industrial espionage (or indeed mimicking Survivor) and applying it to a sleepy paper company whose employees know absolutely nothing that could help him. But it makes Dwight look so stupid as he continues on and on falling for all of Jim’s lies. All of the other characters (excluding Michael who is a special case) are still acting like real people and yet Dwight has already become a television character. That’s not a problem in the long run, but it needed to be better established before focusing a whole episode on his exploits.

Michael has another episode of selfish, mean spirited behaviour. He is becoming joyless to watch as he irritates and humiliates those around him. He orders a cake which he loves and then rubs it in Meredith’s face that she can’t eat it (due to allergies). He obsesses over stealing the thunder of her birthday by writing a joke which will make everyone laugh. Then when no one does he blames them, so he reads another, which doesn’t get a laugh, so he blames it on the internet. In fact his joke mentioned the downsizing, further souring the mood. So in a desperate effort to make them like him again he writes out a big cheque to Oscar’s nephew’s charity.

The whole scene fell flat for me. It felt like the same story as the previous episode, where Michael humiliates himself when he doesn’t have to. He digs his own hole because he is desperate to win love and approval. But the focus of the story wasn’t on Michael, it was on Dwight and Jim. It felt like Michael’s humiliation had to be shoe horned in to the plot and it was already unwelcome enough as it is.

Another false note was Michael donating $25 to Oscar’s nephew’s walkathon without realising that the amount was per mile. It seemed obvious that Michael had made a mistake and I think a reasonable person would have let him reduce his donation. Instead of making Michael look cheap, it made Oscar look unreasonable when he is asking Michael to fork out $450 when no one else had been as remotely generous.

Comic Highlight: Michael tries to get out of his donation to Oscar, or at least undo some of the damage.
M: “How’s your nephew, is he in good shape? How many miles did he do last year?”
O: “Last year he walked eighteen miles.”
M: “Son of a bitch! That is impressive, good for him.”

That’s what I said: A mess. The Office hasn’t quite worked out what it is yet. Is it a sit com, with the trappings of its British counterpart? Or is it trying to go the same route and live on pain, embarrassment and humiliation as its main emotional palette. I actually think going in the sit com direction and telling stories about Dwight being silly is the better option. But this was a half way house and not one or the other.

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  • As to where how I found your site: I love reading Wiki's about all my favorite ... everything, really; TV shows, anime, book series, video games, movie franchises. When reading the one for The Big Bang Theory, the "Reception" section continually referred to your website. I decided to check it out and really enjoyed it.

    Posted by Onimusha, 18/03/2011 9:40pm (3 years ago)

  • Hi Onimusha, thanks for commenting. I look forward to more.

    How did you find the site?

    I wrote the season one reviews trying to ignore what I knew was coming, so from that point of view I liked the love triangle. When I get to Season 2 I will have to see how it develops.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 17/03/2011 9:47am (3 years ago)

  • Hey, just started reading your reviews, and they are fun. It is nice to hear opinions about shows I like and love from someone who intelligently expresses wonderful insight.

    I do have to disagree with one aspect, with hindsight helping of course. The whole Roy introduction being in the "Good" section. The Roy character ends up being nothing like his introduction; this characterization is completely lifted from the British version. Dawn's (the Pam equivalent) fiancé is a complete and utter ass throughout the series, to the point where you begin wondering aloud how a sweet girl continually chose to stay with a guy who treated her and her friends like trash every episode. I cringed when Roy was introduced because I thought he was going to be the same, though was glad when they changed the character; and it’s the change and the harsh intro that had me not liking it; though it probably was the most “real” feeling moment. He ends up becoming a dismissive boyfriend. You could tell there was a lot of love between them, Roy just got into this relationship rut where he stopped trying (except when the mom visited), and Pam just allowed it; but Roy was not an overbearing, abusive, A-hole; and he was never jealous of their friendship. I did not like his introduction in this episode, especially when you compare it to the guy who said he was glad that Jim was Pam's best friend because it meant that she had someone else to talk about all her problems with, and would leave Roy alone.

    I look forward to reading and commenting on all of your reviews, especially the Buffy and TBBT ones.

    Posted by Onimusha, 16/03/2011 10:02pm (3 years ago)

  • Hey, thanks for posting. In general I agree. Though scores in the 50s represent adequate TV and don't seem particularly high. I certainly didn't feel that these episodes made me not want to give the show another chance.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 21/12/2009 9:52am (4 years ago)

  • I saw this episode on TBS recently, and I have to say it was pretty awful. Season one of the office is terrible, thank god word got around that the show was funny in season two or this show could of been gone a long time ago. I have to say that most (if not all) of these reviews for season one are correct in pointing out faults, but the scores seem too high. The whole particular season felt a lot like Parks & Recreation season one.

    Posted by Ben F., 20/12/2009 11:05pm (4 years ago)

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