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Friday, December 15, 2006

The Office: So wrong, yet so right

The Office, one of my favorite shows, serves as a vicarious thrill for me because its characters do things week in and week out that no one under any circumstances should do. It's like watching a car accident where the collisions are purely emotional and psychological. I often find myself simultaneously laughing out loud and wincing in embarrassment over what, typically, Dwight Schrute or Michael Scott have done.

Last night was no exception. I thought "A Benihana Christmas, Parts 1 & 2" was an outstanding episode that featured plenty of "no, they didn't" hijinks:

  • Dwight arriving at work and planting a goose that he hit with a car on Pam's desk. Toby revealing that Dwight has previously brought waterfowl to the office.
  • Angela's draconian party planning committee. Who expels a coworker from a party planning meeting and tells her, to her face, that all of her ideas are terrible?
  • Michael photoshopping himself into a picture of his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend Carol and her ex-husband taking their kids on a ski trip and sending it out as their Christmas card.
  • Michael buying an all-inclusive vacation to Jamaica and trying to surprise Carol with it with two days notice, after previously prematurely proposing in public weeks earlier. Equally bad were his invitations to Pam and to Cindy. (You have to love that Cindy still takes the bike after ditching Michael.)
  • Jim (and this is for you, Katherine Coble) shooting down Pam's Christmas present to him, a weeks-in-the-making gag at Dwight's expense, by saying that he needs to be more mature in his new position at work.
  • Kevin's karaoke version of Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know." Ouch.
  • My personal favorite: Michael not being able to distinguish between the two Japanese waitresses that he and Andy spontaneously invite to the party. I laughed and cringed when Michael leaned in to hug Cindy and proceeded to draw a line on her arm with magic marker to identify her. Wow, that was so bad but good.
One thing I love about this show is how it deals with stereotypes. It stares them right in the face and makes fun of the people who take them seriously. The Japanese waitresses weren't the ones who looked foolish. It was Michael for not being able to tell them apart. Michael's ignorance and awkwardness in outing homosexual coworker Oscar in the season premiere were equally funny and painful at the same time.

Our Christmas presents from The Office last night were a pair of cliffhangers to keep us interested until the show returns in January: Did Michael invite Jan to Jamaica, and was that her accepting the invitation on the phone? Will Jim leave Karen and reach out to Pam? There's nothing like a little workplace drama, especially when it's not your own.

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