Three weeks ago, we all watched with joy as Michael Scott made Holly Flax the happiest, wackiest girl in the world and put a ring on it, as the kids say. It was one of the sweetest Office moments ever — up there with Jim and Pam’s first kiss and their Niagara wedding, as far as happy chills go. And then the inevitable bomb, the one we’ve been speculating about for what seems like a hundred months now: Holly needs to go home to Colorado to care for her ailing father, and her new fiance, Michael, has decided to go with her. All this, as we know too well, to set up Steve Carell’s very real departure from the series. For good.
So that’s the context that brings us to tonight’s Office return, “Training Day,” and one of their biggest guest star “gets,” as those in the ‘biz say: Will Ferrell. Whether you love him or hate him in the movies, I’m guessing you approached his three-episode stint on The Office with a bit of anxiety. We all fear change. Especially when it comes in the form of one well known comedy actor replacing another on our beloved show. So: How’d he do?
My verdict: Hired! For now.
At first it was hard to tell what set Deangelo Vickars apart from Michael Scott, which worried me. (What’s interesting about having two Michael Scotts?) The similarities were obvious: their enthusiasm, malapropisms and odd fixations (for Michael, it’s magic; for Deangelo, it’s the American Southwest). Their “meet cute” at the hotel bar was more like a mutual “meet dumb.” (Another eerie similarity: Neither of them saw the stupidity of the story when Michael told it back.)
But these initial similarities instead served as a set-up to show just how different Deangelo is from Michael: He’s not interested in hearing about Pam and Jim’s baby. (How dare he!) He doesn’t want to listen to Andy unless Andy is doing all in his inane power to make Deangelo laugh, like a demented court jester. (Poor Andy. “I guess this is my life now.”) And while he was going toe-to-toe with Michael on the power grabs, he came across as a little more knowing, a little meaner, as opposed to Michael’s more immature form of selfishness.
Ferrell excels at playing the confident, dumb, popular guy, and he’s a version of that same character here, but with that essential twist: Deangelo is not a nice guy. At least he doesn’t seem so. What I liked is how his withholding only made the workers want to please him more. I thought Ferrell played the shift between happy-go-lucky and happy-go-f*ck-yourself Deangelo surprisingly well. Surprising because it was restrained, at least by Ferrell standards. Whereas Deangelo first came off just as weird and idiotic as Michael, his confidence gave him an air of natural leadership that Michael has simply never achieved. In the end even Michael had to admit that, damn it, he wants this guy to like him, and they shared an awkward front-to-back hug of mutual admiration. “Get your senioritis on,” Deangelo said. “I guess I’ve been working so hard, I forgot what it’s like to be hardly working,” Michael admitted. They’re working together now.
I’m interested to see how Dwight’s undeterred quest to get the manager gig out from under Deangelo will play out, and whether Deangelo’s distaste for Jim and Pam will mirror what we saw when Idris Elba came to town. But for now, I’m liking where Ferrell’s character is going. He’s like bizarro Michael: Still funny, still dumb, but … darker. It will be interesting to see how they play off of each other in Carell’s final episodes.
What did you think of Ferrell’s first Office episode? Is he hired or fired?
“I don’t want to end up like Sonny Bobo.” – Michael
“We should write a movie or something. I’m serious!” – Deangelo
“Nope, it’s not Ashton Kutcher. It’s Kevin Malone. Equally handsome, equally smart.” – Kevin
“They don’t ever talk about careers that were made because of unplanned pregnancies!” – Jim
“Now I’m going to have to go online and look at turtles or else I’m going to be off the whole day.” – Michael
“It’s one of my favorite regions! Did I just sound totally lame? Huh. That sounded really good.” – Daryl
“Enough about your baby. Alright? Sorry. I know what you’re doing. Just quit it.” – Deangelo
“Don’t shave my lips.” – Michael
“I guess this is my life now.” – Andy
“I need a wide birth from those nuts.” – Deangelo
“What is the Native American girl’s name?” – Deangelo
“That baby could be the star of a show called Babies I Don’t Care About.” – Deangelo
(Image courtesy of NBC)