The Office writers are a talented bunch. In a day and age where information flows freely, and plot secrets are nearly impossible to keep under wraps, props have to be given to an outfit that can successfully misdirect an audience that’s millions strong. The Office ended last season with a marriage proposal, just not the one that viewers were expecting. As tonight’s fifth season premiere opened, a number of story-lines were in play: Angela and Andy’s engagement, Dwight and Angela’s affair, Jim’s inability to propose, Pam’s impending three-month schooling in New York, Jan’s pregnancy, and the arrival of Michael’s new crush – HR lady Holly (played by Oscar-nominee Amy Ryan). That’s a lot of baggage to bring into a season premiere, but The Office managed to address almost every issue, all the while keeping a completely separate through-line for the entire one-hour episode.
The Office is a unique comedy in which characters evolve, storylines take seasons to play out and the mythology is never dispensed at the expense of the humor. Five seasons in, and tonight’s premiere was every bit as funny as anything from the previous four. It’s a testament to the writers and the actors, and their continued focus on staying the course, sticking to what makes The Office perhaps the best and most consistent all-around comedy.
In a new storytelling device, tonight’s premiere took place over the course of seven weeks. For the first time, we saw a summer at Dunder-Mifflin. The corporate powers-that-be announced a weight-loss contest among all the Dunder-Mifflin branches. Whichever branch lost the most weight over the course of two months would get an extra three days of vacation (the vacation days were eventually extended to five). We picked up with our characters every Monday (when the weigh-ins were) for seven weeks.
Angela and Andy wrung a lot of laughs out of their difficult time planning their wedding, Angela clearly making it as hard as possible, all the while holding midday rendezvous with Dwight in the warehouse. Michael, obviously, blows his chances with Holly at every turn. But, hope remains. Stanley goes on a personal weight loss quest. Kelly starves herself in various ways. Ryan returns to the office in the most demeaning way possible. All great stuff, but that’s not what people will be talking about over the next week.
As always, it’s about Jim and Pam. And, honestly, you have to give it up big time for the writers’ sleight of hand here. The cast duped us in interviews (check out Jenna Fischer’s sly comments here), and fans were set up for a drawn-out, long-distance relationship between Jim and Pam before the inevitable proposal. Even throughout tonight’s episode, The Office threw some subtle obstacles between Jim and Pam – Jim’s disenchantment with Pam away, Pam’s “new friends,” etc. And even when Jim went to meet Pam at that rest stop, a proposal was the furthest thing from this viewers’ mind.
The fact that The Office was able to take audiences by surprise with the proposal (at least, I assume audiences will be surprised) is an amazing feat in and of itself, and an accomplishment that made the moment all the more beautiful. Jim/Pam fans everywhere have likely melted into a blubbery pile of goo tonight, pleased to no end that The Office was able to produce one more glorious surprise in the Jim and Pam story. Well played, Office writers.
10 Best Quotes of the Night (there were a lot to choose from)
“Hold it in your mouth if you can’t swallow.” “No? Nothing?”
“We were fighting the power and eating whatever we wanted.”
“This is where my parents decided not to get divorced.”
“We done good in there, half-pint.”
“I once went 28 years without having sex, and then again for seven years.”
“I swallowed a tapeworm last night.”
“I apologize for creating a ruse which forced you to exercise.”
“I wonder what people like about me? Probably my jugs.”
“Boner-champ – that’s me.”
-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of NBC)