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Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Office Ricky Gervais Stunt Disappointing

     Fans of the British version of The Office have longed for Ricky Gervais' David Brent to stop by NBC's American remake for years, making it an official spin-off instead of just a remake. The news came that it was finally happening in this week's episode, and I got very excited. Looking back, it was said that Gervais would appear only in the opening, but the result was still a wasted opportunity! The show could easily have built an episode around him, not to mention an entire multi-episode arc, if they wanted to. Instead, we just got David and Michael (Steve Carell) talking weirdly to each other for a few seconds.

     I try not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and I am still thrilled that Gervais appeared at all. I'm sure the fact that it was a small part was of his choosing. However, there was no explanation for how or why David was where he was; really, no story at all. As one of the most unique TV characters of all time (before he was imitated repeatedly by others), David Brent is a very entertaining creation that deserves more. Not only that, but I was still trying to decide if Gervais was really bringing the Brent I know and love alive when his short scene ended. I'm not convinced he really acted the character, at least not as well as he used to. I can't help but feel it was too quickly done and that a longer part would have captured Brent better.

     Other than the opening, though, it was another excellent episode in this strong season of The Office. With Carell's episode count dwindling (he will be leaving the series for good four episodes before the season finale), Michael Scott has gotten more focus that ever. The arc most people want to see tied up is Michael's love for Holly Flax (Amy Ryan). Michael's other ex-girlfriends were all brought back earlier in the season and sent off one last time, but Holly is more than that. Holly is his soul mate, and the last few episodes have only confirmed that point. She actually gets Michael, and enjoys his zany antics. What more can you ask for in a partner?

     Holly is back at Dunder Mifflin Scranton, and has recently broken up with her long-term boyfriend, the one she got after she and Michael split following her transfer to a far-away branch of the company. The seeds have been sewn, and it seems that Holly is falling once more for Michael. Their interactions this week were heartwarming, especially Holly's brief comment to the camera, which was more about the look on her face than what she said. Or didn't say, for that matter. I predict a ride off into the sunset for the two of them, an  event many fans want to see. I think Michael will get the ending he deserves.

     I am hoping that Michael is not replaced by an outsider to the show, and I am pretty confident at this point that that will not happen. Writers on The Office have pledged more of an ensemble piece, with all of the very talented support staff getting more plot, following Carell's departure. The four episodes after Carell leaves will see the return of company owner Jo (Kathy Bates, who will be done filming the first season of Harry's Law by then) as she searches for a replacement, and various characters battle for the job and Will Ferrell will be doing a multi-episode arc as well.  My vote is for Darryl (Craig Robinson) to take over the office, as I think he will best be able to handle the mix of professional and personal relationships within it. As sad as Carell leaving is, I'm excited about this concept.
 
     The final season has not been all about Michael.  Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) haven't gotten much of a story though after they've gotten very large arcs in the past couple of years. Instead, we have been getting tons more Andy (Ed Helms), Dwight (Rainn Wilson), Darryl, and Erin (Ellie Kemper). Dwight is an old hand, and Andy was added years ago, though only recently to the opening credits. Darryl has been around since 2005, but once he got an office upstairs, has had so much more involvement with everyone. Erin is pretty new to the cast.  All three however shine so well when let out.

     Andy has lost every woman he ever goes after, and his would-be relationship with Erin is no different. Yet, unlike Angela (Angela Kinsey), there is actually some hope that Andy can get Erin back from Gabe (Zach Woods). In this week's episode, Erin was once again losing a game of Scrabble to Gabe, which meant that Gabe got to choose their movie night film, and he never chooses anything Erin wants to see.  Unlike Gabe, Andy understands Erin, they have complementary interests, and Andy would let her take as many turns choosing as she wants. Gabe and Erin have been portrayed as not working too well, which can only mean one thing: a happy ending is not out of the question for Andy and Erin. Andy just needs some more confidence to win her back, something he was building this week with the seminar he held this week.

     Dwight has undergone enormous growth. As owner of the building that they all work in, Dwight tried his own tricks and crazy leadership 'skills.' They failed. He tried outmaneuvering Andy again this week, and again, he failed. Dwight is at his best when he is actually showing compassion and bonding with the other characters, especially Pam. While a Dwight - Angela rekindling, which I have hoped for, is apparently not in the offing anytime soon, Dwight is showing real feelings of fondness for most of his co-workers. The gradual softening of Dwight has been a triumph, but he still has a long way to go. I just don't see his changes to this point being enough to get him the boss's job, despite his British counterpart having become Brent's replacement.

     The above are only some of the great characters showcased in the series, and The Office is as good as its ever been. Please watch it Thursday nights at 9pm on NBC.

Article first published as TV Review: The Office - Ricky Gervais Stunt Disappointing on Blogcritics.


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