Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Office makes "The List" of favorite shows

     When NBC's The Office returns with "The List," a new boss has finally been named. Andy (Ed Helms), a failure as a salesman, now gets the corner officer overlooking the workers. Next door in the conference room, new CEO Robert California (James Spader, Boston Legal) has also moved in, and been added to the opening credits.  The staff finds a list Robert has made, separating them into two columns. When he invites one side of the list to lunch, they begin panicking that he has sorted them into winners and losers, a fact that he confirms. Andy proves his mettle by standing up for his employees.

     Andy was my second choice for boss, after Pam (Jenna Fischer), but considering she will still get plenty of other plot, he's a good choice. He wasn't really contributing much to the company in his former position. He is educated and has proper qualifications. He cares about the people that work there. His willingness to stand up to Robert is exactly why he deserves this promotion, pointing out the value of (almost) every single employee on the payroll. Helms is a fine comedic actor, and definitely deserves his increased role. He will likely work out very well, bringing a bumbling, yet different, direction. The only downside is this means he probably can't be with Erin (Ellie Kemper), at least for now, as that would just open things up for a sexual harassment lawsuit.

     Spader's addition is also welcome. His character is hilarious in last year's season finale, and works even better as a regular cast member. He shakes things up, but not too much. While he does judge his workers, he also seems like he will keep an open mind if he is wrong. He is certainly having doubts about Andy's promotion until the end of the episode, where he looks impressed by Andy's rant. Robert will allow the series to continue to grow, without ruining everything that makes it best. And if The Office gets canceled at the end of the year, perhaps he will extend his The Practice / Boston Legal trend and headline a spin off.

     How Dwight (Rainn Wilson) will ultimately take being passed over remains to be seen. Wilson has mastered the character in ways unexpected and exciting. He is upset, obviously, but is willing to be Andy's number two man; his enforcer. There is a certain subtle resignation to his lot in life that shows up in Dwight in "The List." It's a little sad, but he is just not temperamentally suited for the position. He has many good qualities, and management in other areas may work for him. But not here, with these people.

    It's a little baffling that Robert doesn't think Pam is a valuable asset, given everything that she does. And Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) made the list?! But Jim's (John Krasinski) incredibly sweet gesture of his own list, and the way he stands by his family, more than makes up for any misjudgments Robert might make about Pam.

     Jim and Pam are expecting again! This time, Pam really looks pregnant. Apparently, many months have passed over the hiatus, as she can't possibly only be three or four months along. It's kind of refreshing that the attention and reaction to this second child is more subdued, as fits with reality. Their lives continue, and their family grows. Might Pam seriously talk Jim into naming the baby after Michael? Distance does make the heart grow fonder.

     The question is, is Angela (Angela Kinsey) also actually with child, considering that her "lover" is gay, or is she faking it? If she isn't faking it, who is the father? Is it too much to hope for it to be Dwight?

     The essential element of The Office is the large, zany ensemble. "The List" does not disappoint with continued antics, as the episode opens with several employees practicing planking, a current internet trend. This is completely in character, and it's little bits like this that make The Office so charming.

     The Office airs Thursdays nights at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

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