‘The Office’ – ‘Nepotism’: Spanking the flunky

Senior Television Writer
09.24.10 43 Comments


A review of “The Office” season seven premiere coming up just as soon as they have open auditions for the band Hanson…

We’ll have to wait a bit to see how the show handles Steve Carell’s impending exit, the search for Michael’s replacement, etc., but I thought “Nepotism” was a solid start to what I hope will be a rebound from the very weak, directionless season six.

Michael Scott views the Scranton branch as his family in large part because he’s never had much family of his own. He’s still single (though we’re all hoping his exit will involve some kind of happy ending with Holly), and his mother mostly raised him alone. So for him to be able to put a (half-)blood relative into the office – and one from the side of the family that’s never had much interest in him – had to feel like a dream come true for the guy, and helped ground most of Michael’s ridiculous behavior regarding Luke. And the story’s climax, with Luke’s behavior becoming so juvenile that Michael resorts to spanking him (“capital punishment”) was surprising, funny and very well-done.

And the rest of it felt quite promising. The lip dub opening was a year out of date, but that’s kind of the point with these people: if they were close to the cutting edge, they’d be what Ryan wishes he was, rather than drudges at a mid-sized paper company branch in Scranton.

The summer vacation talking head bit helped set up some promising new character arcs, including Gabe having stolen Erin from Andy and Kelly now having management style down but no substance to back it up. And Dwight’s ownership of the building is paying off well so far, as it creates a new source of tension with Jim while at the same time dialing Dwight’s behavior back to vaguely realistic levels. Being a jerk about the thermostat is the exact sort of thing Dwight would do with this newfound power. And in rekindling the Jim/Dwight flame, we also got our first good Jim/Pam story in quite a while, as she had to make amends for ruining Jim’s key-ring prank. The writers struggled a lot with Jim and Pam last year, but here they seemed like themselves.

As with the “30 Rock” premiere, this wasn’t an all-time classic. But after the mess that was last year, I’ll take a B/B- episode as an acceptable start.

What did everybody else think?

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