‘The Office’ – ‘Sex Ed’: Ghosts of girlfriends past

Senior Television Writer
10.15.10 64 Comments


A review of last night’s “The Office” coming up just as soon as I release an album of Doris Day covers to my own label…

With “Sex Ed,” written and directed by showrunner Paul Lieberstein, “The Office” unofficially kicked off the Steve Carell Farewell Tour. Michael’s not going anywhere yet, but half the episode was spent on him getting closure on all of his previous relationships, while the other half featured Andy Bernard playing the role of Michael Scott.

And if this is how much of the season is going to go, I’m not feeling all that optimistic.

The Michael story had its moments, certainly. Michael’s impatience and need to over-romanticize everything has been a core character trait going back at least to that brief relationship with Carol. Whether or not Holly comes back to play a role in Michael’s actual exit, Michael’s difficulty in finding the soulmate he needs to have the family he so desperately wants should absolutely be a part of this final season, and I liked the emotion and conviction in Michael’s voice as he left that voicemail for Holly.

But the herpes part of that story, like Dwight’s behavior in the pre-credits sequence(*), was creepy and uncomfortable. Like the Dwight/Michael pairing itself (my least favorite of the show’s most frequent combinations), it brought out the broadest, dumbest, least funny aspects of both characters. I appreciate the impulse to put a joke at the end of Michael’s big speech, but it just came across as cheap.

(*) Not only did the idea of Dwight and Mose hustling illegal immigrants seem to cross a line of Dwight behavior (it ceases to be funny when other people are being harmed), but the joke was immediately undercut by Dwight agreeing to hire the English-speaking white guy.

As for Andy being the one to call an inappropriate, never-ending meeting in which he quickly lost control fo the audience? Too close. Much too close. There are slight degrees of difference between Michael and Andy, in that Michael’s personality is defined by his unhappy, lonely childhood in front of the TV, where Andy can never let go of his four years at Cornell (here reverting back to his dorm RA days), but when you put Andy in this kind of scenario, the differences become much harder to see. I like Ed Helms, and at one point noted that Andy might make for the most seamless transfer since he’s so much like Michael already. But watching this play out, I realized an imitation Michael just won’t work, even if he’s a pre-existing character. If the show wants to survive post-Carell, it needs to come up with a different office dynamic, rather than just putting a different social ignoramus front and center.

What did everybody else think?

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