‘The Office’ – ‘The Seminar’: Oceans apart

Senior Television Writer
01.28.11 56 Comments


A review of last night’s The Office” coming up just as soon as I put the Q there…

I almost feel like there need to be two separate reviews of “The Seminar”: one for the meeting between Michael Scott and David Brent (which I’ve embedded below for repeat enjoyment), and one for everything else.

The former was perfect: short and sweet, funny, and a nice reminder that while the writers very quickly (and wisely) moved Michael away from being a David clone, the two men have both a shared history and sense of humor. Michael ultimately turned out to be nicer and more vulnerable than David – I could never imagine the British “Office” doing a scene like the one at the end of the Michael Scott Paper Company arc where I would be rooting hard for David to get a big win – but even now he makes inappropriate jokes, drops mangled pop culture references no one else gets, resorts to ethnic caricature (see Mykonos and Necropolis later in the episode), etc. Michael wrapping David in a big hug after his kindred spirit dropped a “That’s what she said!” was a wonderful, wonderful, hilarious moment, and my favorite part of the Michael Scott farewell tour so far.

The rest of the episode couldn’t live up to that teaser. If we treat it as a separate entity, it was uneven but often funny, and a nice showcase for the supporting cast.

“The Seminar” was, like “Sex Education,” another audition piece for Andy as the new boss/main character. On that level, I don’t think it worked any better than the previous one did, in that almost none of what I enjoyed involved Andy himself. This one didn’t play out quite as much like a watered-down Michael story as “Sex Education” did, but at the same time, I’ve never felt the empathy for Andy that the show was able to create for Michael over time. I love Ed Helms, and I get that his profile is now huge because of “The Hangover,” but in the context of this show and this character, I think less is more when it comes to the Nard Dog.

On the other hand, Andy’s desperation provided some hilarious – if at times over-the-top ridiculous – moments for some of the other characters. In a real seminar(*), Kevin’s routine would have turned off the audience for good, but as a moment on its own, Brian Baumgartner’s enthusiasm and the fact that it kept going and going (and then that he tried to give the speech while sitting on the floor, gasping for air and puking) was brilliant. Ditto Creed’s Loch Ness Monster speech. Kelly as The Business Bitch, on the other hand, was a nice combination of both funny and plausible; even Kelly Kapoor has good ideas now and again (and can take advantage of an old professor who has the hots for her).

(*) Or even a British “Office” version of same, as that scene reminded me quite a bit of David’s disastrous stint as a motivational speaker.

The Jim subplot was mainly one long set-up for a great one-line payoff. On Twitter last night, Zap2It’s Rick Porter said that “Where’s your jet pack, Zuckerberg?” would be in his lexcion for a while, and though it’s not quite as all-purpose a comeback as “That’s what the money is for!!!” from “Mad Men,” it was damn good.

The Erin/Gabe Scrabble story I enjoyed less for Erin (whom I like better when she’s placed in plots that don’t just lean on her to be dumb) than for know-it-all Oscar. And I liked seeing the thawing of the Michael/Holly relationship, but only to a point. I know others’ mileage varies on watching the two of them do “comedy” together, but I can never get enough of it.

So, to sum up: Scott + Brent worth the price of admission, and enough funny stuff elsewhere to make the entire half-hour a success, I’d say.

What did everybody else think?

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