‘The Office’ – ‘Todd Packer’: Riding a desk

Senior Television Writer
02.25.11 33 Comments


A review of last night’s “The Office” coming up just as soon as you tell me who Justice Beaver is…

Todd Packer, like most of the show’s original characters, was based on a character from the British show – in this case, David Brent’s cocky pal Chris Finch. But where Michael, Dwight, Jim and the others have had seven years to become their own people, Packer appears so infrequently that he’s still stuck as the American version of Finchy, and unfortunately it feels as if both the show and Michael have evolved enough that he doesn’t fit in, leading to an episode that had some funny things in the margins but a flat and uncomfortable main story.

Obviously, Michael’s evolution away from Packer was the whole point of the episode. As with this season’s “WUPHF.com” (which I also didn’t like much), the idea was to demonstrate how Michael has grown up enough that he no longer needs his man-crushes on the various jerks in his life who pay attention to him at all. But in both cases, it wasn’t particularly pleasant waiting for that moment when Michael finally gets it, particularly since he’s become self-aware enough in the last few years that he shouldn’t have needed Packer to insult Holly to figure things out. It also didn’t help that this episode came directly after “Threat Level Midnight,” which had a near-identical “Holly helps Michael realize that something he thinks is awesome is really lame” structure. I get that the point of this extended Michael Scott farewell tour is to provide closure to all his different relationships and obsessions, but the better episodes this season have been more varied in how they showed that.

The scenes that didn’t directly involve Todd or Michael, though – including some that were about them but didn’t feature them – were a lot better, but still uneven on the whole.

The Pam storyline took a very long time to get going, but once Andy and Pam had their eureka moment about deliberately breaking his computer so he could get a new one, it really began to click. Given the origins of Pam’s current job, it makes sense that she would slowly but surely embrace corruption, so it was a pleasure to see her horse-trading with Darryl. And the many different ways Andy chose to sabotage his old machine were hilarious – I’m sure every one of us has accidentally done at least one of those over the years.

And though I didn’t enjoy Packer himself, some of the responses to him were amusing, including Kelly ordering Kevin not to accept the lame “I’m sorry if you were offended”-style apology (“Ryan does it to me all the time!”), and one of our rare Jim/Dwight team-ups. Jim’s been even more of a problem character this season than Pam. She at least has a new niche on the show, even if stories about that aren’t always perfect, where it seems like an older, more mature Jim who also doesn’t have a management job anymore is adrift, and the few episodes in which he’s tried to revert back to his younger ways haven’t worked. Many of the scenes with Dwight, though, felt like vintage Jim, particularly Jim pulling the desk drawer gag on an oblivious Dwight after Dwight dismissed the idea earlier.

On the other hand, I didn’t like the actual resolution to the Packer situation. Yes, he’s a jerk who nobody wants around, but how is this actually going to work? Do they expect him to just stay in Tallahassee after Jo’s people tell him there’s no job waiting for him? He’s still technically employed by the company, as he’s just under the mistaken impression that he’s being transferred to the corporate office. Insufferable as he is, I think Holly’s right that you can’t just take the guy’s job away for that – especially not in an office where Dwight, Creed and Ryan all remain gainfully employed.

Oh, well. With February sweeps over, “The Office” (and the rest of the NBC Thursday shows) won’t have a new episode until March 17, and hopefully we’ll get a good one in two weeks.

What did everybody else think?

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