A review of last night’s Will Ferrell-ish episode of “The Office” coming up just as soon as I go online and look at turtles…
I went into this episode with the wrong kind of anticipation. The proposal episode was so perfect that I felt it should’ve been Michael Scott’s swan song. And I’ve been skeptical of the Will Ferrell idea since it was first announced, worrying that Ferrell – who occupies a lot of the same oblivious comic space as Steve Carell – would just play a broader version of Michael.
And while my second worry wasn’t exactly right – Ferrell’s Deangelo Vickers wasn’t a broader version of Michael, but rather a slightly colder and more aloof (and, in his dealings with Andy, obliviously cruel) version – there was still very little here to undo my first worry.
Ferrell and Carell have another history together, and obvious affection for each other, that the scenes at the beginning and end of the episode where Michael and Deangelo were just enjoying each other’s company were amusing enough. (Their opening exchange at the bar felt like Paul Lieberstein just pointed the cameras at them and told them to improvise.)
But once it turned into the story of Michael being jealous that the new guy was instantly more popular than he had ever been – when even Stanley was beaming at the Deangelo’s presence and hanging on his every word? Well, then “Training Day” wasn’t much different from the “Glee” episode or any other number of ones that are built entirely around Michael being petulant about not being the center of attention every minute of every day, and that’s about my least favorite flavor of “The Office.” I disliked Michael for most of the episode, and I really grew to dislike Deangelo by the end.
I appreciated that Ferrell dialed things down to the show’s level of reality. He’s a smart, versatile actor who usually plays big but can go effectively small when the role requires it (see “Stranger Than Fiction,” for example). And there were a few funny beats here and there in the episode: Jim and Pam being incredibly pleased with themselves when they think Deangelo likes their baby (and Deangelo’s comment about that in the tag), Erin’s panicked silence over the question of phone protocol, Andy’s miserable “I guess this is my life now” talking head after his horrible forced slapstick, and Darryl’s look of shame when spotted in his new Southwestern regalia.
But we know Ferrell’s not sticking around – nor would I want him to, if this is the character he’d be playing long-term – and Michael already got a perfect farewell a couple of weeks ago, so this is just blatant ratings bait. And I’m not sure how effective it’ll be, as I can’t remember the last time a piece of stunt-casting – even a natural one like this that reunites two of the stars of “Anchorman” – notably moved the ratings needle.
Maybe things will be more interesting as Deangelo’s reign starts to fall apart and we can move on to whoever winds up being the permanent boss (and my vote is still for Darryl), but this was not a promising start to the final phase of Carell’s tenure.
What did everybody else think?