Review: ‘The Office’ – ‘The Promo’

A review of last night’s “The Office” coming up just as soon as we buy an augur together…

There was a good idea hiding inside of “The Promo,” and one that came out in many of Pam’s scenes: what would it be like for these people to watch the last eight years of their lives and see how much they have – or haven’t – changed? Since Michael’s no longer around – and therefore in danger of being fired by Dunder-Mifflin(*) – that’s the only reason you’d want to address the documentary head-on at this point. Pam looking to footage of Jim sharing his music with her as a reassurance that she’s with the right guy – even if he’s a very different guy in some ways(**) – was a nice moment, and I could imagine similar moments of introspection coming from a lot of the characters.

(*) Steve Carell didn’t come back for the finale, because he felt (rightly so) that “Goodbye Michael” was a perfect exit for the character. That said, I wish we could see just 30 seconds of his life in Colorado with Holly, just so we can see him trying to explain his behavior in the documentary to whoever employs him now.

(**) I don’t know if, given the theme of the episode, this was intended as a parallel, or just an accident, but compare Jim in the (otherwise stupid) Ryan Howard subplot, struggling to read the movie script, to the Jim who eagerly staged an office reading of “Threat Level Midnight” back in “The Client.”   

Instead, the rest of it was super-broad (Kevin’s “human zoo” talking head is among his dumbest moments ever) and focused on some of the show’s more unpleasant story arcs (the Angela/Senator/Oscar triangle). Worse, though, it hung a lamp on an aspect of the show we probably should never be looking too closely at. Yes, it’s probably physically possible that the cameras could have captured all this footage – Mike Schur recently told me about all the effort the show used to put in to create logical consistency to the documentary world – but you have to imagine that in 8-plus years, someone caught them in the act, threw a hissy fit about it and warned the others. Or that Brian – who’s return I didn’t welcome, but who’s been established as a character on the show who was good friends with Jim and Pam, and who was willing to break professional boundaries for Pam – might have let it slide at some point. And, again, it raises all kinds of questions about what kind of agreements the employees (and the original Dunder-Mifflin corporate management) signed, why they’d be so willing to invite the crew to parties and weddings and everything else outside the office, etc. These are questions I suspect the show isn’t equipped to answer plausibly, or entertainingly, so best not to raise them at all.

I suppose I respect the attempt to make lemonades out of the lemon that was “The Farm” pilot by having some of those characters continue, rather than pretending the entire episode never happened. That said, the tractor story(***) played up some of the worst, silliest aspects of that episode, rather than, say, showing Dwight dealing with his siblings. The show has plausibly made Dwight into a stud before, whether in “Night Out” with the women’s basketball team or when he was dating one of Pam’s bridesmaids. This is just Dwight dating a hot cartoon character.

(***) Surely, I’m not the only NBC Thursday comedy fan who hears about tractors and immediately thinks of this, am I?

What did everybody else think? Did this episode make you more or less eager to see the characters respond to the documentary itself before the season’s over? Did you want B.J. Novak to come back so the real Ryan Howard could meet the show’s version? Were you happy “The Farm” lives on?