‘The Office’ – ‘Garden Party’: The host with the most

A review of last night’s “The Office” coming up just as soon as I tell you about the Goat Package…

“Garden Party” offered more laughs than some of this season’s other episodes. Mike Schur was somehow press-ganged into reprising his role as Mose, and was as strange and hilarious as usual(*) as Mose attempted to play Evel Knievel through his role as party valet. Jim’s prank on Dwight, while perhaps more elaborate than you might imagine from a guy with a pregnant wife and baby at home to spend time on, was amusing, and gave Rainn Wilson the opportunity to do some good physical comedy. Ryan’s toast to the troops (“Both sides!”), the return of Kevin’s toupee, and Darryl and Oscar’s debate about the meaning of Rosebud(**), Gabe cursing himself for chatting up Stanley’s mistress were all good jokes.

(*) Question: was his greatest comic contribution yesterday his work as Mose, the “Parks and Recreation” episode that preceded it, or his anguished Grantland piece about the Red Sox turmoil?

(**) Straw poll: you with Darryl or Oscar? I’m with Darryl; this is another case of Oscar going too far to demonstrate his smarts.

That said, I’m starting to think that the biggest problem with Andy as the branch manager isn’t how much he’s like Michael, but the most significant way he’s not like him: where giving Michael Scott power made him a funnier character than he would have been were he just another salesman, Andy has somehow become less funny since the promotion.

Andy is socially clumsy, but only a little. He’s desperate for the approval of the rest of the branch, but the ways in which he attempts to get that approval are rarely that silly or surprising. Though he was once upon a time smug, rageaholic d-bag, he’d been softened so much in the years since he arrived in Scranton that we already understand how much everybody likes him. While it’s a sweet moment when Darryl offers him a cheeseburger and Oscar calls him Nard-Dog and tosses him a drink, it’s not surprising. Asking the staff to come to a garden party to ostensibly impress Robert California – but really to impress his parents – is a mild inconvenience, but not notably worse than your average real-world boss might ask you to do. With Michael, you were sometimes asked to feel sorry for him, but only after he had done six or seven ridiculous things that usually (though far from always) made you laugh hysterically. With Andy in an episode like this, you just feel the pity without the humor. And with Robert being turned into more of a wry observer of the oddness of the Scranton branch rather than a crazy man who instigates stories, with Jim still being sane and relatively settled, etc., the comedy on the show seems to be existing entirely on the margins with characters like Mose or Kevin or Meredith.

And short of undoing multiple seasons of character growth for Andy and the people around him, I’m not sure how you fix that problem. The Nard-Dog’s a nice guy, but so far he’s not working as the central character of a comedy.

What did everybody else think?