By now, you should have heard that NBC is benching Community for midseason. This is disappointing news indeed. Community and Parks & Recreation are easily the two best shows on NBC’s Thursday night line-up and provide entirely different styles of comedy. Instead, the Thursday line-up will look like: 8:00- 30 Rock; 8:30- Parks; 9:00- The Office; 9:30- Up All Night; and 10:00- a TV remake of the John Grisham novel/movie The Firm. I’ve never seen Up All Night, and I’m not entirely sure I care to catch up on it. Unfortunately, Whitney remains on the schedule, but moved to Wednesday at 8:00 where it will serve as the lead-in to Are You There, Chelsea?, the sitcom based on Chelsea Handler’s life. I guess this means I can cut Whitney out of my line-up too. There’s always On Demand though. Depends on whether I still hate the show when the change occurs or just find it boring. If it’s the former, I’ll continue. And yes, I know NBC said that they are just holding Community until they can find a place for it, but this doesn’t bode well for Greendale’s future.
So why I am talking about this? For starters, to register my disappointment regarding Community being put on hiatus. Secondly, because tonight’s episode of The Office, Gettysburg, was about Andy’s concern over his leadership skills and Robert California seeking new ideas to improve the company. If these plots sound familiar, it’s because they’ve become the Three’s Company misunderstanding of this season of The Office.
In the titular plot, Andy takes a group of office mates to Gettysburg during business time because he likens working to war, sees himself as their general, and what better place to encourage your troops than the setting of America’s bloodiest battle and turning point of The Civil War. Andy arranges his own itinerary for the battlefield based on his own research, but people seem bored and hate the idea. This makes Andy sad and disheartened (again) until Jim gives him a pep talk (again) and tells him how great and inspiring the staff thinks he is anyway (again). This cheers Andy up and makes him ready to take control of his crew and the day. Pretty much what happened in second episode of this season, The Incentive.
In my recap for that episode, I complained about Andy being a network-approved Michael Scott; he’s still kind of dopey but, unlike Michael, he pretty much always gets the happy ending. While Michael had to be leaving for Jim to become the son/protégé/friend he always wanted, Andy just has to be there. Once again, Jim tells Andy about how much the staff loves him, how great he is, how they’re all rooting for him. Jim and the rest of the office even wear ridiculous bright pink caps that say ‘DM loves GB’ just for Andy’s sake. I have never figured out what makes Andy so beloved by the rest of the crew, but all things considered, he’s a worse boss than Michael.
While Michael had sales skills and confidence, Andy has neither of those things. His sales were horrible, and he always seems insecure and ready to give up. While Robert always mentally overpowers Andy, David (Wallace) and Jan (Levinson) could never defeat the predecessor because they could never figure him out. (Furthermore, Michael Scott worked better as a main character because he was offbeat enough to offer surprises to the expected catastrophes, as opposed to the milquetoast blandness of Andy Bernard.)
Does Andy’s popularity relate to what Robert said at the end of The Incentive, about an underdog inspiring other underdogs? Possibly. But, given how touchy-feely the show has become, do the showrunners want us to see the majority of the cast as so hopeless? Both the British The Office and the original seasons of its US counterpart had a cynical edge that gave bite to the characters’ predicaments and almost gave them a sense of self-awareness. Now, the vibe is that even their “Creator” has abandoned them, bored with these people and their plights, leaving them to fester in unacknowledged misery and blindly accepting that this is their lives and will be until their deaths. Dunder-Mifflin has been granted the gift of sitcom ignorance.
Also at Gettysburg, Dwight and Oscar fight over whether the northern most battle of the Civil War was Gettysburg or the lesser-known “Battle of Shrute Farm.” After arguing about it for a spell, they talk to a historian who informs Dwight that the “Battle of Shrute Farm” was code for a (possibly homosexual) commune of soldiers looking to escape the war.
Back in the office, a few of the staff members (including Pam, Meredith, Kevin, Ryan, and Kelly) stay behind. Unexpectedly, Robert California shows up and challenges them to come up with the next groundbreaking idea that will revolutionize the company. After several failures (including Pam with coupons; Stanley with Papyr- soft, silky paper for women; and Ryan with origami investments), Kevin starts talking about the placement of cookies in the vending machine. Robert takes his suggestion (that the best cookies should be in the middle, where the eye is most drawn) to be an allegory for selling popular products instead of trying to push underperforming ones. Throughout the episode, Robert tries to talk to Kevin about highfalutin business concepts, which Kevin cannot follow in the slightest. Finally, Ryan outs Kevin as an idiot leading to the only genuinely funny moment of the night- Robert’s shocked face after realizing that Kevin really was only talking about cookies.
• The joke about Phyllis eating a large breakfast (and later a dirty sandwich) seemed suited more for Kevin than Phyllis. Or for Michael to say about Phyllis.
• Pam’s replacement from Pam’s Replacement is on staff now, but I don’t think she got any lines tonight. So now the office has two people for one worthless position, and she sits nowhere near Pam.
• Robert didn’t seem to care that half the office was missing.
• For anyone wondering if we found out about Jim’s cholesterol levels this week, we didn’t.
• For those who only saw the commercials, Pam’s water didn’t break; it was a spilled water bottle because everyone saw through their fake labor ruse. I guess that means we have another birth episode to come. Damn it.
• In another Gettysburg subplot, Gabe is mistaken for Abraham Lincoln, and he entertains audiences as the 16th President. I know I could call him Gabe-raham Lincoln, but I won’t. The show really seems to struggle with what to do with Gabe.