As we move towards the end of The Office, the show has wisely decided to consider the ramifications of the documentary on its subjects. Tonight, the Dunder Mifflinians enter the first step towards stardom as promos for The Office: An American Workplace start airing online. Here’s what we learn. It will air over nine nights in May on WVIA. WVIA is an actual local channel airing out of Pittston, Pennsylvania, and I would absolutely love to see their web traffic data tomorrow. Regardless, a) The Office won’t be on network television and b) it won’t be on cable. It’s airing on the home of Kickstart Your Heart with Dr. Neal Barnard, Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook, and This Old House. It will also be airing in Netherlands, presumably, for some reason, because there are Dutch promos. Does this mean that the ten years of filming has reaped maybe 18 hours at most of usable footage? Who sponsored this mad project!?! And why would the Dutch care!?!
While the crew is initially excited to see the ads, many of them freak out once they realize how many of their secrets will be revealed over this nine-night public television event. Among the most concerned are Angela and Oscar due to their respective relationships with Senator Lipton. However, everyone becomes nervous over what skeletons the cameras uncovered. The problem with this is that we know that they know that the cameras have filmed many of these things. Unless I’m completely misremembering this show, Oscar, Angela, and even Kevin have done talking head segments about the homosexual affair and Angela’s subsequent tryst with Dwight. It’s one thing if the show kept it in the background, but they actually spoke their thoughts aloud to camera people.
To get answers, Pam sees Brian the Creepy Mic Guy at home. I don’t know much about Scranton real estate, but he lives in an incredibly nice house especially for someone who just spent the past decade holding a boom mic for a pointless documentary. And here I imagined him living in a janitor’s closet of a studio apartment. One might argue that it’s his wife’s house, but they split up the last time we saw them, and I find it hard to believe that he’d keep the house. Not the least reason being that it was his unhealthy obsession with Pam that drove the two apart. During this week’s failed flirtation, Pam asks the first thing on her mind about the documentary- “Has Jim changed?” Smooth. Then she gets to the matter at hand and queries about what the documentarians captured, and she learns they caught pretty much everything. Even when the cast turns their mics off, cameras can pick up their voices. So she leaves in a rush, hopefully, finally freaked out by Brian if not the rest of the weirdos.
Nothing is resolved as far as the promos go. Pam gets gooshy because the Dutch promo uses the word “lovers” to describe her and Jim. Stanley tells his current significant other not to put on television for the next few months. And Oscar and Angela leave a joint voicemail to Lipton telling him he will be outed on television.
Unfortunately, the episode does not focus exclusively on this plotline, and it definitely suffers. Seeing how everyone deals with the realization that they will be the stars of a television show detailing their entire lives since 2003 could and should have been enough to carry the episode. But they throw in a completely unnecessary B-plot and a forced C-plot.
While the entire office is panicking, Dwight, with Clark in tow, is busy trying to lease a tractor to a neighboring farm with attractive daughters. Dwight wants to inseminate one of them, but Clark smells a scam. This actually takes up a huge chunk of the episode. Although it isn’t terrible, though it’s not particularly funny, it seems ridiculously out of place when there’s actual comedic and dramatic momentum concerning the entire show going on. Were Wilson and Duke unavailable to film with the rest of the cast?
The C-plot brings us once again to Athlead. Have Krasinski and Robinson been busy with other projects for most of the season or is this a creative decision? I can understand it to show the growing separation between Jim and Pam, but they don’t even mention the promos. (Though, come to think of it, once the tractor plot kicks into gear, I don’t think the B plot does either.) Darryl and Jim have a meeting with Ryan Howard, the first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies. It doesn’t go well, as he wants to move into other projects such as food franchise sponsorships and horrible movies that he wrote himself. While it’s not as cringey and awkward as the Dr. J segment from earlier this year, it still seems like a waste. Though I did like Pam’s reaction to hearing that Jim had a meeting with “Ryan Howard,” a reference that I’m glad the show managed to fit in before it ends.
• Brian the Creepy Mic Guy is still creepy.
• To be entirely fair, I’m not entirely opposed to the local television angle. These are insignificant people who live in a relatively small city. It doesn’t matter whether it airs on CBS, the Discovery Channel, or WVIA. In their spheres of influence, all would be equally bad.
• Not everyone is upset initially over the ads. The fame initially goes to Andy’s head, but he begins to freak out when he’s taunted by online “haters” … who turn out to be Nellie.
• I don’t know if the family trying to scam Dwight were the same ones who drove by the funeral in “The Farm.”
• Dwight and Clark make a good comedy team.
• The Dwight segment had the funniest line of the episode. Farmer’s Daughter *betraying her father to Dwight*: “Tell him to stick that tractor where the sun don’t shine!” Dwight: “That shady grove out by Willard’s pond!”