Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Office Review: Episode 9.17, "The Farm"

I'd really hate to be the breakout character on a sitcom. It sounds like a pretty miserable existence. The harder the writers push their breakout character, the less interesting that character becomes, as a particularly toxic sort of silliness inevitably seeps into the cracks where that interest once lied. I'd especially hate to be the breakout character of a sitcom who ends up getting his own spinoff. God, that would SUCK.

But The Office is - or used to be and is trying, with varying degrees of success, to be again - less sitcommy, and I can actually almost imagine a pretty good Dwightcentric spinoff. (Obviously, this theoretical successful spinoff would've come into existence before the ninth season.) When the news first broke about The Farm - the actual failed Dwightcentric spinoff - I knew almost immediately that this was not that spinoff. But was I being overly negative? Would it really hurt to give Paul Lieberstein the benefit of the doubt for once? After all, he was good enough when he was just a writer; he simply seems to have been promoted past the thing he excelled at, like a Mike Scully. (Or a Michael Scott, if you'd prefer your Office reviews to only use metaphors about Office things.) Perhaps he'd have an easier time reigning things if he had a project he was at the helm of from the outset? (Y'know, just like Toby's Scranton Stranger investigation came to a quick and decisive and strangly conclusion once he actually took charge of that.)

...yeah. Even though they made a modest effort to retrofit the pilot for The Farm back into The Office after the project was cancelled, let's not kid ourselves. This isn't really an Office review. This is a review of a different series altogether, one that never came to be.

One that was thrown into a casket, and then shot, just to make absolutely sure that it's not accidentally buried alive.

(Oh, yeah, beware of spoilers and stuff. And stuff.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Office Review: Episode 9.16, "Moving On"

"Dwight brings Angela with him on a mission to clean his elderly Aunt Shirley."

...that's how anyone reading this episode's description was greeted. "This is why you'll want to tune in to this episode", the guy who wrote the description seems to say, quite delusionally. "Dwight and Angela are washing an old person, guys!!" I generally assume it's a pretty thankless task, having to write these descriptions, but once or twice a season they get the thoroughly enviable task of having to compress a lot of weirdness down into one sentence, and that's when they can say to themselves, "This is what makes it all worth it." And though this isn't quite as viscerally exciting (and filthy sounding) as last season's "Darryl teaches Nellie how to eat a taco", it definitely gets points for oddness!

The scary thing is that it ends up being one of the most important plots in an episode overstuffed with plots. Despite going up against Pam's job interview, and Andy's continued breakdown of his personal and professional likability, and Toby finally taking the Scranton Strangler case by the horns because apparently that's what people want, the extended storyline about aunt cleanin' manages to be just important. Is this the sort of thing we could've looked forward to every week if The Farm had been picked up as a series? Would we have eventually gotten an episode about Dwight teaching his wacky Nazi uncle to eat a taco too, for the universe is ultimately cyclical?

(Potential spoilers and whatnot after the cut!)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Office Review: Episode 9.15, "Couples Discount"

I'd like to wish you a belated Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Valentine's Day used to be predictably painful for me, but then I got a girlfriend (hi Tails!), so now I can be one of the relationshippy bourgeoisie, cruelly mocking the downtrodden proletariat of the single. Ah, yes - such a wonderful and thoroughly heartwarming holiday. And I couldn't be more thrilled that they moved it ahead a week this year, to February 7!

....okay, yeah, it's a little weird to have a V-Day episode a week early when NBC will actually be airing an episode on the 14th anyway. As confusing holiday-related scheduling goes it's really minor, to be fair. Zombie Community will evidently be airing its Halloween episode next week, surely the result of some sort of deeply subversive, meta, and/or postmodern commentary on the very concept of sitcom holiday episodes and NOT the result of being screwed over by the network, repeatedly. I guess I shouldn't complain about this too much. Yet, I will. If they're going to be airing an episode of The Office next week anyway, then why didn't they plan around that a bit better when they made their decision to pair up "Couples Discount" and "Vandalism"? Of course, I'm surely incapable of understanding the deep complexities it takes to schedule programming. Maybe they thought it would just be awkward to air a Valentine's episode of something on the same night as a Halloween episode of something else?

Yeah. Because "Couples Discount" would've totally been the awkward part of that equation. Totally.

(Possible spoilers and such below the cut!)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Office Reviews: 9.13 and 9.14, "Junior Salesman" and "Vandalism"

Be honest, NBC. You chose to burn both of these episodes on the same night because they're both big disappointments, right?


Yeah, that's what I thought. Okay, thanks. That's all I needed to know. alright. Buh-bye.

No, but I'll try my hardest to be sympathetic. I'm aware that wrestling the show into series finale-worthy submission requires grappling with an awkward assortment of plot points of various degrees of seriousness; there's the down-to-earth Jim/Pam-type stuff from the early seasons, and then there's the overt broadness from later seasons. Naturally, finding a balance between the two that isn't alienating either way is more difficult than it might sound at first. Could I do it? No, I admit that I would be hopelessly inept in such an endeavor. The problem is that this writing crew has already been able to prove that it's NOT earlier in the season, which makes it all the more depressing when they do fail. C'mon, guys! You were on the right track, in theory!

But, no. It's time to throw silly things like tonal consistency out the window, and careen drunkenly between various things they technically have to get done this season but don't really care all that much about. That's just as good, right?

(I should probably take this opportunity to throw in a spoiler warning for the stuff after the cut!)

Monday, February 4, 2013


I've suffered from recurring bouts of insomnia all my life; the most recent was just over a week ago. Despite dealing with it for as far back as I can remember, I've never really gotten used to it. It's always just about the worst thing ever. As the sleep deprivation builds and builds, it starts feeling a lot like a particularly dark and surreal nightmare, one I obviously can't wake from, even as I desperately wish I could. When it gets particularly bad, it feels like an actual physical presence looming over me, isolating me from everything I hold dear in the world, confining me to my bed and yet ensuring that I'm too unnerved to sleep, such that it may stretch out the delicious torment of its prey for yet another day.

In this handy visual aid, the part of Insomnia is played by an otherworldly, bloodthirsty giant purple octopus who likes trapping poor, defenseless skunky foxes in some sort of malevolent (but oddly Yoshi's Islandy) alternate dimension.

....it made sense when I was heavily sleep deprived, you see.

Why even share it? I guess I just like what a mindless and irrational portrayal of my emotional state at that point in time was. When something in my life beats me down, the shit I create gets CONFUSING, and I think it's kind of interesting to analyze in retrospect. For me, anyway. And I'm one-quarter of my readership, so what I say is interesting goes!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Office Review: Episode 9.12, "Customer Loyalty"

What exactly constitutes an "explosive mind-bender", anyway? No, really. I know it's 2013, and by this point in time any and all strong adjectives have been weakened to the point of triviality. So, when Greg Daniels says that an upcoming episode contains an "explosive mind-bender" about the nature of the documentary, what he obviously means is, "This is a good episode that does something a little bit unexpected." And thus, a surprising chunk of fans across the internet proceeded to seal their cruel fate of crushing disappointment, by taking this phrase literally, and expecting "Customer Loyalty" to actually bend their minds, with explosives.

"Steve Carell is coming back", a few of them convinced themselves, "because Michael Scott is secretly the one behind the whole documentary!" Never mind the fact that it's already been confirmed by countless sources that, no, Steve Carell isn't coming back, at all. "Or surely the documentarians have some sort of DARK CONNECTION to Jim's/Pam's DARK PAST and also they're RELATED." Because, clearly, the way for the writers to preserve everyone's fond memories of the past eight seasons - okay, nobody has fond memories of season eight, but you know what I mean - is to recast everything in a creepy, possibly rapisty light. Long story short, fans are weird, and when they're given even the slightest reason to start with the theorizing, it's enough to make a sane man want to put a bullet through his head.

So, you really have to feel bad for "Customer Loyalty". Its biggest flaw isn't even its own fault. Here it is, being a perfectly lovely episode of television, efficiently plodding away at its day job in construction, helping to build the foundation of a solid final story arc, and gently minding its own business at the end of the day after the whistle blows....and then the producers run their mouths, and the insane fans pour out of the woodwork, yelling and screaming and projectile vomiting about how "Customer Loyalty" was not nearly as explosive or mind-bending as the twist ending they had thought of themselves, involving evil twins and secret passages and, hey, remember this one character who was in, like, one scene in season two, yeah, HIM, maybe he's involved too.

Jesus Christ, people. Sometimes I'm so, so glad that I just don't think big.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Office Review: Episode 9.11, "Suit Warehouse"

A couple years ago, I wrote a brief series of Family Guy reviews, where I mostly complained about the show being the show that it is in the first place. I reviewed them not out of any affection for the show - for I have very little - or any real desire to think about it - for I have very none. Rather, they're just the side effect of having to live with a gross urophile who would watch pretty much nothing else, and needing to talk through that. Since then, I've been thinking - why not give brief weekly episodic coverage to something I actually do like, or at least care about, even if it's maybe a little embarrassing?

And so, that is how we have arrived at this: a series of reviews chronicling the final efforts of The Office to convince people that it is, indeed, still a thing that exists even without Steve Carell. (A series of reviews I hope to be more timely from now on.) This ninth and final season thus far has, to be sure, not even come close to match anything from the heights of seasons 2-4, yet with Greg Daniels back at the helm there are just enough flashes of what the show had that, well, I find myself clinging to the hope that somehow it'll all come flooding back in time for the finale. There's actually character development again! Stories! Stuff like that! Simple things that fell by the wayside during Paul Lieberstein's years as showrunner, where a bunch of things happened in arbitrary sequence, and then unhappened as necessary, and so on. (Pretty much the only thing he could commit to was, well, the thing that Steve Carell leaving already forced him to!) So, of course, the question remains: Will anything that has happened so far this season actually matter, or will it all crap out in a most spectacular way?

(I suppose I should mention that Jesse reviews typically contain spoilers, so....spoiler alert, for anyone who cares.)

Monday, January 7, 2013

New (and Old) Year's Resolutions!

Oh, hey, it's 2013 already. Actually, it has been for several days now, but I'm slow. Also, I'm sick, which makes my slowness even slower. Curse you, common cold!!

Anyway, like several years before it, 2012 turned out to be more of an unmitigated disaster than I had hoped (and blogged) for. Granted, it wasn't as disastrous as, ahem, years far in the past I had to spend with a certain urophilic someone who shan't be named. I guess things are slowly getting better nonetheless, and I think that's an important realization. And I just know things are gonna keep getting even betterer, because it's a new year, with renewed potential for big change. We finally elected a black man president, after all!

So, what do I hope to achieve in 2013? I'm glad I asked! As usual, I've made a quick list of the four things I feel are the most important for me to focus on this year, on a personal level.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

D52 Week 52 (FROM THE NEAR FUTURE): Wreck-It Ralph!

(WARNING: Spoilers for a newish film you very much may not have seen ahead!)

I'm not actively participating in this anymore, y'know, but I figure, if I just happen to watch one of the remaining movies, I might as well still say something, right? It's always nice to still have the option of subjecting others to my opinions.

As a writer (in theory) myself, I'm all too aware that virtually any story that anyone anywhere could think of has, with almost 100% certainty, already been told countless times in the past. Because, well, humans have been telling stories for thousands of years. It's kind of our thing. Other animals got all sorts of practical, yet fascinating and awesome, physical abilities; humans, instead, got the ability to make shit up, and against all reason, we've done pretty well for ourselves with that. Anyway, objectively speaking, nothing is original, ever. And yet, things still feel original to us. Why is that, when they clearly aren't? It's a simple question of conviction. Do the people behind a story honestly believe in it, or are they simply running down a checklist, making sure it has all the essential components that make it recognizable as a story? Despite the frequently gorgeous animation, the often catchy songs, and their admirably patriotic support of the all-American "non-A-listers whose voices you might nonetheless hopefully recognize" industry, the Disney Renaissance all too often felt like the latter, as I've liked pointing out a lot. And then DreamWorks achieved box office prowess, and Disney shifted to marking off essential film components on a wackier checklist for much of the 2000s. By comparison, Wreck-It Ralph feels like a revelation. It's got just as many storytelling cliches as the far less impressive Disney films that came before it, but it engages them with a renewed sense of self-confidence. They're not just half-heartedly checking them off; they're all here for a reason, and that alone makes this probably the best thing Disney has done in at least a decade and a half.

(Perhaps it helps that video games themselves are positively overflowing with obvious cliches. One could argue, then, that if anything they enhance the atmosphere here.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Nothing Exciting Ever Happens.

Hi, blog! I'm sorry I've been neglectfully neglecting you. That's just awful of me, and I'm sorry. How can I ever make it up to you?

You can't. I'm really, really pissed off and I'm never, ever gonna forgive you. I think we should see other blogpeople.

I....I know, I was being selfish, but this isn't me, honest! I can do better, really I can! P-please....just give me one more chance....

*sigh* Okay, fine. Go ahead.

...what? Really? I just.....I didn't expect you to give in so easily.

Yeah, well, I don't have much self-esteem.

Cool. Okay, where to start?