The Office (S05E01): “Weight Loss”
I could be away from my own place of work for many more months than The Office has been on hiatus and not miss it half as much as I missed the fictional faces of Dunder Mifflin. Who knew I could miss Dwight and his antics so much, like replacing the junk food in a vending machine with fresh fruit and veggies, or Jim and Pam’s toothache sweet romance that America is just as invested in as the lovers themselves. And of course there’s Michael and his many moments of awkwardness, toned down just a notch by the presence of the new HR, Holly. “Weight Loss” succeeds in finding shining moments for not only these characters, but the rest of the office gang as well, and nearly everyone gets a moment to make you remember why you love them or give you a new reason to.
The season premiere, “Weight Loss”, spends a little time focusing on newly added elements, but devotes the majority to the dynamics proven successful already. Pam relinquishes her job as secretary in order to go to school in New York, but her presence is still felt enough that the change doesn’t seem drastic. Instead, it changes thing up enough to keep the happily ever after delayed, adding the factor of a long distance relationship between her and Jim, but still gives us every reason to believe they are destined to be together. Holly’s addition to the cast might have you asking “Toby who?” after this episode, as she brings a fun new energy and makes a wonderful compliment for Michael, whose dorkdom is rivaled by the cheery blonde’s own. Amy Ryan takes this episode, makes it hers and makes us love her along the way. I said every character has their moment, but Holly is lurking around the corner of every scene and popping in to make the good even better. These are roughly the extent of the shakeups around The Office, though, and everything else is like the familiar smell of clean laundry and a big sigh of contentment.
The hour long format hasn’t always worked so well for The Office, with many feeling that the many extended episodes of the fourth season were its weakest to date, but the fourth season proves that this show can take an hour and knock it out of the park. While most of the past hours felt like two distinctly separate episodes smushed together (for the purpose of syndication, I’m sure), this felt very much like one continuous story. Since the episode takes place over 8 weeks, as the entire staff is challenged to collectively lose as much weight as possible by corporate, for once the lengthened episode really works in every way. Unlike the majority of episodes from last season, this story really needed an hour to stretch out and breathe deeply.
The cliffhanger from “Goodbye, Toby” left many hopeless romantics in straight jackets, after Jim failed to propose to Pam, and their future together was probably the biggest question dangling in the minds of the fans. This episode gave answers for those losing sleep, but first it had to introduce new struggles for the couple in the form of a long distance relationship. Pam is trying to make new friends, but she’s dealing with kids her own age now rather than blue collar America, and girls are weeping over soy milk and forcing Jim out of her dorm room. It’s a different world for her, but Jim tries to keep their lives connected in every way he can, including setting up a webcam chat, which in turn sets up a hilarious scene where Michael once again unintentionally interrupts the couple’s attempt at having a “moment”. Yet all this scary, new change aside, the hour ends with what many thought should have happened last year–with a proposal, somewhere halfway between Scranton and New York, in the rain at a gas station. And as unromantic as it sounds, it might have you near to tears when you see it. It took nearly four seasons and dozens of episodes to get the two together and now in the span of one episode Jim’s down on one knees proposing, and I can’t say how glad I am that the writers didn’t drag this out over this whole season. They’re engaged, separated by distance, and there are a whole lot of exciting stories that can come from these changes in their lives.
There are also a lot of exciting possibilities for newcomer Amy Ryan and her character Holly. She takes some of the awkward moment burden off Michael, sounding homophobic around Oscar and calling Kevin mentally challenged, the result of a prank pulled last season. The funny thing is, I might be easily convinced that Kevin is a special needs case, but this moment is hilarious at both the character’s expenses. The best thing about Holly is how she seems secretly twitterpated over Michael, who is far more obviously into her. But thanks to Jim’s “start as friends” advice, he’s holding back. A chain of events starts that forces them out of lingering in this state, though, as Jan shows up with Michael’s maybe-baby to get her feet rubbed and simultaneously drop a fair dose of jealousy into Holly’s morning coffee. Her jealousy leads her to go on a date with Oscar’s supposedly hot yoga teacher, and suddenly Michael is ruing the day he took Jim’s advice of friends first, bang her later. Even as it looks like the episode will steer them back together, with a Counting Crows concert and a date that never returned Holly’s call, it doesn’t. Michael buys the unused tickets off her and we think, oh, he’s going to ask her to go with him now, but he rips them up instead and says the guys a jerk for not calling her back. There’s chemistry there and I have no doubt it will not go to waste, but they’re going to take their time for now.
Andy has been successfully worked back into the show now, and I love the dysfunctional relationship he’s built with Angela. She has him wrapped around her cat loving finger, and his love has rendered him oblivious to the fact that she’s meeting Dwight in the warehouse daily for afternoon delight. Ahh, ahh, afternoon de-lie-a-ight. Her relationship with both men is bizarre any way you cook it, but I like the weird flavor of her and Dwight much more and can’t help but rooting for them as they go behind Andy’s back.
I did neglect to mention one other new element, but it feels more like a return to the past. Ryan is back, plummeting from the heights of his VP position into the chair Pam once occupied, as secretary of Dunder Mifflin. He’s making a list (and checking it twice) of everyone who makes him angry, so that when (not if) he becomes all powerful again, he can make them eat shit and die. Kelly is one office employee though that won’t be on that list. Far different from the days where she was always clinging to his disinterested shoulders, Ryan is now piling on the compliments in an attempt, whose genuineness is suspect, to win her back from her current flame, Darrel. She in turn does everything she can to play some twisted game of making Ryan jealous, for reasons only a woman could tell you. I like how these two characters play together, but Kelly also had a good amount of stuff to like on her own, from her crash diet of maple syrup, lemon juice, pepper and water to the ringworm that’s not really a ringworm she ingests at Creed’s suggestion. All to fit into that two piece bathing suit, so she can look Ahhhmazing!
NBC may have touted it a lot in the past, but this truly is must see TV, and I dare anyone to bring on a funnier sitcom this year. If you haven’t seen it yet or are one of those people who just won’t accept this is as good or better than its British counterpart, you owe it to yourself to grab the dvds and catch up. I did it a year ago, tearing through three seasons in two weeks, and am thoroughly glad I caved to the hype. ‘Cause sometimes where there’s hype, there’s disappointment, but then sometimes there’s a clear reason why it caught fire in the first place. The Office is a shining example.
The fact that I’ve given most of the new season’s premieres thus far a grade of A, this is shaping up to be a good year in television. Who needs a hoard of new shows when you’ve got so many great ones returning, right?