Friday, September 18, 2009

The Return of Must See TV Thursday

This Thursday was the return of both The Office and Parks and Recreation from their summer hiatuses. I've spent the whole summer wondering what was next for The Office, especially Jim and Pam's wedding, and pretty much anything involving Oscar, Kevin, Stanley, or Creed. Parks and Recreation, on the other hand, left me cold last season, and I had the clear impression that Amy Poehler was riding the last wave of her 15 minutes, before fading into elastic-faced obscurity.

Well, I was wrong.

I should preface this by explaining that I can't stand The Office episodes where Michael is an irredeemable boor. Some viewers find this endearing and comical, but I liken it to watching Jackass, that other paragon of TV dignity. You can only watch a man getting his balls kicked so many times before it just isn't funny.

ANYWAY, this episode revolved around Michael stumbling upon a very juicy piece of gossip (hence the title: Gossip) and subsequently, ruining lives left and right. In fact, there were two mentions of Michael ruining a coworker's life with his ridiculous and unfunny antics. In a nutshell, Michael finds out that Stanley is having an affair. After Michael confronts him and Stanley admits to it, Michael creates a bevy of other outrageous lies about his coworkers to cover the only real one. In doing so, he also reveals that Pam is pregnant (a lucky guess on his part, of course). When everyone finds out about Michael's rumormongoring, Jim and Pam admit they're expecting, but Michael still blows Stanley's cover for...unclear reasons.

First off, I didn't buy for a second that Stanley would ever tell Michael about his affair. Of all the characters on The Office, Stanley is the only who seems to truly understand what an unreliable, childish, and weak person Michael is. (This is, of course, exemplified in the amazing episode, Did I Stutter?, also home to the best Kevin line of the series.) So why would he turn around and trust him with such a devastating secret?

To create a vehicle for Michael to create vaguely true rumors about everyone else, of course! Kelli's anorexic, Oscar is the voice of the Taco Bell spokesdog, Kevin has someone inside him controlling him like a robot, etc., etc. The only truly funny moment of this episode was when Oscar refused to reassure Andy that he wasn't gay. "What exactly is my responsibility here? To comfort insecure heterosexual men? That can't possibly fall to me." Oh, Oscar.

Turning from this episode to Parks and Recreation, I was happily surprised to find Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope as refreshing as a mojito on a hot day (God, I miss summer). She was charming, earnest, yet completely incompetent - everything that Michael Scott tries to be, but for me, has been falling far into the abyss of painful stupidity.

Leslie unwittingly marries two gay penguins at the Pawnee Zoo, then finds herself in the middle of a firestorm of scandal (a Pawnee-sized firestorm, of course, which means it is very small). I could really see Leslie fighting to keep her public facade while being cheered by the denizens of The Bulge, a local gay bar, and finally giving in to the adoration of the crowd, against her better instincts. She's stupid and sometimes hurts people, just like Michael Scott, but always does something to fix it, or, alternately, is appropriately and hilariously punished. I think my main problem with Michael's highjinks on The Office is that he never faces any real retribution for his actions, whereas Park and Recreation's Leslie Knope always has to own up, and fast.

Plus, Rashida Jones has an amazing scene where she makes fun of her deadbeat boyfriend for pronouncing mature "ma-tuuur". And maybe it's only because I secretly think everyone who pronounces it that way is stuck up, but she definitely scored one in my book. Maybe someday I'll forgive her for dating Jim.

But that's another story.

Overall, a disappointing start for The Office, but this week gave me more hope for upcoming Parks and Recreation episodes.

Until next time!

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