Don’t Like: How The Office Sucks This Season

February 27, 2009

The Office totally sucks this season.

A lot of people say this type of thing about a show at some point and often their reasons aren’t wholly sound. They are often unfounded, unexplained, and instead based on some weird vague feeling they have. This is understandable, but here, I will attempt to explain just why The Office has sucked this season.

The show started off in its early seasons with an excellent format (and proven in the UK). Michael was the ridiculous jerk with an air of being pathetic. Dwight was too just in a more survivalist bent. Jim/Pam had the emotional resonance. Then at the start of season 4, in an effort to keep from getting stale Jim/Pam got together and the emotional conflicts transferred over to Michael and (better yet) Dwight.  It was all done rather well too. Michael’s relationship deteriorated hilariously with Jan, followed by the arrival of Holly and their unspoken perfectly suited love. Dwight’s relationship with Angela came to a crashing halt and as a result, there we were wholly empathizing with a broken-hearted Dwight (even at his most bullish times, the sign of great writing). Meanwhile, Jim and Pam were the constants; together and happy and immediately ready to play off others at a moments notice. Jim and Dwight had this nice little building arc where they were acting like (fighting) brothers. Pam was becoming more confident. To top it off the entire season finale was one of the best episodes of the show(1) that set up so many great dynamics for the season to come. It was great.

Then came this season. It was full of constant false starts, pre-mature endings, misleading development, backtracking, erroneous details, and over the top behavior (even by office standards).

Michael – rather than have a nice slow burn and build-up Michael just decides he doesn’t want anything to do with Jan’s baby (she disappears) and then pretty much gets  Holly immediately (and they start doing it). There really isn’t much to the relationship. Worse, like three episodes later, Holly is transferred to Nashua because the relationship was undeclared and rather than have any kind of leniency in this, it’s just thrown at it so quickly. It’s like she had to go to do some other show.  It rendered everything completely meaningless. Since that moment Michael has been languishing without purpose or interest. In the last two-part episode we are finally promised a reunion, only to be hit with another false start. She’s not there and only a crappy device leaves things up in the air. It was a waste of time.

Toby – after leaving the show, Toby shows up like 4 episodes later. The moment of his return was pretty amusing, but again, the whole arc is rendered pointless.

Ryan – Ryan comes back for a few episodes. It is also pointless(2).

Dwight/Angela/Andy – so Dwight and Angela start doing it pretty much at the start of the season. we go from empathizing with Dwight to pretty much recognizing him and Angela as be straight up dicks. only Andy remains interesting. What’s more is the cheating just goes on for half a season with nothing brewing. It’s static and Andy just comes off as pathetic.

Jim/Pam – this is the real offender. In an effort to have some kind of plot for them(3), week after week they are thrown into some kind of episodic complication: Them being apart. Her being at school. Her parents divorce. Jim secretly spending all their money on a house. The list goes on and on. And while they could use this to build and texture their relationship, every single episode ends with a “Nope! They’re perfect together!” moment that almost serves to undermine the very drama they attempted to create(4). It’s wholly inane. People liked Jim and Pam because they identified with their longing. Now, who identifies with two people being perfect for each other. Forgive the personalizing, but I’ve found the love of my life and never do we have the “oh well, we’re perfect for each other!” resolution to our problems. That’s because it’s not a relate-able phenomenon. That’s not how human beings work. It’s a how a bunch of writers approach a situation where they don’t want to mess up their two main characters, they don’t want to overly dramatize it, and they don’t want to do anything brave  It’s a complete and total freaking cop out. Their drama is nothing but red herrings.

Jim – I’ve kind of been saying this for awhile, but this season confirms it: Jim is secretly a dick. Why does he behave the way he does and make the choices he does? He’s a paper salesmen in Scranton and he has a completely ‘holier than thou’ attitude towards everyone in the office. He’s thinking he’s just responding to people’s ridiculousness, but instead he’s just mean. Seriously, watch this season’s episodes again with that perspective. It’s amazing.  His asides are not so much “is this really happening?” and more “can you believe these assholes?” It’s really weird. The best way to legitimize this claim I’m making is to look at the UK Office and just how incredibly Tim used the same kind of character. Tim was a loser and recognized it. He hated his position in life and it just so happened that Dawn was there to brighten up his days (he basically articulates this exact phrase at some point). Sure Tim made fun of Gareth constantly and found David ridiculous. But in some ways he recognized he was one of them. He lived with his parents. He wasn’t particularly handsome or charming. He was just a funny guy. Meanwhile, Jim always had friends and seemed somewhat popular. He was kind of a cool kid. Or at least that’s how he reacts to. Why is Jim there if he dislikes it so? What is preventing him and Pam from going off somewhere else (5). Okay I’m running on too long and I realize a lot of this seems circumstantial. I just want more people to look at Jim with this perspective.

Angela – Yeah I get it. She likes the attention of men fighting over her. The problem is she’s just stone cold biyotch about it all, whereas when she was with Dwight before she was just a straight laced priss who had a secret adventurous side (re: human).

Kevin – even the Kevin being retarded plot line was far too short. they could have got more out of that. and then once it was over there was nothing. he harbored no ill will toward holly.

Michael’s Boss – has show up a lot more this season, but he’s mostly been a heavy and they haven’t gone anywhere with the conflict. Plus he made it seem like dwight should be fired and then nothing happened. Once again. Just weird.

The Writers – This is just complaining specifically about one episode. The characters in The Office always have a certain degree of selfish meanness (Michael/Dwight specifically), heck it’s part of the brand. I’ve tolerated it cause it was sometimes funny and because it never went over the line. There was an episode this year that went over the line. That was the episode where Michael and Dwight investigate another paper company to try and steal all their clients. Sure there was a kind commentary on the Darwinistic nature of businesses, but seriously? First they construct the nicest people you’ve ever met in your life just to have them gutted by Michael and Dwight? It’s wholly manipulative and worse it wasn’t that funny. It was conniving. It was actively mean. It drove me nuts… I realize all this makes it seem I dislike mean comedy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Seinfeld is one of my favorite shows and I like Sunny and Eastbound and Down and all the shows of that ilk. It’s just those were shows built on people doing unlikable things for comedic effect. The Office is built on empathy… so this basically means the show kicks itself in the nuts sometimes by having characters do really Seinfeldian stuff.  Look at how the Office UK handled a lot of David Brent’s behavior. It was less actively mean and more “I’m so awesome and trying to have a laugh” and he just fails.

This season has been nothing more than long list of bad decisions. Sure there’s been funny parts and little moments that have worked, but the entire season has been so disjointed…  lacking focus… somewhat annoying… crappy… not as good.

What’s worked and why they should focus on that:

Jim/Pam -only one episode worked this season and that’s when Jim and Pam had the little war over whether or not they should get a new copier or new chairs. It was perfect. Their conflict/interaction was playful, light, and more importantly real. It’s EXACTLY what they should be doing. We know they’re great together so you don’t need to keep reminding us. Just show how they deal with little relationship stuff by being funny. Not with miraculous Deus Ex Machina revelations at the end of heavy conflict building.

Michael – I feel like this one is already blown. They should have done the slow burn w/ holly, but instead it’s crapped. I say don’t bring her back till the endgame of the show and just let Michael be amusing within office contexts. (like the chair/copier episode).

Andy/Oscar – on the business trip Andy and Oscar had this great little bonding episode. And it was done in the perfect way where they stay true to their characters and we just find ways that they get along (6). Since then, nothing has come of it. Just another false start. They should revisit this kind of thing. Even if it’s just tonally.

Dwight/Angela/Andy – something has to happen here. I have no idea what. But they just have to re-empathize Dwight. Outright make Angela more apologetic (it’s necessary at this point) and then de-patheticize Andy. You don’t have to redifine these charcters, you just have to tone down their extremes and help get them to a kind of stasis.

To the writers of the office… in conclusion, do better.

Endnotes:

1- including the greatest line of the series, when Holly (thinking kevin is retarded) proceeds to help him count out change for the vending machine. As she helps Kevin sort out the coins in his hand she and points to one and clarifies for him “…that’s a button.” I nearly shit my pants.

2- I’m not saying that there has to even be a super-logical point to it. There should be a comidic point to it. And Ryan was used for very little laughs other than getting Kelly out of her relationship. Which, again, went nowhere.

3- Which we establish from the season before, is not wholly necessary. They’re good constants.

4- key word being attempted.

5- besides being on the show. Which writers should never work themselves into.

6- the perfect example is during Pam’s art show in season 3. No one likes her art. She’s seriously sad. Michael shows up and is his usual officing loving self and loves her drawing of the office. Pam is genuinely touched. it was a great moment that was totally in sync with their characters. The ensuing “chunky” line was a perfect example of how to alleviate the emotion too with some humor.

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Like: That I Had No Idea It Was Ash Wednesday

February 27, 2009

Growing up Boston Irish Catholic could be… difficult.

If you’ve seen any movie on the subject my statement above is self-explanatory.  I even have a couple horror stories. Also, I’m actually Scottish, but make no mistake I grew up Boston Irish Catholic.

So consider my delight when I turned on Around The Horn and saw Tony Reali and Bill Plashke with their Ash Wednesday… smears(?) on their forehead. I had completely lacked all awareness of its approaching date. This is a good thing.

I used to be able to give you a speech on Ash Wednesday and what it meant, but I have since forgot because of great effort not to revisit my childhood memories of Catholicism.

So let’s go to wiki!:

“In the Western Christian calendar, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and occurs forty-six days (forty days not counting Sundays) before Easter. It falls on a different date each year, because it is dependent on the date of Easter; it can occur as early as February 4 or as late as March 10.”

and:

“Ashes are imposed on the foreheads of the faithful (or on the tonsure spots, in the case of some clergy). The priest, minister, or in some cases officiating layperson, marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes in the shape of a cross, which the worshipper traditionally retains until washing it off after sundown. The act echoes the ancient Near Eastern tradition of throwing ashes over one’s head to signify repentance before God (as related in the Bible).”

So that was interesting.

I think instead of giving something up I’m going to add something. I’m going to start drinking alcholol.

Just kidding. I already drink.

So I’ll just drink more.

UPDATE: After reading the first couple of sentences of this post my bastard friend wrote the following:

“I’m now 100% sure you were raped by a priest”

That did not happen. I did, however, know people who were. The Catholic church’s response to which, was unforgivable.


Like: Movies AKA: A Defense of Forrest Gump

February 27, 2009

Just a year ago I was remarking about how Forrest Gump has been lost in the annals of recent film history. Many predicted at the time that films like Pulp Fiction and to a lesser extent Shawshank Redemption would go on to strike more of a chord and they were certainly right. Those films are considered classics while the award-devouring crowd pleaser dominated the year. This isn’t exactly rocket science. Crowd pleasers are just that and if they’re serious enough in some social or political contet they are awards fodder. Meanwhile edgy/transcendent films often take a little more time to be appreciated in their context. Pulp Fiction was the rare advanced film that struck a chord immediately and Shawshank is now ranked as the #1 film of all-time on imdb. (1)

But because of the gross and stark nature of the difference between Gump and Fiction, it was widely regarded in the next ten years as one of the great oscar injustices(2) of the last twenty years. Gump was dismissed as fluff and “what were we thinking???” kind of stuff, but no one was really talking about the movie.

A year later I feel like people are talking about it constantly. A few references here and there (tho thankfully we seem to be done with “run forrest run!!!”) and a few conversations here and there. We sometimes deal with things in cycles and I’m sure HBO’s recent programming of it their various stations has a lot to do with that sudden revival of discourse. But mostly I’ve noticed a lot of hating on Forrest Gump.
So, however briefly, I will provide something I never thought I would: A defense of Forrest Gump.

All these observations are based on my most recent viewing, where I had not seen the film in a 15 years. Which is to say there was a HUGE difference in my maturity. I wasn’t dealing with the memory of the movie anymore.

-The first thing people seem to lament is that it is a silly movie…  and it is a silly movie. What’s so wrong with that? Can a silly movie not be good? or for the sake of devil’s advocate, not be the best film of the year? Can a silly movie flirt with serious topics? Can a silly not give a limp overview of American history for the sake of laughs? Moreso, Gump seems hyper aware of its own silliness, which allows it to transcend the inherent limits of being, well, inane. Scenes are constructed merely to highlight irony, but never irreverence. It’s a nice little balancing act and if this seems like an obvious approach look at the tone failure of Benjamin Button, which is nothing but a silly screenplay trapped in a serious toned film. This may all sound convoluted, but it’s meant to reveal something simple: silliness can be its own virtue, and it’s not a lesser one.

-So if Forrest’s silliness isn’t a problem, many have problems with his passiveness. After all, he’s bascially just a vehicle for a bunch of stuff to happen.  He doesn’t really have a big arc or anything. I mean, he grows up and becomes a parent and all, but once again, we’re not talking big character arc. Which is actually a good thing because who cares about Forrest’s arc? He’s an enjoyable figure who let’s us have everything we will need from him by the time he’s an adult. Instead, he’s our observer and gateway to the world. He’s the rock, the constant, the given force of nature while the world swirls around him. No those interesting arcs are left to the interesting human characters,  the jennys and the lieutenant dans.

I’m trying to say that “Forrest being Forrest” is a good thing for end product of the film. I feel like people are more angry with that paradigm itself (non-realistic narrator journeying though endless non-realistic Americana), then the results. because the tangential nature of the film is incredibly charming and enjoyable. So what if forrest runs coast to coast for no discernable reason and gives people idea of bumper stickers?  I hate saying “it’s enjoyable” as a justification, but isn’t that a justification?(3)

-The other major thing I noticed is that it’s crafted surprisingly well. The jokes play real well, that so much is obvious, but the measure of this kind of movie is how they deal with them tricky emotional parts. Zemekis is no dummy. He’s made some biting satires in his early days(4) and here he exhibits a lot of surprising restraint. Since Forrest is the unaffected narrator, the camera is too. Big emotional things happen, but there’s some real slightness and grace used in his technique.  Seriously. Go back and look at the camera moves. It’s often real subtle movements in and out on big moments. Stark cuts to emotional resignation. Two scenes jump to mind. The slow turning zoom when jenny first gets sick and Forrest sits next to her. And the second is the final cut to the grave. It was so different from my memory and it’s not the stuff of which chump movies are made.

Of course there’s a lot of inane things about Forrest Gump. But complaining about their inanity is counterproductive. This is a movie that systematically eliminates its own ironies due its bid to exist as functional retard’s journey through  meta-american-history (5).

Basically I’m trying to make a point that Forrest Gump is a surprisingly unique and good film. There’s nothing truly like it. Screenwriter Eric Roth tried again to copy the formula with Benjamin Button and it failed miserably. In a “serious” tone the entire series of conventions collapse under its own weight. The passive narrator is pointless (especially with such an interesting condition which would be a ripe for philosophy), the tangental episodes are pointless, the entire movie is rendered pointless. Meanwhile, Forrest Gump thrives with the same exact conventions to which people often object. It is not a comedy, nor drama, but simply a silly, emotional film. The only things that come close are work of James L. Brooks, and his movies get oscars too (not even mentioning the incredible quality of The Simpsons, but that’s straight comedy). Forrest Gump is even sillier than those movies and still packs a similar emotional resonance. Heck I’ll say it, Forrest Gump is the best silly film I’ve ever seen. (6)

And is that so bad? After all, I do like movies.

Endnotes:

1- which is not to say anyting about my personal view of those films, but more their current context.

2- which is not to say I care about who wins oscars and who doesn’t. Once again, context.

3- which is not to say a movie that some random person found enjoyable makes it good, we’re talking here about a film that was as close to universally adored at the time as you can get*

4-check out “Used Cars”

5- ignore my crass use of retard, and also I swear this sentence makes sense.

6- remember, the python stuff, etc is straight comedy. This is not.

*and universal adoration often gets you abunch of reactionary contrarians who just like to go against the grain.


Like: Tina Fey

February 27, 2009

It’s not uncommon to like Tina Fey.

It is to the point where me saying something like “I think Tina Fey is the funniest woman in America” is so utterly redundant as to only reflect my lack innovation or insight. But at the same time, does that mean she does not deserve the praise? Looking at her work, you can start seeing the kind of insight and inflection that makes up the greats.

Her SNL stint, Witness:

“Prostitutes in Lyons, France, sent a fax to the government to complain that they are losing business to Eastern European women who are protected by the Albanian mafia. Okay, first of all, how rough-looking are these French prostitutes that all their customers are running to the Albanians? Secondly, why did they send a fax, and from whence? Do they have a fax machine in the whorehouse, or did they all trundle down to Kinko’s – “You fax these, I’ll let you shave me.” Thirdly, how come French whores know how to work a fax machine, but every time I try to use it, I hit Powersave, or I forget to dial 9? This just proves what my boyfriend always says – that I am dumber than a French whore.”

But Tina Fey has now become synonymous with 30 Rock. And that show is simply hilarious. We’re talking ‘Arrested Development’ hilarious. Heck, a good number of episodes have been been golden age Simpsons or Seinfeld funny.  That’s the highest praise you can give to a comedy. I mean damn, this show didn’t just make Tracy Morgan funny, it made him hilarious. Then it made Alec Baldwin into the funniest guy on TV. Check out some great stuff via Quote.

Jack: Steven’s good, man, he’s on partner track at Dewey and he’s a Black.
Liz: A black!? That’s offensive.
Jack: No, no. That’s his name. Steven Black… good family. Remarkable people, the Blacks, musical, very athletic, not very good swimmers. Again I’m talking about the family. Black is African-American, though.
Liz: Well I don’t care about that.

Liz: Why are you wearing a tux?
Jack: It’s after six Lemon, what am I a farmer?

Or, how wonderfully it uses my favorite comedy device, repetition for enhanced benefit:

[Liz telling Jack about her upcoming date] “I was going to make stew” Jack: “oh for god’s sake Lemon, don’t make stew.” [And later on, opening of said date] Liz’s Date: “this is delicious stew.”

[Liz wearing NOT her wedding dress] Liz: “I don’t need society’s permission to buy a white dress. Who says this is a wedding dress anyway? In Korea they wear white to funerals.” [Later on, Tracy sees her in the dress] Tracy: “Oh, no! Did A Korean Person Die?”

[Liz finds a random pop tart on the ground of her apartment, thinks for a moment, then eats it anyway] [Later Liz stumbles in to find her friend having sex in her bed with his ex-wife. She yells at them, then looks down horrified to see pop tarts in the coital bed and spilled to the floor.] Liz: “why are there Pop Tarts!?!! WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE POP TARTS!?!?!!?!”

GENIUS.


CHECK IT OUT, DOMAIN OBTAINED! http://stuffilikeandstuffidontlike.com/

February 24, 2009

We be official!!!!! New posts!!!!

http://stuffilikeandstuffidontlike.com/


Like: New RNC Chairman Michael Steele (From A Comedy Standpoint)

February 19, 2009

This is a real CNN article and somehow not an Onion article… It’s mind-boggling… ENJOY!!!

Posted: 02:16 PM ET

From

Steele plans an agressive PR push for his party.

Steele plans an agressive PR push for his party.

(CNN) — Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says his party is going to launch an “off the hook” public relations campaign that will update the GOP’s image by translating it to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.”

The new GOP leader told the Washington Times that the party’s defeat in states such as North Carolina and Virginia made it clear they needed a new approach.

“We need messengers to really capture that region — young, Hispanic, black, a cross section…” he said in an interview published Thursday. “We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings.”

He added, jokingly, that “we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.”

Steele described the new multi-platform PR offensive as “avant-garde, technically. It will come to [the] table with things that will surprise everyone — off the hook.” Asked whether that meant cutting-edge tactics, Steele demurred. “I don’t do ‘cutting-edge,’” he said. “That’s what Democrats are doing. We’re going beyond cutting-edge.”

Steele, who began a massive personnel overhaul at the RNC shortly after his election, said he has started meeting weekly with congressional Republicans. He said he’ll be gathering input from House and Senate leaders, not giving instructions — but he criticized national Republican leadership’s focus on party unity as a top priority, saying the failure to devote itself instead to developing fresh faces had cost the GOP.

“We missed the mark in the past, which is why we are in the crapper now,” he said. “We had the White House, the Senate and the House and were not building a farm team over the last years. We could have been ahead of Democrats and their 50-state strategy.”

Steele dismissed the assessments of some Republicans that he needs a deputy to handle areas like logistics, fundraising and candidate recruitment. “I can run this organization just fine,” he said. “There will be no deputy chairman, period. …People who said I can’t make the trains run on time never gave a reason. I say to them, ‘Stuff it.’

“I am not afraid of being held accountable for my leadership,” he said. “The idea I am somehow going to handicap myself before I begin is nuts. I am not going to buy into this mind-set among a few people who probably have never run anything but their mouths.”

Steele defeated a crowded field last month, including sitting RNC chairman Mike Duncan, to claim the party’s top spot.

here’s the link again (props to puddy):

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/02/19/rnc-chair-plans-off-the-hook-campaign-tells-critics-to-%E2%80%98stuff-it%E2%80%99/


Don’t Like: Watching a Boxing Match Between Two Guys With AWFUL Jabs

February 19, 2009

I’m an armchair boxing fan; in the sense that my dad is a big fan and has given me a knowledge base with which to appreciate the sport. So I casually watch at work or catch fights I’m interested in. I was watching a fight on “Nothing but Knockouts” (great show) and caught one of the worst things that happens in boxing:

Two fighters with awful jabs.

It’s just most painful thing ever to see two guys circle each other and get the most awkward, slow punches as they pretend to have some boxing skill. They can’t even use it to distance themselves and create space. It’s like watching two kids make an action movie in their back yard, it’s almost cute that they’re even trying.

The good news is once they expend some effort trying to box, they get tired and just start brawling.

This is much more fun.

The fight descends into a basic barfight where two guys slug each other til the other one goes down. While it’s not exactly a wonder to behold, it satisfies part of the pugilistic reasons we watch boxing in the first place: to watch someone who is not us get hit really hard.

Oddly enough, the fight had a spectacular finish where one dude was finally starting to lose after 4 rounds of draw boxing. He’s getting absolutely pummeled, then the other dude drops his hands almost to brag. BOOM. Connects with a stealth right and he’s down for 10. The guy barely even knew he had been knocked out and thought they had called the fight for some reason.