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Written by on October 1, 2011

The Office has changed. There is no denying that fact. The biggest draw, Michael Scott, is gone. His character helped breathe awkwardness into the very fabric of our favorite TV shows nowadays. But, it’s gonna be OK, I promise. Don’t come kicking and screaming; we are gonna survive this setback. Well…maybe. Right?

Like you, I’m so confused at this point. We have seen 7 great seasons of a TV show, and I believed that would have been all. What better way to go out than Michael proposing to Holly? After all, that’s a second romantic tension that has now fled the show. We are exhausted trying to care about everybody and see them through being OK with everything. We have entered the desert, and it’s drying up pretty fast.

First of all, I have nothing against these writers. They do a fantastic job writing a TV show. But, as an audience we have come to expect better. They are not just telling a story. They are telling a tale. In the most mundane setting, an office, they are trying to bring us empathy, show us emotion, let us hope, and make us laugh. It’s a tall order, but has been delivered on before.

What I’ve come to realize in these two episodes is that the strength we saw in its second and third seasons was not solely based on Pam and Jim or any certain characters, but the corresponding settings and situations which made us laugh. It was the spontaneity. The longing for the unthinkable to happen. If we do not know what is coming, the comic situations alone can make us laugh.

I fear to call this a reboot, but it might be just that. Who knows, it may not last more than another season, but I think there is an understanding in this writers’ room that they will need to go back to creating the unthinkable situation and rely on the reactions that follow to fuel our laughs. The first two episodes are fairly weak, there is no denying that. But, bright spots scatter our landscape. Specifically, Andy’s character development as a reluctant Manager and his subsequent incentive to tattoo his butt, as well as Jim’s ability to understand that Andy is afraid of the responsibility give us great hope for a good season.

On the flip side, there is a lot of cleanup here. James Spader really brings us nothing new including anything funny. His seriousness and other people’s reactions are supposed to inspire some laughter, but rarely do. Angela is most likely having Dwight’s baby (unconfirmed), and we already know that her and Pam won’t be buddies during the pregnancies, so why try? The biggest misstep so far is the episode 2 cold open. We have seen jokes about Kevin’s stupidity more times than I can count. We could not beat a deader horse, people. It is a prime example of what I mean by letting the situations drive the comedy, and not the jokes themselves.

I really hope there is more left for us at The Office, but we will need to see some improvements before we can truly say a new chapter in this book is being written. After all, we are well past the book’s peak and are heavily into its conclusion already.

The Office airs on NBC at 9pm (ET/PT) on Thursday nights.

Writing:74Directing:82Acting:77Production Value:86Humor:71
Overall Rating: 78