Television Recaps: The Office and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
The Office: “Murder”
It’s been a spotty season for The Office—“Gossip” and “Niagra” have been the only standout episodes, while the rest were lackluster at best, too serious at worst. I get that they’re trying to explain why Michael does the things he does, but so far rationalizing his obnoxious and (especially this season’s) downright hurtful antics has made them less and less funny. The joke loses its humor when you feel the need to explain it.
Thank goodness for tonight’s installment, “Murder,” where Dunder-Mifflin’s rumored bankruptcy sets the office in a tizzy, and, once again, the Scranton branch’s employees are worried for their jobs. Jim, in an effort to demonstrate his newfound responsibility as co-manager, insists that everyone keep working, while Michael goes over his head and distracts them with the game “Belles, Bourbon, and Bullets,” a murder-mystery set in Savanna.
This is The Office at its best: With the notable exclusion of Toby, the episode delivers a constant stream of laughs from every character—Michael plying holdouts Stanley with sandwiches and Angela with carrots; Andy correcting Pam’s accent; Ryan’s wardrobe—and vindicates Michael without the heavy-handedness of previous installments. Too bad they had to go and reinforce that point near the end.
But that’s a minor flaw. In addition to the bevy of top-notch moments, “Murder” also manages to sneak in a subplot with the soon-to-be-budding romance between the gets-more-adorable-by-the-minute Erin and Andy, who finally works up the courage to ask her out, albeit in his “Belles, Bourbon, and Bullets” character. And who can resist any episode that brings out the fire in otherwise-quiet Pam?
Kudos, The Office, for proving that you haven’t lost your edge; you’ve just been a bit misguided.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: “Mac and Dennis Break Up”
It’s a testament to Sunny’s quality that a show dealing with such low-lives can set the bar so high. It’s even more impressive that, week after week, it not only lives up to its standard, but even surpasses it, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Naturally, that level of quality can work against itself when even a mediocre installment is still superior to everything else on television. Tonight’s Sunny was one of those: Better than its competitors, but weaker than you’d expect.
Mac and Dennis, spurred by a comment of Dee’s, reassess their co-dependency, and a tiff sparked by Dennis’ insistence that they watch Transporter 2 instead of Predator (for the 30-some-odd time) leads the two to go their separate ways, Dennis to live with his sister Dee, and Mac to Charlie and Frank’s. In the meantime, Dee’s newly adopted cat somehow gets stuck in her apartment wall, so she calls in resident cat expert (?) Charlie to fish it out. Unfortunately, Charlie’s bizarre solution involves sledgehammers and using one of the 10 cats that followed him to Dee’s apartment as bait to lure the other cat out. All goes not well, and Frank’s called in to consult and/or provide more sledgehammers and many more cats.
Though not without its moments (Frank cutting his toenails with a knife; Mac to Frank: “You consider ‘not eating catfood’ as ‘putting on airs?’”), ultimately the episode lacks that manic energy which makes Sunny such a delight. Maybe Mac and Dennis are made for each other, but I felt the episode could have played a lot more with that instead of shifting the major conflict to Dee’s cat. The image of Charlie and Frank trashing Dee’s wall is tame compared to “The Gang Wrestles for the Troops,” where Frank, in his guise as “The Trashman,” bludgeons Rickety Crickets with a trashcan and then proceeds to gobble up the spilled garbage. Likewise, seeing the group conspire against each other makes for some fantastic episodes (“Mac Bangs the Dennis’s Mom” being, possibly, the best Sunny to date), but it doesn’t quite work when their depraved antics harm only themselves; it’s much funnier when innocents suffer. Let’s hope that next week someone who doesn’t deserve it gets hurt.