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Morrow: Tonight, 'The Office' works splendidly


You've got "The Office" (9:30 tonight, WBIR, Channel 10) all wrong.

Yes, the very name sounds like labor-intensive primetime viewing. Isn't the office the place from which you escape when you watch television? Well, yes, and sometimes the close-to-the-bone skewing of workplace politics played out in "The Office" is all too familiar.

Michael (Steve Carell) could be the jerk you work for. Dwight (Rainn Wilson) could be the idiot you sit next to. The faceless employees wandering the background each week are those co-workers you never get around to knowing very well.

Get past it, because "The Office" is actually a far greater comedy than its label implies. "The Office" has the capacity of being a deeper, richer and more delightful viewing experience than you think.

Tonight's episode, in which Michael decides to mediate files filled with official office complaints, is one of this show's finest moments. It is an evenly written showcase for almost the entire cast.

But better yet, this episode defines what "The Office" does best. It turns mundane work events - like having new security-badge photos taken - into insightful and witty character studies.

In this half-hour, "The Office" delivers what every good sitcom should. The polished script creates plenty to laugh about, but, ultimately, will cause you to rethink your feelings toward many of the major players.

Sure, Dwight (the hilarious Rainn Wilson) is the office joke, but does Jim (John Krasinski) always have to pick on him? And what about Pam (Jenna Fischer)? What gives her the right to mock her silly and uptight co-workers daily?

By the end of the episode, the unspoken attraction between Jim and Pam has a major breaking point, too.

Admittedly, "The Office" is not always the easiest sitcom to watch. With its dry-to-the-bone sense of humor, it can sometimes be too much work to enjoy.

So it's understandable why audiences have been leery of this little-seen gem. But "The Office" has its charms - notably a deadpan cast of wild eccentrics and some of the best one-liners served up these days.

We find out why Dwight, for instance, does not smile in photos. He says smiling is a posturing move for cowering apes - and Dwight says he is neither apish nor cowering.

Also, Carrel has expanded Michael into more than a one-dimensional boob. He alternates from being a man with a lonely heart and a sad soul to being a pain in the neck.

We all know the types. "The Office" tonight does a superior job of fleshing them out.

SCORE: (out of five)

Terry Morrow's blog is http://blogs.knoxnews.com/knx/telebuddy/. He reviews for "Style," Fridays on WBIR, Channel 10, and "The Marc & Kim Show," weekday mornings, WWST-FM, Star 102.1. He may be reached at 865-342-6445 and Morrow2@knews.com.

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