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« Roush Dispatch

A Gay Old Office Time

OK, how overwhelming is Thursday-night TV? (It's only going to get worse next week when ABC's delightful Ugly Betty enters the mix.)

Thanks to some preview screeners, I managed to see nearly everything that aired last night (except on Fox, which is oh-so-easy to ignore right now). And while Survivor was a snooze and ER so glum and ludicrously melodramatic that I'm once again considering throwing in the surgical towel for good (though I will check out John Stamos' arrival to see if the show will neuter his charisma as well), the rest of the night was quite interesting.

Commenting on the early news from last night's ratings: Woo-hoo to ABC and Grey's Anatomy for exploding out of the gate, clobbering (though hardly burying) CBS' still-sturdy but slipping CSI, which had a solid opener (and dazzling glimpses of Cirque du Soleil) and a disturbing finish that revealed Catherine had been drugged and taken to a strange hotel/motel room overnight. In an extended scene of wordless anxiety, Catherine performs a rape kit on herself and subsequently takes a shower, which isn't likely to wash away the "ick" and the "what happened" anytime soon. The original is still far and away the best of the CSI shows (Miami's Brazil-set opener this week was almost unwatchably ridiculous), but now it has some serious competition.

Grey's I've already reviewed, and if you thought Thursday's episode a tad too serious, I imagine fans would have bashed the show if it hadn't taken some time to grieve for Denny. I thought the contemplations on time were marvelous, and the flashbacks pretty fabulous. And next week's episode, I'm happy to say, is back to the show's frothy best, resolving some of the issues dangling from this week. You really don't want to miss it.

By the way, I'm not surprised in the falloff for both the generic Shark and especially the pretentious Six Degrees (whose numbers fell through the hour). As much as ER irked me, it was still the most viable viewing option in that hour.

But the actual best show of Thursday night? This week, that honor falls to the Emmy-winning The Office, which produced a pitch-perfect, exquisitely squirm-inducing season-opener that already makes the show a front-runner for next year's best comedy Emmy. In fact, with the exception of the overdone Dwight scenes (sorry, he's still a deal-breaker for me), I'd say this episode was on par with the brilliant British original. And I never thought I'd type those words.

Put aside the poignant agony of Jim and Pam no longer having each other to lean on and giggle with (my heart broke when Pam turned to Ryan to smirk over Michael's classic line, "We're all homos. Homo sapiens," and Ryan didn't respond). Jim's in Stamford now, where his Jello gag didn't play as well as it did with Dwight. Pam's still in Scranton, newly liberated from a lovelorn Roy (great twist). Jim-and-Pam is still one of TV's best unrequited love stories of the year.

Too bad Jim missed this day in the office. It was a classic. When Michael calls the closeted Oscar "faggy," and it's up to HR's Toby to inform Michael that Oscar is in fact gay, the stage is set for an uproarious display of politically incorrect overreaction, from Dwight's witch hunt (and belief that Sharper Image really sells a "gaydar" detector) to Angela's authentic bigotry to Kevin's sophomoric smirking. But Michael takes the prize with his clueless embarrassment about the line he has crossed: "You don't call retarded people retards. It's bad taste. You call your friends retards when they're acting retarded. And I consider Oscar a friend." There's great writing in that retarded logic.

I loved Oscar's self-deprecating reaction to his newfound notoriety. How "super-cool" is he, this "accountant at a failing paper-supply company in Scranton." (Echoed by former temp Ryan's joyless response to taking over Jim's job as a "junior sales associate at a mid-range supply firm... that'll show 'em.")

The episode builds to one of those trademark scenes that are so awkward and appalling yet so painfully hilarious that you want to hide your eyes even as you're laughing aloud. Michael convenes the staff in the conference room, which is always a bad sign. Oscar has already had "the worst, most backwards day of my life," and it only gets worse as Michael tries to hug it out, only to be pushed away as Oscar calls him "ignorant and insulting and small." All true, but such truth only makes Michael retreat into his whipped-dog, little-boy, whimpering shell. At which point you can't help but forgive the idiot, while wondering how in the world he manages to keep his job. Oscar's forgiveness comes with a price: a kiss from Michael that is so excruciatingly inappropriate that everyone wants to run out of the room screaming. Horrifically funny.

It was the first time in a very long week of watching that I actually made noise in front of the TV.

Even the final gag scores, as Michael looks out at Oscar getting into the car with his "roommate" Gil and mutters, "I wonder if he knows."

Brilliant. Amazing stuff. I can't wait to watch it again. This week, the only show I've said that about is Grey's Anatomy.

Are Thursday nights overwhelming, or what?

Posted by Matt Roush
Sep 22, 2006 1:37 PM

I know this commentary is about Thursday shows, but I just want to thank you for your honest opinion in "Ask Matt" regarding recommending the new GG over Friday Night Lights. Let me just reassure you, you are not anywhere near being alone in your assessment, and I will be utterly surprised if anyone does take you to task for your opinion. It's the same opinion many GG fans currently hold, and now that your colleague Ausiello has let the cat out of the bag about what to expect come November sweeps (thanks again Mike for the head's up), I'm even more sure of my decision NOT to reward this revisionist version of our Stars Hollow girls by watching S7.

Unfortunately, I can easily see this being the last season. For me, I choose to end my favorite show at S5, before the Pod people took over. Thank goodness for ABC Family.
Posted by badsamaritan
Sep 22, 2006 2:07 PM
Matt, I totally agree with you. I was so excited for Earl to begin, but I lauged so hard during The Office that I was crying. That hasn't happened with any comedy I've watched so far this season. I can't wait for next week!
Posted by tj72
Sep 22, 2006 2:08 PM
Between the Office and Grey's I almost exploded in excitement today. And yes everyone Earl was fantastic, but by the end of the night, it was almost forgotten. Those two were well worth the wait of the summer, and I am giddy in excitement to know I can do it all again next week. And how fantastic was that lost shot of Pam? Going from smile to sadness basically all in the eyes? Jenna Fischer does not get enought credit!
Posted by serrae
Sep 22, 2006 2:36 PM
Matt, don't forget Earl, which was hilarious with several priceless quoatble lines. Though, the highlight of the night was definitely 'the Office'. This episode is as good as the original. I was cringing half the time and laughing and crying (yes, Jim and Pam got to me) the rest of the time. This episode has set the comedy bar for the season.
Posted by snarktastic
Sep 22, 2006 2:48 PM
I'm not sure why you bash Survivor so much nowadays. I think the racially segregated tribes is interesting.

I agree that Shark and Six Degrees were both dissappointing.
Posted by Master Moron
Sep 22, 2006 4:58 PM
Matt, I'm so glad you came around on The Office. I still don't get your beef with Dwight. Rainn Wilson plays this stupid duddy with awesome fervor. My favorite Dwight moments of last night: his suggestion to Michael to treat everybody like they were gay (actually a good idea, though Michael didn't get it); trying to fight Oscar after he pushes Angela out of the way; his sheer delight in recieving Jim's "gaydar" detector (will he never learn, and so glad Jim gave Pam a smile after all!)
Posted by topoopon
Sep 22, 2006 5:10 PM

Are Thursday nights overwhelming, or what?

Not in the way you mean. After Earl and Office it's just one big bore for comedy fans. The lack of choice is crippling.

No surprise about the falloff for Six Degrees. Pretentious and dull . And why no word in your column about Earl?
Posted by DaMess
Sep 22, 2006 6:23 PM
I looked forward to The Office last night more than any other Thursday night show. I agree, it was brilliant. Poor "Big Tuna" is so out of his element without Pam, I actually felt sorry for Roy, and Michael was... well, brilliantly Michael as only Steve Carell can make him.

I disagree about Dwight, though. The small, affectionate little smile he got on his face when Michael speculated, "Can't you see Angela with another woman?" was heartwarming from a baffoon like him. His office romance adds a new layer to his character that keeps him interesting. I love when Jim goofs on him, but I also root for him and Angela together. What a great dichotomy, don't you think? :)
Posted by toni
Sep 22, 2006 8:01 PM
oh my God that Office ep was the BEST ever. It was so GREAT on every level. I couldn't wait all summer for the return of 'Jam' and 'GSR' and I was very happy with both The Office and CSI. When I realized Michael was going to kiss Oscar I just stopped breathing I was laughing so hard. It was The Office at it's best. And when Jim realized his Jello trick wasn't going over well with the psycho in his new Office I was like 'uh oh'.
Dying to see what happens with Catherine on CSI next week. That was really squirm inducing. My heart ached for her. I also am enjoying Survivor though if I don't see it all I'm ok with rewinding the tape later or just to the end to see who gets booted. I actually enjoyed SHARK more than I thought I would. The relationship he has with his daugther and the fast paced way Woods works drew me in. I think ER is still good but I just need more lightness sometimes. Overall, Thursday is the best night of TV with CSI and The Office leading the pack! My phone gets shut off and it's like do not THINK of calling me!
Posted by clayaikenlover
Sep 23, 2006 1:15 PM
Oh and I totally love DWIGHT! He is hysterical. One of the funniest things I've ever seen is in the episode where the staff is battling the warehouse guys in a basketball game and as they are heading down the stairs sizing up the wharehouse guys... Dwight turns to the camera with this look on his face and says... remember in "lost" when they meet the Others??? It was so funny I rewatched it about 10 times. He's CLASSIC. Dwight, Jim and Pam are my favorites but even Creed has me rolling around laughing sometimes. They are all GREAT
Posted by clayaikenlover
Sep 23, 2006 1:18 PM
I read an interesting article on the versions of the office in France and Germany, where neither the British or the American version play well - so they did there own. It seems offices are different all over the world. I kept thinking of the article as I watched this priceless jem on Thursday and realized how this episode wouldn't play in a country like France with liberated sexual ideas having been around there for generations.

It really was a great example of what this show can be. I've seen every episode of the UK version and they are different, hard to compare - but I will. I still think the American version is superior. I really love all the characters and the little nuances. Like Meredith eating the germ killing gel - probably because it contains alcohol. Or the gaydar gun going on when Dwight has in front of his own crotch. These subtle and not so subtle touches set it above the rest.

DaMess - I agree with you again. Earl was so funny I almost cried I laughed so hard. Joy is a joy - she deserved the emmy. Those two shows were it for the night. I watched Six Degrees and it just fell flat for me. As for the other shows - well, I'm staying out of that debate.
Posted by CinderAngelkc
Sep 24, 2006 12:30 AM
Will you guys get this error and then double posting fixed soon. Please?
Posted by CinderAngelkc
Sep 24, 2006 12:32 AM
Amen about Six Degrees Cindy. I think it betrays a lack of creativity when a show has to depend so heavily on narration for exposition.

I also think Rainn Wilson does a fantastic job as Dwight. The character is brilliantly written as well. I'm starting to suspect that those who are uncomfortable with Dwight may find his looks, characteristics and personality too close to their own-same reason I'm so uncomfortable watching Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, George Clooney etc. :)
Posted by DaMess
Sep 25, 2006 2:20 AM
I whole heartedly jumped on The Office bandwagon after watching the season premiere of Season 2 (The Dundees). My best friend and I had decided to watch the show on a whim. We had both checked it out the first season and were not overly impressed but we thought-hey, why not? I am sooo glad that we did. Gilmore Girls used to be my favorite of all time show, but that new title belongs to The Office (with Veronica Mars coming in 2nd). I still have a loyalty to GG, but I feel like it's an old friend that has betrayed me too many times to really ever trust again. I'm getting off topic though, The Office is just hilarious. When Michael went in to kiss Oscar, my best friend and I screamed at the TV (we now have a tradition to at least make the time to watch the season opener and closer together). What a wonderfully awkward/hilarious/gross/AWKWARD with a capitol AWK moment! Steve Carrell is a comedic genius--according to Jenna Fischer's latest blog on myspace-that kiss was totally unscripted and the looks of disbelief and shock on all of their faces was for real. They didn't know what was going to happen. Hilarious.
Posted by shawlaw2002
Sep 25, 2006 10:04 AM
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