There was so much uncertainty leading up to the first full season of The Office, sans Michael Scott, and the writers did a great job of answering those burning questions in the first five minutes of the show. We learned that while we were on hiatus, the planking craze swept through Scranton, PA, Andrew Bernard was named Regional Manager, and that new addition Robert California (James Spader) talked his way into being the new CEO of the company. With only one episode of the new regime under our belt, it is a bit premature to make any solidified stance, but Andy Bernard appears to be a poor man’s Michael Scott, and Robert California’s mesmerizing tactics seem a bit silly and hard to digest.
The show did get off to a bustling start, as the intro was full of laugh out loud moments, highlighted by Dwight spraying Meredith down from atop a bathroom stall with a fire extinguisher, Stanley trying out a new “shove it up your butt” tagline (reminiscent of Michael’s “that’s what she said”,) and Pam and Angela both revealing their baby bumps, with the latter pointing out that hers was much smaller.
It doesn’t take long for Robert California to drum up some water cooler controversy, as Erin discovers his notepad on her desk, opened up to a page with a list of employee’s names separated into two columns. After several unsuccessful stabs by the office staff as to what the list might mean (Meredith thinks the list is who to have sex with, Kevin confidently declares that the names are in alphabetical order, which they clearly aren’t,) Andy confronts Robert, and Robert reveals that he often doodles names, since he cannot draw common sketches such as colonial houses and circumcised penises. Quickly, we learn that there is more to the list then he lets on, as he exclusively invites the people on the left side of the list to lunch. The “right siders” throw their own pizza party to combat Robert’s luncheon, as everyone, notably Pam, continues to wonder what the list represents.
After Robert divulges that the two categories are broken down by winners and losers, Andy is encountered with his first real test as Manager (aside from his mission to get the office an extra half day off for Columbus Day.) Andy has his first backbone moment required of a true boss, and tells Robert why he is mistaken about all of the “loser employees”, with the exception of Gabe, who he completely concurs with on his assessment. The whole office is fond of Andy’s actions, and their reactions hint that they respect him as the new man in charge.
Although a solid opener, I am not so sure that the writers put the right people in upper management. Andy came off as goofy and often clueless, echoing the Michael days. Had they opted to go with someone such as Dwight or Daryl (who received a soda instead of a promotion), the show could have rid itself of the cliché Michael comparisons, instead of trying to recreate him. Luckily, I don’t think viewers will notice too much, because they will be too occupied trying to figure out how such a misplaced character like Robert could land such a role. The Office has always prided itself on oddballs and stupidity, but somehow made it believable that these people could exist. Robert defies all logic, has a creepy feel to him, and really offers nothing more than useless blabber that is intended to sound philosophical. Despite the promotions given to these characters, the slapstick humor we’ve grown to love stayed consistent throughout, and after all, isn’t that why we watch sitcoms? I won’t be taking a sick day from watching The Office – yet.
Darryl – “Yeah, I wanted the manager job but I got something, much better. This soda. This is mine.”
Stanley – “It might make it easier if you take a deep breath, lift from your knees – and shove it up your butt.”
Robert – “Erin, when you recount your day never say you woke up. That’s a waste of your time. That’s how every day has begun for everyone since the dawn of man.”
Jim – “Ok, I will copy it. Erin, do you have a pen?”
Erin – “No.”
Kevin – “We need a warning signal.
Jim – “I promise you we don’t need a warning-
Kevin – “WARNING. WARNING. WARNING. WARNING.”
Dwight– “What side of the list am I on?”
Jim – “The left.”
Dwight – “YES.”
Robert – “Some people doodle at work when they let their mind run. They draw houses, penises. Funny how the houses are colonials and the penises are always circumcised. Don’t you think? Well, I doodle too, but I’m not an artist so I draw words and lists.”
Darryl – Apt. Apt analysis, Robert.”
Kevin – “The thing I like about Elmo, is the tickling.”
Kevin – “I just knew my whole life, that everyone was wrong about me. My parents, my teachers, my friends, the doctors! Everyone.”
Robert – “I just met you all. Life is long, opinions change. Winners, prove me right. Losers, prove me wrong.”
Andy – “And just to show you I’m being fair, you had Gabe in the loser column. That is astute. Good call.
Joe Finch is an aspiring writer, currently working on a sitcom, enjoys sports, sarcasm and anything on HBO. Follow him on Twitter: @JoeFinch118.