At this point I have to really psych myself up each week for The Office. At first I thought it was because the show had changed: I reasoned that the natural growth that comes with six seasons of episodes had moved the show far enough away from its original center that I no longer connected with it the way I once did. And it's true that I enjoy stumbling across syndicated reruns more than seeing new episodes (the other day I happened on "Dwight's Speech," from the second season, and it's still hilarious). But I'm still able to laugh at moments in the show now, and I'm still able to enjoy other comedies.
I've realized that the problem isn't that the show has changed; it's that I have, while the show hasn't. It was always an endurance test to spend time in the presence of Michael Scott, but I'm losing endurance. It's the same level of discomfort for a diminishing amount of entertainment. The original show called it quits after 12 episodes and a Christmas special. I can't shake the feeling that it's time for the NBC version to demonstrate the same restraint.
"Happy Hour" was another one of the series' romantic mash-ups, with Oscar orchestrating a happy hour at a local bar as an excuse to spend time with Matt, his crush in the warehouse. Jim didn't want to go and was counting on his new daughter to get him out of the obligation, but Pam was dying to get out of the house and made them go. It was also a chance for Andy and Erin to spend more time together, and though they'd already started dating, they stressed to the documentary crew that they want to keep their relationship quiet to avoid "drama" at the office. The drama was, of course, a paranoid invention on Andy's part, but at least it only lasted for one episode. They ended up happily public about their puppy love, so hopefully we can have some stories about them as a couple and not just preparing to be one.
At the bar, Jim and Pam introduced Michael to their friend Julie, and they hit it off really well until Michael realized it was a set-up, at which point he went to his car to lose his tie, grab a Kangol hat, and return as Date Mike, a jazzed-up horndog born of reality dating shows. This is when I used the mute button for certain parts of the show. Michael's a loser and occasional jerk with zero game and bad romantic luck, but at this point it just feels tired to have him drive away a woman by overacting. He dumped Pam's mom by saying she was too old; would it have been too much trouble for his pleasure or pain with Julie to have evolved organically instead of arising from some kind of forced wackiness? The whole thing felt ugly, lazy, and uninvolving. He wound up having some luck with the manager who'd tried to throw him out for making a scene, though. I can't decide what the point is: No matter how awful Michael is, someone will love him?
Dwight also juggled the affections of two women, with Isabelle showing up again because why not and Angela doggedly pursuing him now that she's got their procreation contract to mask her growing feelings for him. Dwight chose Isabelle for now, thanks to her surprising depth of weirdness and the fact that she shares more traits with him than an attractive woman probably should.
The episode eventually came back to Oscar, though, who'd spent the evening watching the door in agony waiting for Matt to show. Darryl gave him a nice pep talk about being too good for Matt, but when Matt showed up anyway, Oscar forgot his worries and darted off to shoot some awkward hoops.
The best moment? The creepy Japanese warehouse guy's story about murdering a Yakuza boss and finding asylum by fleeing to America and working for Darryl. Silly and weird and completely unexpected. Plus it didn't make me hate myself for watching, which is more than I can say for the rest of the episode.