If NBC was hoping to lure a larger audience last night after the Super Bowl, did the struggling network really think any one but the die-hards was going to stick around for an hour-long episode that didn’t wrap up until almost 11:45?
The goofy “movie within a TV show” cameos worked for me, but I’m not sure the promise of seeing Jack Black hoist Cloris Leachman out of a bubble bath for a sudsy makeout session was the direction to turn for a ratings bump.
The episode also confirmed that “The Office” writers clearly have no idea how to rein in Dwight Schrute. Goofy and socially awkward is a sitcom staple. But now he’s a knife-wielding paper salesman who’s willing to set the office on fire after barricading all the exits to teach his colleagues a lesson about fire safety. And we’re supposed to laugh when he guts the Red Cross instructor’s $3,500 CPR dummy and slices its latex face off a la Hannibal Lecter?
(OK, I laughed at that one, but I'm easy.)
Say what you will about the dying paper industry. Dunder Mifflin must be a great place to work if you can get away with those two pranks without getting fired. I mean, they sent Andy to anger-management classes a few seasons ago, and all he did was punch a hole in the wall.
But enough about Dwight. Sunday’s Super-sized episode was all about Michael coming to terms with his lack of social graces and the absolute lack of respect he gets from the Scranton branch. It slowly dawns on him that maybe Dwight was not the only one responsible for the heart attack that almost killed Stanley during the most ill-conceived fire drill ever.
The rapid beating of Stanley’s post-heart attack biofeedback monitor every time Michael steps close leads him to realize that somewhere along the way, the word “boss” has morphed from meaning cool perms and rad shoulder pads to “jerk in charge.”
Michael’s obvious solution is to invite his employees to roast him “Comedy Central” style. It turns out to be a good thing that he never finds someone from YouTube to film the impromptu roast, because the Scranton branch doesn’t hold back.
The 82-pound Angela unleashes a string of “You might be Michael Scott, if ...” jokes about his tendency to coat office windows with sunblock and ability to get his head stuck in a chair.
Kelly announces that he’s at the bottom of the list of people with whom she would hook up, below every warehouse guy, Kevin and Lord Voldemort.
Meredith reminds him of the time he broke her hip running her over in the parking lot, as well as the time he posted a topless photo of her in the breakroom with the handwritten caption, “Gross!”
(“You’re the reason I drink,” she announces. So that clears that up.)
A capella Andy takes the Romantics’ pop classic and twists it into a rowdy sing-along of “What I Hate About You,” which includes the immortal line, “Stanley had to die just to get away from you.”
Even loyal minion Dwight turns on him and snaps, calling him a pathetic little man with no friends, no family and no land.
But the pain doesn’t set in until Pam reminds everyone of the time she walked into his office to catch Michael with no pants on, setting up the inevitable “his thing is so small” joke from the sexiest office assistant to rock a cardigan.
“If it were an iPod, it would be a Shuffle,” she cracks, prompting a reminder from a shaken Michael that celebrity roasters always wrap up their cracks with something nice to say about the roastee.
Poor Michael staggers off the podium, takes a personal day to fling slices of white bread to a flock of seagulls that never materializes at a nearby playground. Michael finally mans up, though, and returns to the office. Cue cards in hand, he offers his own response for those who singed him at the roast.
We know he means business because he’s wearing a turtleneck.
He gets a puzzled look from Meredith when he announces that she’s slept with so many guys, she’s starting to look like one.
His crack that Andy is “gayer than Oscar” (duh) prompts some scattered chuckles. But he brings the house down with his crack on Stanley that his surly salesman is so fat that he crushes his wife during sex. Oh yeah, and his heart’s no good either, Michael zings him.
The jokes get Stanley’s approval, and soon everyone is laughing again in the workers’ paradise that is Dunder Mifflin.
The less said about a subplot about Pam’s dismay over her parents’ splitting up and its impact on her relationship with Jim the better. Just an another overworked way for the show’s writers to show how perfect Jim and Pam are for each other. We get it already.
For those of you made it to the end of the episode, it was worth it to watch Jack Black — as seen in the illegally downloaded movie that Andy brought to the office for lunchtime viewings — catch Leachman getting it on with another young buck.
My only quibble is with the cheesy pop songs from the 1980s used to document the tempestous love affair at the center of the pirated “Mrs. Albert Hannaday” film. The opening strains of Air Supply’s “All Out of Love,” playing as Leachman tried to abandon Black on the motorized chair climbing up the stairs, triggered an unwelcome personal flashback.
My freshman year in college, my roommate at UVa arrived with a music collection made up entirely of Air Supply and Laura Branigan cassettes. Talk about making a wrong first impression with the ladies of Webb dorm. I might as well have joined an a cappella chorus at that point.