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TV Review: The Office – Ricky Gervais Stunt Disappointing

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Fans of the British version of The Office have longed for Ricky Gervais‘ David Brent to stop by NBC’s American remake for years, making it an official spin-off instead of just a remake. The news came that it was finally happening in this week’s episode, and I got very excited. Looking back, it was said that Gervais would appear only in the opening, but the result was still a wasted opportunity! The show could easily have built an episode around him, not to mention an entire multi-episode arc, if they wanted to. Instead, we just got David and Michael (Steve Carell) talking weirdly to each other for a few seconds.

I try not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and I am still thrilled that Gervais appeared at all. I’m sure the fact that it was a small part was of his choosing. However, there was no explanation for how or why David was where he was; really, no story at all. As one of the most unique TV characters of all time (before he was imitated repeatedly by others), David Brent is a very entertaining creation that deserves more. Not only that, but I was still trying to decide if Gervais was really bringing the Brent I know and love alive when his short scene ended. I’m not convinced he really acted the character, at least not as well as he used to. I can’t help but feel it was too quickly done and that a longer part would have captured Brent better.

Other than the opening, though, it was another excellent episode in this strong season of The Office. With Carell’s episode count dwindling (he will be leaving the series for good four episodes before the season finale), Michael Scott has gotten more focus that ever. The arc most people want to see tied up is Michael’s love for Holly Flax (Amy Ryan). Michael’s other ex-girlfriends were all brought back earlier in the season and sent off one last time, but Holly is more than that. Holly is his soul mate, and the last few episodes have only confirmed that point. She actually gets Michael, and enjoys his zany antics. What more can you ask for in a partner?

Holly is back at Dunder Mifflin Scranton, and has recently broken up with her long-term boyfriend, the one she got after she and Michael split following her transfer to a far-away branch of the company. The seeds have been sewn, and it seems that Holly is falling once more for Michael. Their interactions this week were heartwarming, especially Holly’s brief comment to the camera, which was more about the look on her face than what she said. Or didn’t say, for that matter. I predict a ride off into the sunset for the two of them, an  event many fans want to see. I think Michael will get the ending he deserves.

I am hoping that Michael is not replaced by an outsider to the show, and I am pretty confident at this point that that will not happen. Writers on The Office have pledged more of an ensemble piece, with all of the very talented support staff getting more plot, following Carell’s departure. The four episodes after Carell leaves will see the return of company owner Jo (Kathy Bates, who will be done filming the first season of Harry’s Law by then) as she searches for a replacement, and various characters battle for the job and Will Ferrell will be doing a multi-episode arc as well.  My vote is for Darryl (Craig Robinson) to take over the office, as I think he will best be able to handle the mix of professional and personal relationships within it. As sad as Carell leaving is, I’m excited about this concept.

The final season has not been all about Michael.  Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) haven’t gotten much of a story though after they’ve gotten very large arcs in the past couple of years. Instead, we have been getting tons more Andy (Ed Helms), Dwight (Rainn Wilson), Darryl, and Erin (Ellie Kemper). Dwight is an old hand, and Andy was added years ago, though only recently to the opening credits. Darryl has been around since 2005, but once he got an office upstairs, has had so much more involvement with everyone. Erin is pretty new to the cast.  All three however shine so well when let out.

Andy has lost every woman he ever goes after, and his would-be relationship with Erin is no different. Yet, unlike Angela (Angela Kinsey), there is actually some hope that Andy can get Erin back from Gabe (Zach Woods). In this week’s episode, Erin was once again losing a game of Scrabble to Gabe, which meant that Gabe got to choose their movie night film, and he never chooses anything Erin wants to see.  Unlike Gabe, Andy understands Erin, they have complementary interests, and Andy would let her take as many turns choosing as she wants. Gabe and Erin have been portrayed as not working too well, which can only mean one thing: a happy ending is not out of the question for Andy and Erin. Andy just needs some more confidence to win her back, something he was building this week with the seminar he held this week.

Dwight has undergone enormous growth. As owner of the building that they all work in, Dwight tried his own tricks and crazy leadership ‘skills.’ They failed. He tried outmaneuvering Andy again this week, and again, he failed. Dwight is at his best when he is actually showing compassion and bonding with the other characters, especially Pam. While a Dwight – Angela rekindling, which I have hoped for, is apparently not in the offing anytime soon, Dwight is showing real feelings of fondness for most of his co-workers. The gradual softening of Dwight has been a triumph, but he still has a long way to go. I just don’t see his changes to this point being enough to get him the boss’s job, despite his British counterpart having become Brent’s replacement.

The above are only some of the great characters showcased in the series, and The Office is as good as its ever been. Please watch it Thursday nights at 9pm on NBC.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • El Bicho

    David Brent’s appearance doesn’t make the US Office a spin-off. Plus, it was an Easter egg for fans. Complaining about what it wasn’t misses the point entirely

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    In your opinion. I respectfully disagree on both counts.

  • Michael J

    By no practical definition does Gervais’s cameo make The Office a spin-off. Spin-Off’s focus on an existing character, location, or time periods of the original show. The Office is a reboot that cameo’d a character from the original show.

    On another note, every scene with Gabe is absolutely awful and he pull the show down. They need to write him out quickly. He has no purpose and feels forced.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    It is a spin-off because using the David Brent character positively confirms that both shows take place in the same universe. It was not spun off as the beginning as most shows are, but it is a spin-off nevertheless.

    And I like Gabe!

  • kmd

    I disagree.I,too wish David Brent had been on longer but we knew that wasn’t gonna happen.For the minute or two he was on,very funny,especially the “that’s what she said” line.Michael Scott teared up then he hugged Brent like a lost soul mate.Plus the question “any jobs opening up?’,”No nothing right now”,kind of a wink,wink.Cheers.

  • Michael J

    Just having David Brent appear in an episode doesn’t make it a spin-off even if both shows DO take place in the same universe. There are endless examples of another tv show character having cameo appearances in completely different tv show. Doesn’t make one a spin-off of the other.

    Back to Gabe, his only apparent purpose is to act as a speed bump for Andy and Erin. He is essentially a forced version Roy, but more annoying and has a Creed-like job position.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    To use a well known example of spin-off, look at the Star Trek universe. Star Trek: Voyager did not contain any major characters in major parts from other Star Trek shows at the onset, but it was still considered a spin-off. Doing some research, it appears there is no set definition for what makes a spin-off, so it will come down to our personal opinions. Because of the crossover character, the related (same) title, and the same universe definition, I choose to believe it is one. I think we will just have to agree to disagree.

    As to Gabe, there are some important distinctions between him and Roy. The biggest is that Gabe is a main character, contracted to continue appearing on the show. Roy was not, merely a recurring guest star. I think Gabe will have story after he and Erin end. He was there because Kathy Bates couldn’t be every week, and he’s their connection to the company owners.

  • Costello

    Never heard of a spin off used the way you are trying to. Having the same name obviously means it’s a remake like the movies.

    Plus, Voyager is a different than the Office. It’s the further adventures of ships and members of Starfleet and the show is made by the same company. you can disagree but you’re wrong.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    In your opinion. Which was my point.

  • El Bicho

    Just did a google search and after a few pages can’t find anyone else who calls The Office a spin-off. You can’t make up your own definition and then tell everyone else they have a different opinion. That’s not the way it works.

    I agree with Costello that the Voyager/Office comparison doesn’t fit.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    El Bicho – I did plenty of google searches on spin-offs before defending my comment. There is no standard, accepted definition. I came across quite a few different ones. I didn’t make a definition up. I’d appreciate if you’d stop accusing me of things you can’t back up, or writing comments that are just plain rude.

  • Costello

    My son has a friend who works at Paramount. Had him inquire and Bobby says you are wrong about this being spinoff. It’s a remake