THE OFFICE Recap: “Nepotism” (Seventh Season Premiere)

     September 24, 2010

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The seventh season of The Office already has a lot of hard work ahead to keep fans interested in the series as next spring, the conclusion will bring the departure of Michael Scott (Steve Carell). The good news is the beginning of the season starts with a bang as Andy kicks-off an office-wide lip-dub clearly inspired by the single-shot viral shenanigans of Connected Ventures and their collective lip sync of Harvey Danger’s Flagpole Sitta. Only this time around the employees of Dunder-Mifflin Sabre are singing along to the catchy fast-paced tune Nobody But Me by The Human Beinz. The bad news is this is as good as the season opener gets as the rest of the episode is mostly boring, only mildly funny but almost completely peculiar. Find out why after the jump.

the_office_season_seven_tv_show_image_01It seems only fitting that Michael is a bit disappointed that summer is ending, while many fans of The Office feel the same about his impending departure next year. However, I would be more sad by the fact that the rest of the episode can’t sustain the fun that popped in the first few minutes. From Kelly arguing with Ryan about his unexpected promotion of the Wuphf social network he’s trying to launch (which NBC has turned into a real website) to Creed’s mock guitar playing (even though the real Creed Bratton can really belt out a mean solo on the guitar) and Angela slamming the door of Daryl’s office yelling about how she doesn’t want to be the internet. This is the Dunder-Mifflin crew that we love.

But after the opening the rest of the antics just seem tired and dull. Some of the “drama” in the office comes when Pam ruins Jim’s prank to add keys to Dwight’s key ring (he has a lot now that he owns the building in which Dunder-Mifflin resides) every day until it gets so heavy that it causes his pants to drop to the ground. Pam’s mission is clear as she attempts to get Jim to forgive her by playing an epic prank on Dwight. While the prank itself isn’t bad (she has Kevin switch the buttons around on the elevator for mass confusion. But the way it plays out just never really hit the right chord with me. The only redeeming quality was a slight development of Jim and Pam as a married couple overcoming a small problem with grace. At least Dwight’s owning the building will allow for a lot of Jim and Pam collaboration with their pranks in the future.

However, the bulk of the episode is spent on the fact that Michael has hired his nephew Luke as the office assistant and he’s just terrible. He gets the wrong coffee order, doesn’t drop packages off for delivery, refuses to follow through on almost all of his work and simply does not listen or respect anybody in the office. But the issue with Luke is more awkward (and not in the usual funny kind of awkward that we can expect from Michael Scott). No, this is like watching some kid get yelled at or spanked at Sears because the office doesn’t like anything that he does and there’s simply no fun to be had. I’m not saying everyone needs to be funny all the time, because we all know that there’s been plenty of genuine moments of emotion through the past six seasons. This episode gets closer to watching an episode of a real documentary rather than a mockumentary comedy series.

the_office_season_seven_tv_show_image_03Honestly I don’t believe that Michael would let insubordination go for so long unless he had a really good reason to keep Luke around. Michael recalls that he once lost him in the woods when he was about five years old and while that seems like a decent enough reason, I’m not sure why he would so desperately want to re-connect with and then suddenly protect his job at the company when he’s so obviously inept. It doesn’t make sense. Something else that doesn’t make sense is that Erin is now dating Sabre’s plant Gabe after she fell away from Andy over the summer.

Look, I love The Office, and I want to give the writers and showrunner Paul Lieberstein the benefit of the doubt that they will do their best to deal with Michael Scott’s departure when the time comes. But if I’m going to believe that this show can continue without him, you need to show me that the office can function both in comedy and story without him as well. Aside from the Jim and Pam storyline (and some smaller story arcs over a few episodes) Michael has been the driving force behind Dunder-Mifflin’s best stories and I need to see that this car can still run without him in the driver’s seat.

THE FINAL WORD: Far from the quality of The Office we’re used to, the opening of the seventh season starts with a dazzling fireworks show, but saunters on afterward to the sound of a cartooish sad trombone. If the season opener is any indicator, once Michael Scott leaves Dunder-Mifflin, we’re in for some tough times unless writers show the office can stand on its own two feet without the help of Steve Carell.

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