Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"Branch Wars" Review & WGA Strike

Silly string and a ‘Finer Things Club’ in one episode? The irony behind these little absurdities proved to be rather irresistible indeed.

When I initially saw the promos for Branch Wars I have to say that I was not too thrilled to see Jim, Dwight, and Michael sporting fake mustaches and warehouse uniforms. “How far can they take this without it being completely ridiculous?” I thought. Then I saw the episode.

If it weren’t for Jim’s level-headed disapproval of Michael and Dwight’s cockamamie scheme to “panty raid” the Utica branch, this episode would have been a little too over-the-top, but thanks to attentive writing by Mindy Kaling and clever directing by Joss Whedon the scenes remained somewhat grounded and were delightfully thrilling to watch.

In no other TV show will you hear hilarious lines such as Dwight’s “You’re making me spray!” and “I think I cut my penis on the lid!” and have it be completely believable and true to character. I love that Dwight thought absolutely nothing of setting off actual bombs at the Utica branch and that it only took Michael 10 seconds to approve of the notion, as well.

Jim’s attempts to avoid being implemented in the ordeal all together were pretty hilarious, too; especially when they involved Karen. In fact, my favorite line came from Michael in the scene where Jim tries to duck out of sight in the car while Karen is a few yards away.

Michael: Take her to a motel. Make love to her, Jim…Just climb on top of her and think about Stanley. …Jim, if this is it for me, promise me something. Host the Dundies?

(See how Mindy slipped in a reference from one of her own episodes?).

The scene with Karen and Jim near the end was so enjoyably awkward. I felt bad for both of them, actually (well, more so for Jim, but…). He reacted rather boyishly to her confrontational interrogation and kept accidentally putting his foot in his mouth.

For example:

Karen: Thank you so much for coming to Utica, and breaking my copier, and telling me how well things are going in your relationship. Really, thank you.
Jim: [slinking out of the room] Alright, you are welcome.

(I loved the way Jim slipped out of the room at the end).

I also loved that the whole purpose for these futile shenanigans ended up being due to a failed bluff by Stanley to earn more money. Brilliant.

Pam’s ‘Finer Things Club’ was also great fun (and what a great opportunity for Toby, eh)? I loved the montage of Pam, Toby, and Oscar dressed in different outfits and eating themed food to the various books they had been reading each month. The French berets were the best. Did you notice they were eating crepes?

Andy trying to get into the club was painfully fun, as well. The deleted scenes show that Pam, Oscar, and Toby decided to put him on a wait list, which seemed to please Andy to no end. (Also in that scene, did you notice that Pam was using the same teapot that Jim gave her in the Christmas episode from season 2)?

I loved Pam’s pity-invite of Jim to the ‘Finer Things Club’ and I loved even more that Jim fouled up his opportunity by putting on an Irish accent for “Angela’s Ashes” and then not even bothering to read the book; calling the somber novel a “fun read”. The disdain on Toby’s face at that line was terrific.

Toby: What was fun about it for you? Was it the death of the twins?
Jim: No, that wasn't fun.

In any case, I’m sure Toby is none too pleased to have Jim pry his way into the club he had so happily shared with Pam. Oh, and Pam shaking her head in disapproval at Jim and mouthing the words “I’m Sorry” to Oscar was great.

Overall, I’d say it was an amusingly fun episode, which seems to be a forte of Mindy Kaling’s. (Think of episodes she wrote like The Dundies and Diwali). We need these silly episodes every now and again. They help lighten the mood of the show. After all, Office hi jinks are always fun as long as they come in small doses.

As we all know, the WGA (writer's guild) is on strike. Steve Carrell and Rainn Wilson have not shown up for work this week (as they are members of WGA) along with producer Greg Daniels. The writers will not cross the picket line. Here is a picture of writer Gene Stupnitsky (who has graciously replied to a couple of my MySpace messages) and Ed Helms picketing, courtesy of ricksterbot: Click here for the image.

I support this strike 100%, but I can't say that I'm happy the show has been put on hold. Greg and Rainn said the episode that was scheduled to shoot this week was the best episode either of them have ever read for the entire series. So that's a little sad and frustrating because I'm so anxious to see it. But who knows how long this strike will last?

The WGA Strike of 1988 lasted about 6 months and cost the industry $500 million dollars (source). If we have a repeat of that this time around, Season 4 of The Office may well be over come Thanksgiving Thursday when we run out of episodes. In the meantime, there are two episodes that have already been produced and are scheduled to air; this week's "Survivor Man" and next week's "The Deposition".

So lets keep our fingers crossed for a positive outcome for the WGA and hope that it wall all end soon. VERY soon.


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