TV postsFriday May 17, 2013
On the Final Episode of 'The Office'
Over on the Atlantic site, Kevin Craft has a nice piece on the final episode of the NBC series “The Office”: why it was once great, why it couldn't remain so:
Set in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in the sales office of a nearly obsolete paper company, the show's characters at first didn't develop as much as stagnate. Like their dead-end jobs and the dead-end lives that inevitably spring from such jobs, these people were just passing time, one prolonged meeting at a time. Just as reality television soothes a viewer's inner narcissist by telling stories of even more pronounced narcissists wreaking havoc on their surroundings, The Office made its audience feel better about their professional lives by showcasing a workplace with even drabber décor and more grating coworkers. ...
The original theme it explored—office work sucks—is only funny if the characters never grow. What made the early episodes so dryly funny and morbidly relatable was that the seasons and the names of the meetings changed, but the paper-pushing remained the same. Just-another-cog-in-the-wheel syndrome only engenders pathos if the wheel spins indefinitely and the cogs stay put. But writers can only use constructed bonding experiences, like an awkward sexual harassment training session or an impromptu “Office Olympics,” so many times to illustrate the lengths to which white-collar drones will go to survive another excruciating day. In television, things have to change.
“...the lengths to which white-collar drones will go to survive another excruciating day.” Nice.
Patricia and I watched the final episode last night but it was a bit too sweet for me. And it wasn't like the final episode of the British “Office,” in which Ricky Gervais gave you a cherry on top (Tim and Dawn finally getting together) of the shit sundae he'd been serving all that time (every other excruciatingly brilliant episode). No, this was just too sweet. A happy ending for everyone. Right? Doesn't everyone get what they want? Jim takes the dream job and gets out of Scranton (with his family, of course); Pam paints murals; Dwight gets to be office manager (and, in the only brilliant touch of the last season brilliant touch, he also becomes assistant to the assistant to the regional manager, or the direct report of his own direct report). Erin finds her parents, Andy finds fame (or infamy), Stanley gets to kick back away from everybody.
I'm with Kevin Craft here. I wanted more fourth-wall moments at the end. How did it feel once the cameras went away? How did it feel once they showed up in the first place? That's something “The Office” never really dealt with. Was it easier surviving another excruciating day because you were being filmed doing it? Did that make it seem relevant? Like you had an audience that most of us don't have? Did that change the behavior of the people there? Give me some Heisenberg principle, kids.
I know. Network TV. But we're not getting any younger. Or smarter.
Even so, farewell “Office.” You were my last network show.
Jeff Wells Goes 'Lincoln' on Bendedict Cumberbatch
The only serious standout element in JJ Abrams‘ Star Trek Into Darkness, the only thing that makes you sit up and go “whoa, wait…this is good,” is the lead villain performance by Benedict Cumberbatch. The poor guy has a somewhat oddly shaped face and weird demon-cat eyes so he’ll never play the good guy, but he’s a serious world-class actor with a kind of young Richard Burton quality and an energy field that just grabs hold and lifts all boats.
Right. And apparently Clint Eastwood's adam's apple was too big and three guitar/one drum groups were on the way out. Besides, who'd listen to a band from Liverpool?
If you've seen Cumberbatch, you get what Wells is saying. Even so, dude's playing Sherlock Holmes in a great modern adaptation on the BBC:
Yes, his Holmes is a bit of an ass. But to say he couldn't play the good guy? Holmes is the greatest fictional detective ever. That's right, Batman. Take a back-bat-seat.
The beauty of the Intenet. Even on a day when you have nothing to say, someone gives you something to say.
Mad Men Myself
That's supposed to be me in the center there. A couple of things wrong with it. The clothing options at the “Mad Men Yourself” site didn't really include anything I would wear (bike gear, T-shirts, etc.), so I'm stuck with this. They did have a kind of suit-vest thing, and I often wear sweater vests at work, even post-Rick Santorum, so that probably would've been the best choice; but I was putting this together with Patricia, who, I believe, is anti-sweater vest and chose the outfit she preferred on me rather than what I would wear. Men everywhere, mad or not, nod in understanding.
I'm also not that tall (although maybe on a Hollywood set?), and I don't drink much soda anymore (coffee, beer), and I mostly read the newspaper online.
But the biggest problem? I'm facing the wrong way. Joan's behind me. That's just wrong. To quote Truman Capote in “The Muses Are Heard”:
A tall, striking blonde, Miss Ryan was wearing a low strapless dress that hugged her curves cleverly; and as she swayed down the aisle, masculine eyes swerved in her direction like flowers turning toward the sun.
I'm a flower that's turned away from the sun.
The new season begins tonight. It's 1968 apparently. Wonder when Don's going to stop using Vitalis. Wonder when he's going to get muttonchop sideburns and a flowered shirt with wide collars. Wonder how he's going to try to hang on as the world, particularly the advertising world, gets younger.
That's been the appeal of “Mad Men” for me since the second season. We know what's going to happen but we don't know what's going to happen to them. We want to warn them about the future because we can't warn ourselves about our own.
Kirk, Spock, and Mad
While searching for a good image to go with the recent post about MAD magazine's movie parodies, I came across this shot on the set of the original “Star Trek”:
How cool is that? Can anyone figure out the episode they were shooting? Tim?
Marco Rubio's Stephan Seely Moment
By now Marco Rubio's Poland Springs water-bottle moment just three days ago seems old news: first laughed at, then mocked, then satirized, and now dismissed and forgotten almost as if it were Michael Dukakis in a tank or James Stockdale at the '92 debates. The moment the epitaph was written. (Warning: “You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore” was such a moment, too.)
The best thing I read on the ordeal was posted by Ian Crouch on The New Yorker site. It's pretty funny:
By the second minute of Marco Rubio’s official Republican response to the President’s State of the Union address last night, it was clear that the Senator’s body was betraying him. His lips caught each other in the way they do at moments of stress, when we are suddenly confronted, after long lapses of unthought, with the actual mechanics of speech. Under the hot lights, Rubio’s mouth went dry. A few minutes later, sweat trickled down his right temple, and he moved his hand instinctively to wipe it away. The dry mouth persisted, and, at times, his eyes flashed with a kind of pleading and mounting desperation: the speech was less than halfway over, with words and words to go. His hands, already large in the frame when he kept them low in front of him, flashed a few times to his lips. And then back to his temple.
By the eighth minute, he seemed to have adjusted, and it looked as if he might push through to the end. But then, three minutes later, he made a gamble and reached for a water bottle offscreen: he lurched down to his left and fumbled a bit, making a terrifyingly intimate moment of eye contact with the audience before taking a quick sip from an unfortunately tiny bottle and then ducking to put it back. He quickly returned to his speech, and spun out the final few minutes. But, by then, those eyes had turned faintly sad; while continuing to perform the words, Rubio looked as though he knew he’d made a mistake, and that all anyone would remember in the morning would be the image of him stooped to the edge of the frame, sheepishly grasping for the smallest plastic bottle of water in the District of Columbia.
Crouch focused less on the water bottle and more on the reason for the water bottle: the nervous, dry mouth. In this way, too, Rubio reminded me less of a potential presidential candidate (how he's been touted for years) and more of Stephan Seely.
Name ring a bell? Did you ever watch SCTV? Stephan, played by a bewigged John Candy, was the co-host, along with the bouncy, zippy Alexis (Catherine O'Hara), of “Preteen World,” which was a takeoff on “Zoom,” or “Wonderama.” And while Alexis was glib, Stephan, bless his heart, always put in a good effort but he could never get the words out. Too nervous. Mouth too dry. Half his time was spent hard-swallowing mid-word. I think he made me laugh harder than any John Candy character. His discomfort was such a joy to me. Probably because I identified. Even at that age, my body was constantly betraying me.
I couldn't find a good clip online of Stephan but this one isn't bad. He's only in the first minute or so, and his dry-mouthed swallows are subtle, but you get the idea:
Yes, we're a shallow culture to knock out a potential presidential candidate because of one dry-mouthed moment; but Rubio wouldn't be where he is if we weren't already shallow. He's there because his politics fit the base (rabid), his ethnicity fits the demographics (growing), and because of the way he looks (handsome). Plus the focus on the water bottle probably did him a service, rather than a disservice, since his speech was the usual GOP BS.
Hell, I might actually have a bit of sympathy for Rubio now. He reminded me, for one brief, vulnerable moment, of Stephan Seely, patron saint of the betraying body. In that moment, and only that moment, he seemed like the type of guy I'd want to have a beer with. Or at least buy one for.
Stephan Seely (right), patron saint of the betraying body.