The Office: "New Leads"
C+

The Office: "New Leads"

C+

The Office

"New Leads"

Season 6, Episode 20

I read Scott’s terrific piece on Glengarry Glen Ross today. The film adaptation of David Mamet’s classic play is the archetypal masterpiece about sales, boiler rooms, con-artistry and capitalism at its most ruthless and inhumane. From Boiler Room to Two For The Money to the rightfully obscure direct-to-DVD Vince Vaughn vehicle The Prime Gig, I can’t see a film about sales without being reminded of Glengarry Glen. It’s the gold standard against which all entertainment about salesmen will be measured.

Yet even though The Office prominently involves sales and airs immediately before a show starring Glengarry Glen Ross’ master soloist I never really connected the two. I think that’s because The Office isn’t really a show about selling or capitalism or the cutthroat world of business. It’s essentially about relationships and workplaces and Michael Scott being an infantile jackass.

Tonight, however, all that changed (except for the part about Michael being an infantile jackass). The new regime decided to tilt the work dynamic at the office firmly and perhaps permanently in favor of salespeople. Suddenly everything revolved around sales and making the lives and jobs of salespeople easier. To that end, the head office purchased, at great expense, a list of highly valuable leads to be disseminated to their top closers.

Alas, they made the mistake of giving those leads to a threatened and terrified Michael, who decided to enact passive-aggressive revenge on his now arrogant and super-charged sales force by forcing his underlings to embark on a pointless scavenger hunt to find clues that will lead them to the leads. Not surprisingly, this moronic tactic backfires and the leads end up in the town dump.

Meanwhile, the power shift between newly empowered salespeople and their colleagues in accounting and management causes all sorts of friction and bad blood and Andy and Erin’s oppressively adorable romance continues to proceed by baby steps, in part because both are so fundamentally child-like.

The question underlining just about every episode of The Office seems to be, “Just how dumb and juvenile can/should Michael be?” The answer, generally, is pretty damned dumb and pretty fucking childish. I don’t usually mind if an episode is funny or engaging or sweet or psychologically astute but when the laughs aren’t there it’s hard not to dwell on Michael’s stupidity/immaturity and how it would play out in the real world.

Since I wasn’t terribly distracted by laughter tonight I found myself thinking that in our world Jim would have called the head of Sabre and complained about Michael’s shenanigans, at which point she would deliver a Southern-fried tongue lashing and Michael would head out into the office, tail between his legs, and give the leads to the people who deserved them and could use them to, you know, keep a faltering company afloat.

Tonight was one of the weakest episodes of The Office in recent memory. The laughs and pathos just weren’t there and Michael came off like an emotionally stunted asshole rather than a well-meaning but misguided goof. The scene at the dump with Dwight and Michael felt particularly tired. I love The Office but it’s on the twentieth episode of its sixth season so it can be forgiven for not always bringing its A game.

The show has managed to remain fresh in part by acknowledging the bleak economic climate faced by small companies like Dunder-Mifflin and injecting new blood into the cast via guest stars like Idris Elba, Amy Ryan and Kathy Bates but tonight the show just seemed to be treading water and coasting on fan’s affection for its characters. Oh well. It happens to the best of them and even on its off nights this is still one of the strongest, most consistent comedies on TV.

Stray Observations—

—I enjoy Creed’s creepy stolen glasses

 —“You say Jesus is King of Kings? What does that say to you about how I think about myself?

 —“Stop sexting Pam”

—I’m glad Dwight is back and in a more high-profile role. They just don’t seem to know what to do with him at this point.

—I will concede that I “awwwed” a little internally during the Andy-Erin kiss. I also kind of wanted to see Jim and Pam's baby in a onesie

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