During last year’s writers’ strike — remember that? It was when TV was full of the same junk it is now, only it was colder outside — the main writers of The Office (known best to you as Kelly, Toby, Ryan, and Mose Schrute) took to the picket line to mock networks for calling their Webisodes “promotions.” Michael Schur (Mose) pointed out that NBC wouldn’t even pony up the $28 for the Daytime Emmy they won for “The Accountants,” which featured ten short episodes about $30,000 missing from the company fund. They were funny, we suppose, but the plot pretty much consisted of “Look, it’s Kevin! Look, it’s Phyllis! Online!” And no: Steve Carell was too busy.
Well, now that the strike is “settled,” the Webisodes have returned, with episode one of “Kevin’s Loan” debuting on NBC.com last night. It has potential; it appears Kevin’s ongoing gambling debts (“If anyone gives you 10,000 to 1 odds on anything, you take that bet. If John Mellencamp ever wins an Oscar, I will be one rich dude”) have finally overtaken his life, to the point that he’s taking out bank loans to pay off bookies.
As always, Brian Baumgartner nails that perfect balance — satirized so well in last year’s final episode — between dull, sinister naïveté and blatant developmental disablement. And we’re promised more goodness down the line, with a substantial role for Darryl, without question the most underutilized character on the show. (The Webisodes probably should have been set in the warehouse, actually; we mean, the guy’s in Pineapple Express! He’s a breakout star waiting to happen!)
The first Webisode was written by new staff addition Anthony Q. Farrell, a name with whom we’re unfamiliar and whose most notable credit seems to be a role as a preacher in Pool Party: The Movie. (“From the producers who SAW American Pie.” Ho, ho!) We’ll assume, for now, he didn’t mind doing some “promotion,” gratis. —Will Leitch