‘The Office’: Are Jim and Pam’s Lives in Danger?

The Office

Launch Party
Season 4 Episode 3
This show? Nothing ridiculous about it.

There was a moment, late in last night’s episode, when we legitimately feared that Jim or Pam was going to die. It wasn’t a rational thought, but it popped in there nevertheless. For three seasons now, the Jim-Pam story line has been all about the anticipation; we’ve enjoyed rooting for their relationship. But the folks behind the show seem to think that, after years of waiting, we’ll be satiated merely seeing Jim and Pam happy. This is a serious miscalculation. As likable as each character is, watching them coo at each other is like being stuck at a dinner table with two friends who keep calling each other pet names. It might seem extreme to imagine their deaths, but, then again, can you come up with a logical reason for them to go to the roof and start sharing how-I-met-you stories?

Like the other hour-long episodes, this one exaggerated tiny character traits past the point of credulity. (Bring back the half-hour format!) It’s not enough for Andy to go over the top; he has to actually steal an ice sculpture. It’s not enough for Ryan to spout senseless buzzwords; he has to fire them off at a rate that would shame even the most devoted Wall Street coke addict. It’s not enough for Dwight to be worried about a computer outselling him; he has to believe the computer has developed sentient thought. And worst of all, it’s not enough for Michael to transfer his Ryan-centered insecurities to a hapless pizza delivery boy; he has to kidnap the kid. The ludicrous bits were funny last year. Now they’re just … ludicrous.

Meanwhile, Andy was cute — Ed Helms is quietly stealing every scene he’s in — but seriously now: Does anyone believe Angela would ever find him charming? This kind of hair-trigger personality switch in service of the plot is in danger of turning the show into just another sitcom. It was impossible, though, not to commiserate as the officemates, in the opening scene, watched the DVD logo bouncing randomly on an otherwise blank TV screen. We’ve all probably found even more banal ways to keep ourselves amused in a conference room. —Will Leitch

‘The Office’: Are Jim and Pam’s Lives in Danger?