One of The Office’s many charms, for superfans at least, is that members of the writing staff often get speaking roles. That they’re not trained actors (though Mindy Kaling, who plays Kelly Kapoor — and wrote last night’s episode — starred in the highly regarded play Matt & Ben) makes the office atmosphere all the more authentic. Paul Lieberstein doesn’t look like an actor so much as a morose human-resources representative. On the whole, the conceit works … as long the writer-actors are not required to stretch.
B.J. Novak, the last of the show’s original writing quartet, has the largest role as Ryan, the former intern turned executive. In short bursts, he’s perfect as the buzzword-spouting, in-over-his-head, “don’t call me a wunderkind” who’s convinced the paper industry desperately needs to go digital. (Why wouldn’t a paper company need a social-networking feature?) But five minutes of occasional bantering with Michael is one thing; attempting to play a drugged-out club rat is pushing it.
We’re not sure what drug Ryan was supposed to be on when Dwight and Michael surprised him at an NYC club. At first it seemed like ecstasy, then cocaine, then … well, our only guess is that someone smacked him with something blunt and heavy when the camera was elsewhere.
The performance distracted from an excellent concept: Dwight and Michael at a meatpacking-district nightclub, Dwight randomly hooking up with a woman whom he makes it clear he will not call, and Michael ready to introduce anyone who says hello to his mother. (Who he actually calls from the bar! Why haven’t we met Michael’s mother yet? Guest-star alert! Lily Tomlin, call your agent!) —Will Leitch