The Office
Pilot

Episode Report Card
Miss Alli: B+ | 2 USERS: A-
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Pilot

Early episodes of The Office lacked the cold open, so we start with the piano, and with the plaintive opening chords from television's most hummable theme song (I will not hear otherwise) and most perplexingly incongruous credits. It's genius, really, the thumping build of the theme over the shots of the gurgling water cooler and the Liquid Paper. You know, it might be that somebody associated with this show really knows what's what, and I'm pretty sure it's everybody.

Jim, with only his back visible in this scene, sits in Michael's office as Michael taunts him about needing help with an account, which help it turns out Jim didn't ask for. Steve Carell is puffier and pastier here than he'll be later, and he's meaner, too -- more aggressive and less ingratiating. Frankly, this Old Testament Michael would not be that perplexing to deal with -- if this were your boss, you'd just...leave. Well, punch him in the face and leave. Of course, you wouldn't have to, because he'd be fired, but still. At any rate, this scene contains (1) Michael's first offensive accent (Asian); his first piece of counterfeit "foreign" lingo ("manager a manager"), his first major social faux pas (mistaking a woman for a man), and his first nervous explanation of a major social faux pas ("very low voice...probably a smoker"). They certainly do map a lot of Michael's large and small weaknesses in the first sixty seconds.

Michael stands in front of the Dunder Mifflin sign and exposits that he's been at DM for twelve years and has been regional manager for four. He pulls us through the front door and into reception. His frantic, high-pitched "Pam! Pam Pam!" makes her stare blankly at him, and he makes reference to her cuteness, only to convert the remark into a slam by comparing it unfavorably to her cuteness in days past. Pam gratefully leaps for the conversational parachute of giving Michael his messages, including a fax from corporate. He, imagining himself ten minutes after the documentary is released becoming known as "that hilarious paper guy" and growing his own fandom, tells Pam that the fax belongs in the special file -- in the trash! This is one of Michael's many pained conflicts, of course: his eagerness to cultivate an air of rebellious entrepreneurial bravado, mostly to conceal his pants-wetting terror when he thinks he might get in trouble. Michael is, in essence, a post-Dilbert corporate toady, who knows the clich├ęs of the punishing, dull corporate structure well enough to try to make hilarious jokes about them, never really realizing that you can't credibly mock what you couldn't survive without.

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The Office

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