The Office Starts Off 2009 with a Whimper

As the Television Critic Association winter press tour rolled on yesterday, NBC made a slew of announcements regarding The Office. Some of it, like the news that B.J. Novak (aka Ryan) will return in the spring following his filming of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, were mundane. Other stuff, like the decision by NBC to pickup the series for another season, was obvious. But then there was this distressing piece of information: while the new Amy Poehler series (now slated to premiere on April 9th at 8:30 p.m.) isn’t an actual spin-off from The Office, the Peacock still wants a show centered around one of the current Office cast members. We don’t have a problem with spin-offs when they are planned properly, but this sounds like a bad idea, since series executive producer Greg Daniels and co-executive producer Michael Schur won’t be directly involved.

Plus! After last night, it seems clear to us that The Office can barely make it through one episode, let alone an entire other show. Here are three reasons why we thought the first new Office episode of 2009 was the worst in the history of the series.

No feeling!

The biggest problem with the series right now is that no one cares about the Dwight-Angela-Andy love triangle. They are all funny in their own right: Angela is a pill, culling laughs from her complete awfulness; Andy is obtuse and loyal, like a big dog (he’s also the one character who would be helped in a spin-off); and Dwight is Dwight–he’s hilarious, but making him the focal point of anything other than the butt of Jim’s jokes and the purveyor of some truly bizarre ramblings is a bad idea. Their entire love story seemed designed only to offset the loss of the "will they, won’t they" edge that was present when Jim and Pam weren’t together, and it has dragged on for what seems like an eternity. Thankfully, that storyline seems like it’s over now, but we had to sit through twenty minutes of non-stop Dwight-Angela-Andy to get through it. Pass!

No laughs!

We love the pathos that The Office brings to the table as much as the next person, but having pathos and being unfunny are two different things entirely. Was there one laugh to be had last night? Because if we were supposed to double over in sidesplitting hollers when Andy slowly pushed Dwight into a fence with his Prius, we certainly did not.

No reality!

The worst moments of The Office are always when it pushes itself from absurdist to cartoonish. The entire premise of the show is absurdist. But when Dwight and Andy decided to duel over Angela, and Dwight was hiding swords and other various weapons all over the office, the show might as well have been animated. We know, "lighten up, it’s just a television show!" But! When you establish that something takes place in a certain reality, you can’t just fly in the face of that reality. It’s annoying. Maybe if last night’s episode was actually funny we would have felt differently.