SitCombat: 5/19/11

Tonight marked the much-ballyhooed season finale of the Office as the Carell-less future of the show looms in the fall. Since the Office is the last of the three “SitCombat” regulars to wrap for the year, this also means that this will be the final edition of this much-beloved feature until the leaves start to change.

I didn’t want to go out with the Office winning unopposed. I’ve selected some special competition for this final night of the year before we drift off into rerun territory. I’ll begin with the Office.

This was SitCombat for May 19, 2011:

The Office (NBC)

Tonight’s Episode: The office conducts a search for the new manager of Dunder-Mifflin in the season finale.

Good Stuff: Creed throwing the keys to no one . . . Creed’s non-meeting . . . Creed’s acronym . . . “And it doesn’t hurt that I’m………blaaaaaaaaaaack!” . . . Andy’s campaign . . . Dwight’s shaving job . . . “Bread is the paper of the food industry. You write your sandwich on it” . . . James Spader was pretty strong. That character would be a keeper . . . “You guys pay for relocation, though, right? I’d want to move further away, you know, don’t want any chance of running into my coworkers outside the office” . . . “Which, normally, I would hate, because it’s so civil-rights-y” . . . “But overall—horrified” . . . “Tell me what I need to hear.” “Are you sure this is a good idea? I hate to see you disappointed” . . . Andy in his car . . . Darryl calling customer support about the paper clip assistant . . . “What’s your daughter’s name again? Pee-pee?” . . . “Uhhhh . . . How do I know that Robert is gay? He ‘liked’ my Facebook photos at three o’clock in the morning.” . . . “Occupation: Inspirer” . . . Kevin’s expression when Oscar asked him if he had met a lesbian in real life . . . “Low blow, puppet” . . . “A, B, and so forth…” . . . “Niagra Falls? Pregnant? That was your dream?” . . . “What a surprise. Minorities sticking together” . . . Ryan wanting a homeless person to be the new manager . . . Darryl using his child as leverage . . . “No, I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life. I will be the new boss of…Vance Refrigeration.”

Non-good Stuff: Is Jordan storing nuts for the winter or what? . . . I liked Phyllis giving up a secret child for adoption better when it was a great one-off joke and not a sub-plot . . . James Spader has aged fifteen years in the last five years, and he’s slowly morphing into Darrell Hammond . . . The Catherine Tate part didn’t amuse me at all . . . Andy turning Erin down. Just get it over with . . . The Jim Carrey cameo offered little. Empty calories.

Line of the Night: “Little advice?  Take a day off from the whole ‘Jim’ schtick.  Try caring about something.  You might like how it feels . . . James.” – Ryan, cutting to the chase.

Overall: This was both a cliffhanger and a roadmap to the major storylines for next season. Namely, (1) Angela’s wedding and (2) Erin and Andy.  The biggest of all will obviously be the new boss—a new boss who wasn’t revealed.  Guest Rod Johnson brought up a good point on the Office podcast a few weeks back.  He pointed out that the Office usually treats the summer as real time, meaning that we’ll pick up the story a few months later in next season’s premiere if the show holds to form.

I’m not sure if they’ll do that here. They may, but skipping a payoff and starting the new administration in medias res would be a waste.  As I’ve been saying for a year, I think the new boss will be Andy.  If it isn’t he, I think it will be someone who wasn’t in this episode.  I have to admit, though, that this episode did a lot to muddy the water—and that’s a good thing.

The season finale exceeded my expectations.  The guest stars were predictably hit (Spader, Arnett, Romano) or miss (Tate, and, to a lesser extent, Carrey).  The regulars carried the show and having an hour gave just about everyone a chance to shine.  Other than not getting a resolution to the boss issue, I can’t find much not to like.

GRADE: A-minus

South Park (Comedy Central)

Tonight’s Episode (originally aired May 18, 2011): South Park Elementary posts the boys’ height increase since their last physical on a poster, but Cartman is convinced the school has revealed the relative endowments of its male students . . . uh-oh. I can’t review this episode here. I love South Park, but, come on.

Let’s try this again:

The Andy Griffith Show (CBS)

Tonight’s Episode (originally aired January 16, 1961): Andy pokes fun at Aunt Bea and her friends for spreading gossip, but Bea turns the tables by planting a false rumor in Andy’s head.

Good Stuff: “I’m in my forties, and I admit it!” . . . “Must be cuttin’ somebody up pretty good!” . . . . The gossip montage. You could never do that today . . .“According to you, the Lord made two sexes: Men and blabbermouths!” . . . The Baxters’ no-trespassing sign being stolen by trespassers . . . “Could be the old fake card dodge” . . . Barney and Andy trying to exit the hotel inconspicuously.

Non-good Stuff: It seems incredibly unlikely, bordering on the unbelievable, that a shoe salesman from New York would travel all the way to a small town in North Carolina to peddle his wares. Even in 1961. The characters on the show actually point this out and discuss it at length. I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse . . . The salesman asking for a television, and, first off, the hotel not having one, but, more to the point, that request somehow making the guy suspicious.

Line of the Night: “It’s my trigger finger. If I lose that, I might as well leave the business.” – Barney Fife, assessing the potential impact of his injury.

Overall: I’m a big fan of this show, but this was not a great episode.  The best ones usually center around Andy/Barney or Andy/Opie, and this was neither.  Floyd always seems creepy to me.  Sometimes that can be ok, but he and the other nondescript, mustachioed townspeople don’t provide the same consistent level of humor.  More importantly, I had trouble with the premise in this one.  They usually keep it very simple on the Andy Griffith Show, but this one required a leap of faith: A traveling shoe salesman coming almost a thousand miles to a low population center.  Implausible.  On top of all of that, they had also done a “Hollywood movie producer comes to Mayberry” episode earlier in this same season, so doing a “New York television producer comes to Mayberry (but not really)” episode just a few months later seems like a mistake.  All in all, not Andy’s finest hour.  Or half-hour.


Final Thoughts: I tried to drum up some competition for competition’s sake, but, after seeing The Office this week, it wasn’t really necessary. That was a quality hour of comedic entertainment. It’s odd that I was less sure at the end of the episode about who would be the new boss than I was at the beginning of the episode, but I suppose that’s admirable in a way.

I think the Office will try to downplay the new boss situation (or deal with it quickly) at the beginning of the season in order to move on to sustainable storylines. These storylines end with Angela finding out at the last minute that her husband-to-be is gay, and Andy winding up marrying Erin (perhaps at Angela’s intended wedding, in a wedding switcheroo), respectively.

The primary lingering doubt I have about Andy being the new boss is that the Andy / Erin storyline might be a little tricker if they’re boss and subordinate.

A good episode and a worthy winner of the final SitCombat of the season. Even if there weren’t any real competition.

WINNER: The Office (retains title)

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