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I may be in the minority, but I’m not a big fan of Cringe. Now Cringe humor I enjoy, but Cringe humor makes a joke out of an awkward situation whereas straight Cringe just makes you uncomfortable or, even worse, bored. And more often than not, The Office goes for straight Cringe. To be fair, sometimes they do make a joke—the scene in A Benihana Christmas where Michael surreptitiously tags his date with a permanent marker had me both squirming and laughing pretty damn hard, but seeing Michael make an ass of himself in front of the Dunder-Mifflin shareholders, then later the company execs, left me wondering if they forgot the joke.
In fact, the entire episode felt like the writers forgot The Office is a comedy. Dunder-Mifflin’s going through tough times, but the higher-ups have invited Michael to the annual shareholders’ meeting. Accountant Oscar’s furious that a limo’s been rented to drive Michael from Scranton to New York, and he, along with Dwight and Andy, accompany Michael to the meeting so he can give the board a piece of his mind. As usual, Michael makes an ass of himself, digs himself into a hole with both the shareholders and the execs (does this sound familiar?), and then, when he tries to patch things up by having Oscar present his business plan to the board directly, Oscar freezes.
And then there’s a B Plot involving the office’s general disrespect of Jim’s authority. Not only does everyone still see him as their quirky irresponsible co-worker instead of the co-boss, but Ryan’s been spreading around the rumor that Jim can’t even fire people. So Jim retaliates by moving Ryan’s office to the supply closet between the restrooms. Ha ha?
There’ve been a lot of lame jokes this season, but this is the first episode where the humor seemed like an afterthought. Dwight struggling to find an open mike and Michael calling a former congressman stupid both fall flat, as does the cold opening with Dwight’s not-so-earth-friendly character “Recyclops”—an alien who impresses upon the Scranton branch the importance of recycling. However Dwight, as can be expected, goes overboard with his character, and Recyclops, embittered by his “home planet’s” “conquering” (I’m sure it all makes sense in Dwight’s mind), gradually comes to hate humans more and more with each appearance until he decides that earth in fact does need to be destroyed. Well, okay, I did like that.
But aside from that and two funny lines from Dwight and Andy, respectively (“Were you raised in a household without consequences?” “I feel lachrymose”), I was really hard pressed to even locate the humor, much less laugh. Is a room full of people booing Dunder-Mifflin supposed to be funny? The Office was in top form last week with a paper-thin plot but a more-than-ample amount of jokes; this week’s the polar opposite of that.
I hope this is the worst episode of the season, because a few more like this and I might as well take The Office as a write-off.