Top 5: The Best Episodes of The Office

In my post entitled “Arrested Development and Party Down: Better off Dead?” I came off very harsh regarding The Office, and that is not a fair assessment of my true feelings towards the show. I love the early seasons of the show, finding them a perfect balance between comedy and light-drama and I believe season 2 and season 3 are the best back to back seasons of any comedy show ever. So without further ado, here are my 5 favorite episodes of The Office.

“You down with the Dundies?”

5. “The Dundies” (Season 2, Episode 1) While there were certainly high spots in season 1, such as “Diversity Day” and “Basketball”, to me it didn’t seem like the office truly found its footing until the premier of season 2, “The Dundies.” Drunk Pam was hilarious and a nice departure from her usual reserved, mild-mannered self. The Jim and Pam story line also takes an interesting twist when Pam kisses Jim after winning her Dundie. Michael was both hilarious and horrible as the host of The Dundies with his song parodies and it was the last time “Ping” has surfaced. It could be argued that this was the episode that saved the show as they needed a strong showing after rather lackluster ratings in Season 1

Memorable Quote:

Michael: So I, you know, an employee will go home, and he’ll tell his neighbor, “Hey, did you get an award?” And the neighbor will say, “No man. I mean I slave all day and nobody notices me.” Next thing you know, employee smells something terrible coming from the neighbor’s house. Neighbor’s hanged himself, due to lack of recognition.

“Michael and Jan seem to be playing their own separate game, and it’s called, “let’s see how uncomfortable we can make our guests.” And they’re both winning”

4. “Dinner Party” (Season 4, episode 13) Directed by Paul Feig who later directed Bridesmaids, this inside look at Michael’s home life is equal parts hilarity and awkwardness. At some parts, I didn’t know whether to burst out laughing or just squirm. Michael’s obsession with his plasma TV kills me and by being exposed to Jan’s crazy side, you feel a new sense of sympathy for Michael. This is a true classic episode of The Office, as it’s difficult to watch but you can’t not due its hilariousness.

Memorable Quote:

Michael: That is sort of an oaky afterbirth

“I just wanna lie on the beach and eat hotdogs. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

3. “Beach Games” (Season 3, Episode 23) “Beach Games” stands out to me because it’s so incredibly layered and has a little bit of everything. There is so many funny parts and at the same time, this episode takes a serious turn towards the end. Michael’s phone call with David Wallace, the bus ride, Toby’s disappointment, Andy floating away in his sumo suit and Michael’s frustrations due to the staff’s indifference are highlights of this episode. But no part stands out to me more than Pam’s coal walk and discovered confidence. Just like in the “The Dundies,” this represents a large contrast of Pam’s passive behavior and it was quite refreshing to see.

Memorable Quote:

Michael: If you don’t like it, Stanley, you can go to the back of the bus.

Stanley: Excuse me?

Michael: Or the front of the bus. Or drive the bus

“I burned my foot very badly on my Foreman Grill”

2. “The Injury” (Season 2, Episode 12) Penned by Mindy Kalin who also plays Kelly Kapoor, “The Injury” is the episode that truly turned me into a fan. Up until that point I had certainly enjoyed the show, but I was far from a diehard. After this episode I was hooked. The entire premise was great and I couldn’t figure out which sub-plot I liked more, Michael’s desire for special treatment or Dwight’s concussion symptoms. The scene on the way to the hospital where Jim is spraying both Dwight and Michael with a mister remains one of my favorites. A truly hysterical episode.

Memorable Quote:

Michael: Let me ask you something. How longs it take for you to do something simple, everyday, like, like brush your teeth in the morning.

Billy Merchant: I don’t know, like thirty seconds?

Michael: Oh my god. That’s three times as long as it takes me

“Two queens on casino night… I am going to drop a deuce on everybody”

1. “Casino Night” (Season 2, Episode 22)

Widely recognized as one of the best episodes of the series, the season 2 finale “Casino Night” was important because it represented the culmination (for now) and climax of the Jim and Pam story arc and much like other early episodes of The Office found a nice balance between comedy and drama. The first episode of the series to be written by Steve Carell, “Casino Night” further developed the minor characters Creed and Kevin and tied up almost all of the story lines from the first two seasons and did it brilliantly while also maintaining its humor as Michael tries to juggle two dates and Dwight comically tries to be his wing man. It also included one of my favorite moments in the series history when Michael asks Toby “Why are you the way that you are? Honestly, every time I try to do something fun or exciting, you make it not that way. I hate so much about the things that you choose to be.”

Memorable Quote:

Creed: Thanks, I’ve never owned a refrigerator before.

Honorable mention: “Gay Witch Hunt” (Season 3, Episode 1), “The Return” (Season 3, Episode 14), “Conflict Resolution” (Season 2, Episode 21), “Local Ad” (Season 4, Episode 9), “The Deposition” (Season 4, Episode 12), “Business School” (Season 3, Episode 17), “Niagara” (Season 6, Episode 4/5), “Goodbye Toby” (Season 4, Episode 18/19)  and “Product Recall” (Season 3, Episode 21)

Did I forget any? Please feel free to share your top 5 in the comment section.

Arrested Devlopment and Party Down: Better off Dead?

“Look, for the tenth time, it’s pronounced ‘a-NAL-rap-ist’”

Earlier this year it was announced that Arrested Development would be returning for a season and then a movie. Former Starz show Party Down will also apparently be getting a feature film. And while part of me in definitely excited, another part wonders if these two shows shouldn’t be revived. The fact that they were cancelled too soon, Arrested Development after 3 seasons and Party Down after 2, only adds to their allure. We live in a society where we hold people in higher esteem after death. It’s taboo and not kosher to speak ill of the dead. When people die, their faults are immediately forgotten and their accomplishments are greatly magnified. With television shows, it is no different. While Arrested Development and Party Down were great shows, their reputation was enhanced by an early exit and that led to their immortalization in recent television history.

“Are we having fun yet?”

Artistically, these two shows went out on top and didn’t last long enough to get inevitably stale. While Friends and Seinfeld went out on top in terms of ratings, passionate supporters of both shows would contest that the later episodes paled in comparison to the older episodes. Entourage, which was great for a few seasons deteriorated into an inadvertent commentary on the materialism and other social ills of American culture.

“STEVE HOLT!!”

The Office isn’t going to go out on top artistically or ratings wise. Every Thursday night I sit down on my couch, temper my expectations and prepare for the disappointment as I come to the conclusion that The Office of old is not coming back. What started as a smart workplace comedy devolved into a show that relies on ridiculous gimmicks to get a few cheap laughs. I know Steve Carell; Ed Helms, you’re no Steve Carell. I’m still a bit dumbfounded that they didn’t replace him with a strong personality and take the show in a new direction seeing as though the style has stagnated since Season 5. Instead, they chose Helms who has his merits as a supporting actor but doesn’t have a strong enough presence to carry a show. This season is pretty awful and is in a fight with Season 6 for worst season of The Office ever. It experienced a brief resurgence in Season 7 with the novelty of Michael leaving but once he was gone, the show sputtered. How I Met Your Mother is a show whose premise really didn’t lend itself well to longevity. It’s Season 7, and Ted, I no longer give a shit about how you met your wife. Like The Office, the writers are resorting to cheap plot gimmicks in vain attempts to keep people interested and further prolong the show. With an arc that never felt forced, Arrested Development and Party Down avoided similar fates and joined Judd Apatow’s early series Undeclared and Freaks and Geeks as cult classics.

“Today this boat isn’t just a boat it’s a fairy tale fantasy land where every boys a playa and every girls a bitch”

As a society we have a fascination with things that die too soon. Something about the untapped potential is thought-provoking and it creates this aura, much like we saw with James Dean who was a good actor, but his body of work doesn’t quite match the attention that he still receives today. With these shows being cancelled after only a few seasons, it allows us to hold on to those “what if’s” that truly add to the mystique that surrounds them. In Chuck Palahniuk novel Choke, he writes, “The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it.” Expectations are going to be ridiculously high and if they fail or don’t quite meet expectations, their cult classic status is compromised and their place in television lore is put at risk.

“Has anyone in this family ever even seen a chicken?”

There is something incredibly admirable about going out on top, perhaps because so few people do it. A number of legends are tarnished by overstaying their welcome. A boxer will generally receive a few unnecessary knockouts before he finally realizes it’s time to hang up the gloves. If Brett Favre retired when he should have, he’d be known as a warrior, an MVP and a Super Bowl Winner. Now he’s known as that creepy dick-pic sending guy who just wouldn’t go away. I know there is plenty of temptation and money for these shows to come back, but why ruin a fabulous legacy. The early cancellations of Arrested Development and Party Down, while disappointing, led to its placement on a pedestal and I’d be saddened if it follows the same path as the aforementioned shows who didn’t quite know when to go away.

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