'The Office': Ison-pray Ike-may

Stevecarell_theoffice_s2_240As a fan of both the British and American Office, watching Thursday's episode -- written by series creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant -- was a fun when-worlds-collide exercise. There were moments where I could definitely picture David Brent delivering some of Michael Scott's lines, particularly the "Close your eyes and picture a convict" bit early in the show.

Despite that, though, Steve Carell put his own stamp on Gervais' dialogue to -- as is pretty much routine on this show now -- very, very funny effect. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Prison Mike.

Not only did Gervais, Merchant and Carell create a bang-on imitation of Scared Straight-style shows as Michael tried to convince his staff that Dunder Mifflin was not, in fact, worse than prison, but they also gave us several cover-your-eyes moments (that's two episodes in a row with a high cringe factor; I say bring it on). Michael's on-and-off tough-guy accent (was that Jersey? Brooklyn? Lord knows), his pre-formed bandanna, the Dementors remark -- can you really blame Martin for quitting?

The B-story was pretty much gold too, with Jim leading Andy (Ed Helms grows on me more each week -- make him a regular, Office folks!) far, far astray in his wooing of Pam. I'm not sure Pig Latin has ever made me laugh that much, and I also learned something: Apparently disc golf is known to enthusiasts as "folf."

Interesting little coda to that as well, with Jim dissuading Karen from joining in the prank. Nice to see he still cares about his friend enough not to rub his new girl in her face. And is it me, or is Pam paying a little more attention to her appearance with Jim back?

Other bits of goodness from Thursday's Office:

  • Michael's entire bout of politically correct camera-playing when he found out Martin was a con, capped by "I am not going to miss him, and that's not because he's black."
  • Kevin's, uh, rudimentary understanding of Martin's crime: "That sounds like what I do here every day."
  • Stanley's muttered "fantastic" as Hannah was explaining that her son's favorite color is pink.
  • Most offensive Dwight utterance ever: "Halfsie."
  • Toby's gentle explanation that Jim, Kevin, Ryan et al were just messing with Michael with all their talk about how great prison must be. Is there a more fundamentally decent character on TV right now than Toby?

Enough from me: What did you think of Thursday's Office? And how did you like the first night of NBC's new comedy block?

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