TV RECAP: “The Office: Search Committee”

TV RECAP: “The Office: Search Committee”

Another season of The Office down. We’ve had our laughs, our cries, and our slew of other emotions and ended with the big season question of who’s going to replace Steve Carell unanswered. As Billy Bob Thornton would say, “It’s kind of like dating a German chick.”

That said, this season did go out on somewhat of a good note. Although the barrage of guest stars is a classic sitcom staple, The Office was wise to stick with well-worn comedians and spare us the caterwaulings of an out-of-place musical guest (though Carrey’s appearance comes close).

I really enjoyed Will Arnett, Ray Romano, and James Spader (whom I thought was Judge Rheinhold) working their magic, and I may be showing my old-man tendencies here, but Romano seemed the clear victor among the group, playing the sad-sacked, whiny defeatist so well I wonder if it’s a character he was saving for the darker days of Ray Barone. Catherine Tate, Ricky Gervais, Warren Buffet, and, yes, Jim Carrey, I could have taken or left—they were there simply to be there and didn’t add much.

Cameos are pretty self-contained—the guest comes on, does their schtick, and then quietly exits—and “Search Committee” doesn’t stray from that format save for Spader and Romano (whose names, I have to admit, are pretty brilliant: “Robert California” and “Merv Bronte”), who, again go above and beyond the call of gimmicks and play especially well off the rest of the cast as well as each other. Interaction instead of mere appearance would have suited this episode much better, but at least we got what we did.

In any event, all of them are there to compete for Michael’s old job before the intimidating tribunal of Jim, Gabe, and Toby, and face competition from within from Andy, Darryl, Kelly, and even Dwight. But the episode ultimately belongs to the real cast of The Office, which deliver the best laughs from some faces we haven’t seen in a while.

Creed strutting into the office, telling a nonexistent valet to leave the car running then tossing his keys into the parking lot was a highlight, as was Stanley’s blunt declaration that he doesn’t plan to live another 15 years thanks to his diet and sexual proclivities, and the best line of the night was Ryan’s half-felt throwaway, “Oh, no, Stanley: you’ll live forever.”

However, none of the candidates really stand out, save for one who’s overly concernced with returning to the Finger Lakes, and, in addition to that, Gabe’s hankering to sabotage Andy for “stealing” Erin away from him (even though Andy’s not interested in rekindling that flame, apparently), Kelly makes a Faustian bargain with Dwight as does Jim with Darryl, and all the while Pam has her hands full keeping the company afloat while Creed tries his best to run it into the ground.

For subplots, it’s a weak week: Phyllis and Erin have struck up a friendship due to the chance that Erin may be Phyllis’s long-lost daughter (in an odd callback to a few episodes ago) while Angela gets engaged to The Senator and everyone questions whether they should tell her he’s gay. Neither of the two go anywhere, nor does Erin’s brief flirtation with Andy, and the last cameo of the episode goes to Kathy Bates, returning as Jo, who drops in to see how the interview process is going.

At an hour, “Search Committee” starts feeling long at about the 25-minute mark but still manages to strike gold every once in a while.

Oddly, the most interesting development is seeing Jim become less and less likeable as he takes on more and more responsibility, which is something I’ve noticed off and on this season but came to the forefront last night. I can’t remember the last time he played a prank on Dwight or showed any emotion other than disgust and disillusionment with the rest of his co-workers.

Is this the same guy everyone was rooting for in the second season? Or even the fifth and sixth? Hopefully, for the sake of having someone pleasant to be around, Darryl gets the job next season—and not just because he’s, “Blaaaaack!”