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TV That Matters: 11/17 The Office, The Walking Dead

By Matt Ern, Columnist

The Office- "Pam's Replacement"

Grade: C+

In its later years, The Office has become nothing more than your average sitcom.  "Pam's Replacement," which revolves around the fact that a very pregnant Pam is jealous Jim might think her maternity leave replacement is more attractive than her, lacks all of the wittiness of the show's earlier seasons.  The Office used to uncomfortable, even a little dark.  Now it simply serves up wacky sitcom plotlines. 


The idea that a pregnant woman would be insecure about her body is nothing we haven't seen on TV before.  There were a few laughs in this storyline from Creed who makes a brief appearance, but that's about it.  The scene where Dwight pretends to fall on Jim in order to see if he has an erection is so bad it hurts.  It's weird and uncomfortable, but not in a good, comedic way.  


The characters have all been reduced to almost cartoon caricatures.  Are we really supposed to believe that Erin is so dumb that in the cold open she would mess up Andy's plan and insist on telling him that his mom died?  I don't believe Erin would be so dumb.  Her character used to be naive and simple, but much like with Kevin she's been dumbed down for cheap laughs.


In the B storyline Andy, Daryl, and Kevin go down to the warehouse to jam during their lunch break.  Robert California asks to join in and then slowly takes over the bad by inviting his musician friends over.  The guys are excited at first for the chance to bond with Robert but eventually realize that they were being pushed out.


 It seems as though Robert California only comes around to belittle Andy.  He barely interacts with the office as a whole and is usually just this external force that drives Andy into situations.  This week even lacked one of his attempts to teach the office a lesson.  Considering the limited amount of interaction between him and the rest of the characters, it's hard to really see him as Steve Carell's replacement.      


The Walking Dead- "Chupacabra"

Grade: B+

"Cupacabra" is a big step up from the rest of this relatively boring season, but it falls short at the last minute.  There are two plotlines driving the episode: Daryl is injured out in the woods looking for Sophia and Shane tries to convince Rick that he can't make the tough decisions required of a leader. 


Thematically, the Shane and Rick storyline is most important.  Shane is right, even if his cold logical thinking seems inhumane.  It's the same as when he left Otis to die.  It was horrific, but it allowed him to bring the respirator back to Carl.  Shane is right; they're wasting time looking for Sophia.  It's not what's best for the group, but Rick feels personally responsible for losing Sophia so he keeps pushing for the search to continue. 


Meanwhile, Daryl is injured when he's thrown from his horse and lands on an arrow that stabs into his back.  Visions of Merle tell him to keep fighting and make his way back.  Merle also berates Daryl for spending so much time and energy to find Sophia when he gave up go easily on finding his own brother.  It's an interesting parallel that I'm glad the show made.  As Daryl makes his way back to the farm, he has to fight off walkers and takes another fall, which bloodies him even more.


When Daryl starts walking across the field to the farm, Andrea spots him and mistakes him for a walker.  She wants to snipe him but Rick and Shane insist they just go bludgeon him.  As they get closer, Rick realizes Andrea's mistakes but she still takes her shot, apparently shooting Daryl in the head. 


Daryl is my favorite character, but I was really hoping he was going to die.  Someone on this show needs to die soon, to create a sense of urgency.  The Walking Dead has that tense, "anyone can die at any moment" feel in its first season.  I'm a sucker for shows with this intensity such as The Wire or Breaking Bad, but The Walking Dead really needs to step up its game if it wants me to care about what happens to any of these characters.  


Hopefully the reveal that Hershel keeps a barn full of walkers will make for some good action next week. 

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