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TV That Matters 9/27/12: The Office, Parks & Recreation, Downton Abbey

Matt Ern Columnist The Office- “The New Guys” Grade: B+

Coming face to face with someone that reminds you of a younger version of yourself it can be a strange and sobering experience, one that lets you reflect on the decisions you’ve made so far and where you thought you’d be in life when you were their age.  When Dwight and Jim come face to face with the new employees, dubbed “Dwight Jr.” and “New Jim” and hailed as the new versions of them, they each take the news differently.

Dwight Jr.’s drive to be a salesman and natural talents at balancing intimidate Dwight and make him question his importance.  Dwight overcompensates for this by attempting to ride a bike on a tightrope over the parking lot.

New Jim’s desire to make something more with his life despite his contentment to just settle into work at Dunder Mifflin in the meantime resonates with Jim and his own past ambitions, enough so that he accepts an offer a friend made him to start a company with him using an idea Jim had in college.  But the job is in Philly and Pam has made it expressly clear that she doesn’t want her boring life to change.

It’s also a reminder that The Office can still do a good season long story arc when their back is against the wall.  Faced with their last season, the writers will have to do for these characters what they did for Michael and create some meaningful resolution for this nine-year documentary about the employees of a paper company.  And a crisis about taking the next step professionally for Jim and addressing some of the ambitions he once had is a great direction to take his character in the final season.

Maybe I’m being too optimistic and all the good setup done this episode will be squandered on another mediocre season- but this episode can stand on its own anyway for Andy developing Michael’s hatred for Toby and Creed’s voiceover at the end about the circus.

 

Parks and Rec- “Ms. Knope Goes to Washington”  Grade: B

It’s a sad day when I watch an episode of Parks and Rec that I don’t really care for, but I knew this time would come eventually.  For everything that works in “Ms. Knope Goes to Washington” there’s something a little off.

My main problem with the episode was the way it portrayed Ron.  He was completely over the top to the point that he was almost a cartoon.  It’s the same issue I had with Tom last season- a show taking the aspects of a character that were funny in small doses and blowing them out of proportion.

Ron attempting to throw a massive barbeque should have been one of the best things the show has ever done (his hamburger cook-off with Chris is one of my favorite Ron moments) but instead I found myself getting tired of Ron Swanson- something I never thought I’d say.  Him turning down Jerry’s request for corn on the cob was great, but I refuse to believe anyone would think it’s okay to slaughter a pig in front of children at a barbeque and then eat it.

The Ben and Leslie stuff worked fine and I think the conflict that’s been set up for them this season is really great.  But I’m worried that I’ll end up losing Ron the way I did Tom last season, and I’m not sure I can handle that.

 

 

Downton Abbey- “Episode 2” Grade: B+

Money problems abound on Downton Abbey this season.  The Crawleys will certainly lose Downton without a last minute bailout and the pressure is on to find one.  A serendipitous solution to the problem seems to be Matthew receiving word that Lavinia’s father has named his heir, but Matthew feels so much guilt that he plans to give all the money away.  This prompts Mary and Violet to attempt to get the money from Mary’s rich American grandmother.

This new conflict over Matthew’s money is an interesting one for him and Mary to overcome this season.  After all the hurdles they had to leap over simply to get married, it’s a little heartbreaking to not get to see them happily enjoying their first few months of marriage.  Not that things are happy anywhere else in Downton.

Mrs. Hughes is awaiting test results to see if she has cancer, Lady Edith finds her efforts to pursue Sir Anthony stalled by her father, and a war wages downstairs between Thomas and Alfred.  Thomas continues to prove that he’s one of the worst people you could ever meet, but it’s a lot of fun to watch him nonetheless.

The most heartbreaking thing for me is Bates’ continued incarceration- particularly the situation unfolding with his new cellmate.  I was appropriately nervous after he threatened to cut Bates, but even more upset to see Bates get up and throw the man against the wall.  I can’t bear to see a Bates hardened by prison.

 

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