Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Who Gets the Corner 'Office'?

Three episodes in to the seventh season of "the Office," and already Steve Carell is gracefully stepping out of the spotlight. Carell's contracted to play big boss Michael Scott until the end of the season, but in the meantime, other players are trying to fill his mighty shoes.

This week, Ed Helms' irritatingly sing-songy Andy got to take center stage -- quite literally -- in an episode titled "Andy's Play." Andy is starring in a local Scranton stage production of "Sweeney Todd," and he manages to get the whole Dunder-Mifflin crew out to support him in the audience. Everyone, that is, except for ex-girlfriend Erin (Ellie Kemper), who ends up having to babysit Jim and Pam's little rugrat CeeCee. Because it's her big babysitting break. And because apparently the Scranton sitter market is cornered by some very business-savvy 13-year-olds. "It's almost like they have a babysitters club," she reports, mystified. Naturally, Andy understands. But he's still hoping to steal Erin away from new beau Gabe, so he continually checks in on his cell -- even pocketing it on stage. Where, of course, it goes off in the middle of a key scene. While the scene is unnecessarily extended -- and surprisingly irritating -- the rest of Helms' performance really delivers, allowing us to see a more likable side to the otherwise annoying metrosexual with anger issues and a penchant for breaking out into song-and-dance. Here, it's genuinely appropriate, and therefore, almost endearing.
Carell's Scott, meanwhile, takes the B-story: he auditioned for the play and is holding a grudge because he wasn't cast as Sweeney Todd, so he boos the guy that was. Eeeeps. In poor taste, even by Michael Scott standards. Straight-talking Darryl (Craig Robinson, a reliable scene-stealer, who'll no doubt get his own spotlight episode later this season), tells him it's not cool, and in the end, Michael admits his shame. 
But the real charmers in this episode are Angela Kinsey and Rainn Wilson as Angela and Dwight, who are still negotiating the outcome of their procreation contract. Ice queen Angela seems to be melting and actually wants to rekindle her relationship with Dwight, but he's both oblivious and uninterested -- that is until she changes into an outfit that reminds him of the latest farm catalog. Gotta hand it to Angela, she really knows how to push his buttons. At the end of the night, she leaves him hanging, despite having, uh, punched the hole on the procreation hole punch card. She's got him right where she wants him, and the scene leaves you wishing they'd explore that relationship more, instead of leaving it to C-story.
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