The Office – ‘Stress Relief’ Episode Review

Michael Scott

So this was the much hyped Office episode airing after the Super Bowl, usually a sweet spot for shows to grow in audience following the most watched telecast of the television season. This year NBC gave the honor to The Office, super-sized it to 1hr and threw in some big names to build it up. In execution the episode was hilarious from start-to-end, at times not the sharp poignant humor Office fans are accustom to, but definitely offering broader comedy angles to appeal to the larger mass audience.

The tone was set early with a ridiculously hilarious slapstick cold open. It did a good job attempting to keep the Super Bowl audience afloat. The scenes with CFO David Wallace were vintage Office equipped with witty conversation and classic Michael, facial expressions et al. I thought the writers did a good job incorporating the “big names” without escaping from the day-to-day reality of Scranton, PA (although if you blinked you probably missed Jessica Alba’s appearance). Also, any episode with the ‘Nard dawg dropping vocals should be considered an instant hit (the Stayin’ Alive scene alone was killer comedy). For syndication purposes, it seemed like the hour long episode was basically broken down into two story segments with the latter portion showcasing a roast of Michael Scott (“friends only, Toby”). Although the best zingers came from Michael himself with the “boom-roasted” 1-liners directed at each employee. BTW, “what’s a text?”

Overall I think the episode did a good job “re-introducing” each character by highlighting each one’s eccentricities to an audience that may be watching for the first time. I’m glad the writers did not go over the top with a wedding or surprise pregnancy. While the episode drew 22 million viewers, which more than doubled its average season audience, it fell pretty hard from the 98 million who watched the Super Bowl. Although the late start (10:40 PM EST) may have averted some viewers, personally, I don’t think The Office is a show that will ever really catch on with the general public. Its dry comedy really only appeals to a niche audience (with shows like Arrested Development and 30 Rock suffering from the same fate). Jim+Pam’s Ross+Rachel angle allows the show to reach out to a larger fan base and attract higher viewer ship but we will never see Office rating numbers resemble NBC’s past comedy hits.

Overall, a hilarious episode with high levels of comedy sustained throughout the hour: 8.3/10

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