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Well, sports fans, it appears that Sprinkles, the most beloved fixture of The Office is officially dead. Long live Sprinkles. But that's hardly the only bad news on the Office fourth season premiere. It's a veritable badluckapalooza as Michael (Steve Carell) mows down hatchet-faced Meredith (Kate Flannery) with his car, Sprinkles shucks off its mortal coil after a harrowing buried alive stint in Angela's (Angela Kinsey) freezer, and Pam's (Jenna Fischer) computer totally crashed while downloading online celebrity porn.

In more ambiguous news Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam are officially an item, something I feel deeply ambivalent about. When re-watching the second and third seasons of The Office while preparing for this feature, I found the are-they-or-aren't-they dynamic easily the show's weakest element, in part because I'm starting to sour on John Krasinski. Is he a skilled actor or a merely a superb reactor? It seems like Krasinski officially has exactly two modes: wry "Can you believe this foolishness I have to deal with?" deadpan and trembly, vaguely Braffian "I'm experiencing some deep, profound, kinda emo romantic emotions here" sincerity. I similarly grew tired of swooning reaction shots where Jim says something mildly droll and Pam oozes girlish ardor to the point where they could add fluttering little cartoon hearts emanating out of her pores in post-production and it wouldn't seem out of place.


Thankfully the Jim/Pam romance, the most talked-about television union since Bert and Ernie first started hitting it, was relegated to a b-story in the Office season premiere, most of which focused on Michael's hilariously misguided attempts to atone for hitting Meredith with his car by staging a 5K fun run for rabies, a disease for which there is already a cure.

I also love the Dwight (Rainn Wilson)/Angela pairing, which functions as a sort of evil funhouse mirror of Jim and Pam's more photogenic affair. I particularly enjoyed the utterly casual way that Dwight informed Angela that her cat was dead. Again, the devil is in the details: I'm an unabashed cat person myself, but looking at Angela's pictures of Sprinkles I found myself thinking, to paraphrase a legendary Onion line, "That cat is crap." Sprinkles appears to be one very evil fuck, not unlike her owner.


True to form, this episode of The Office was firing on pretty much all cylinders: some big-ass laughs, some wonderfully uncomfortable moments of anguish-based comedy, and some nice character work, especially with Creed (Creed Batton) (as both a follower and a leader of various cults) and the oft-overlooked Toby (Paul Lieberstein). I could have used more of Ryan (B.J. Novak), whose unexpected evolution from a poor-man's Jim to evil Machiavellian fuck has been one of the show's most inspired developments and provided a perfect capper for last season's finale.

Something tells me we'll be seeing a whole lot more of this Ryan fellow, quite possibly in episodes written by, um, B.J Novak. I remember when Steve Carell announced thirty more episodes of The Office this season during his last visit to Daily Show, the audience started applauding wildly in what appeared to be a spontaneous outpouring of genuine geek love. Well, judging by the show's solid first episode back, that enthusiasm is richly deserved.


Grade B+

Stray observations:

-Man, how mind-numbingly awful does that Dan In Real Life look? I love me some Steve Carell, but he's seriously taxing all the goodwill he accrued through The Office, The Daily Show, Anchorman, Little Miss Sunshine, and The 40 Year Old Virgin


-I'm with Noel in rooting for Toby to win Pam over Jim and not just because I'm tiring of Krasinski's droll everyslacker routine

-I'm also loving Michael's inexplicable, unjustified hatred of Toby. Then again Toby is the voice of reason and sanity in the Dunder-Mifflin office, so that's probably why Michael has so much contempt for him in the first place.


-What hath the big-name-guest-director-crazy Office wrought? I recently saw a commercial for an episode of something or other directed by Tony Scott. I know the man has directed some good movies (True Romance and, uh, um, something else right?), but is anyone really all that excited about seeing an hour-long episode from the dude that did Domino?

-I was feeling Ryan's power-scruff and ominous black shirt. I could be wrong, but I suspect that one of my favorite lines from the commercial "I don't remember much about Dunder-Mifflin. I think I might have dated a black girl" didn't actually appear in the episode itself


-Pam's looking pretty glammed-up these days. She's a wallflower no more

-I'm going to miss Rashida Jones, assuming she's gone for good


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