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The Office: "Prince Family Paper"

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If I know one thing about the world wide webernet it’s that cyber-surfers would rather talk about just about anything other than the attractiveness of famous women. So I can write this A.V Club post confident in the knowledge that it will not, under any circumstances, devolve into an extended argument about the hotness of Hilary Swank. I just know it in my bones. Besides, it’s not as if there’s anything to discuss. Of course Swank is hot. She might not be beautiful or cute and she may have the giant chompers of a Shetland pony but of course she’s sexy.


With that out of the way, we can now concentrate on the extremely serious business of relentlessly dissecting twenty-two minutes of extremely silly television comedy. But before we do we should probably acknowledge that Swank, like Kirsten Dunst and Uma Thurman, blurs the line between sexy and just plain weird-looking. Depending on the angle, she can either look extraordinarily hot or like a bit of a transsexual.

I missed last week’s episode of The Office since I was in Park City getting my Sundance on: mad props to Scott for filling in for me. I’ve got to say though that I found tonight’s episode a little disappointing. The Office has proven itself capable of greatness and gut-wrenching pathos often enough that it can’t really get away with being mildly amusing.

Tonight was about as inconsequential as The Office gets. With the exception of Michael’s moral quandary as to whether or to take advantage of the naivety of a comically friendly rival paper company (Prince Family Paper) it was all about gags, some inspired, some relatively arbitrary.

The show got off to a promising start with a classic Jim prank: attaching an insanely long piece of wire to Dwight’s computer, then watching with supreme satisfaction as Dwight followed the mystery wire all the way up a telephone pole. I would have respected the gag a lot more if the payoff was Dwight climbing a telephone pole in the background of Jim’s confessional. Alas, the show tipped its hand a little too strongly by having Jim swivel around and assert that he’d managed to make it up the telephone pole, so Dwight could undoubtedly follow suit.


It was amusing, but it also felt like the kind of gag the show has pulled off dozens, if not hundreds of times, before. The A plot for tonight’s episode had Michael and Dwight travel to a family-owned paper company to do some corporate espionage at the behest of David Wallace. Michael goes undercover as Michael Scarn, businessman but Dwight chooses to go as himself, a disgruntled employee at a second rate paper company called Dunder-Mifflin who chafes under the control of his incompetent boss.

There were some great Dwightisms in tonight’s episode, like when the kindly, paternal head of the rival company says he can’t fire an employee Dwight singles out (Daily Show alum Dan Bakkedahl) because he’s his son and Dwight brusquely informs him that hes his son now and consequently deserves the job.


“Prince Family Paper” pitted Michael’s deep-seated urge to be liked and seen as a nice guy against his desperate need to impress father figures like David Wallace and get ahead in business. With Dwight as the demon on his shoulder he ultimately chose the cold-blooded route (he doesn’t want to end up one of those overpowered single-cell sharks) without too much anguish.

In perhaps the silliest B-story in recent memory, The Dunder-Mifflin office takes advantage of Michael and Dwight’s absence to stage an elaborate debate as to whether or not Hilary Swank is hot. Not cute or beautiful but hot. Oscar corralled borderline-scientific evidence to back up his assertion that Swank may be attractive but not hot while Kevin argued, “She looks like a monster!” It was a clever commentary on the sort of stupid, pointless distractions wage slaves throw themselves into to escape the crushing banality of their everyday lives but it also felt a little cheap and a little familiar, like the episode as a whole.


Grade: B-

Stray Observations—

—I guess this was covered a little last week but how on Earth does Dunder-Mifflin stay in business in the current sub-Arctic business environment?


—Do you think the recession-bordering-on-Great Depression II (if you liked the first one just wait ‘til you see the sequel!) will be acknowledged in future episodes?

—It was weird seeing John Krasinski play a decidedly un-Jim-like character in Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. It’s not an entirely successful film by any stretch of the imagination but it does prove conclusively that Krasinski can do more than react wryly to his co-star’s shenanigoats and gaze longingly at Jenna Fischer


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