The ''Office'' premiere: Dangerous Michael
Michael Scott's lonely breakfast in his newly girly condo aside, season 4 of The Office opened with a bang: One second Michael's driving while rambling, and the next he's crashing into Meredith! On company property, with company property! Betcha 1 billion Stanley nickels you didn't see that coming. By the way, was Michael driving that fast? Is it blaming the victim to wonder if Meredith's reflexes were impaired by a rum-spiked latte? The hapless ''alkie'' (Angela's slur, not mine!) ended up hospitalized with a broken pelvis oh, and rabies! Despite painkillers, Meredith was none too thrilled with Michael, who pulled out her IV while tangling it in balloons and then, desperate for forgiveness, climbed onto a patient with a broken pelvis for a full-body hug. Gotta hand it to Steve Carell for bringing the physical comedy. I missed his mixture of wannabe mensch and total menace all summer.
And what a difference a summer makes. Okay, well, not for most Office characters. Michael is still gifted at making inane assertions (''European offices are naked all the time!''); Dwight is ever obsessed with wildlife (see: bat birth control); Jan remains unemployed and mentally fragile (staring daggers at a stripper who recognized Michael from Bob Vance's bachelor party); and Toby continues to live out his destiny as the Sadsack of Scranton (one word: pantsed.) But look out for new Pam! The perceptive receptionist was radiating confidence. No longer content to mew ''Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam'' all day, she's found the curiosity in her private life to try buying a celebrity sex tape, and the moxie in her professional life to efficiently lead staffers on an outing to visit laid-up Meredith. What a breakthrough that beach speech turned out to be.
So, what of the ''it's a date'' cliff-hanger that ended season 3? Yes, indeed (despite somewhat inexplicable attempts to hide it from colleagues), Jim and Pam have started seeing each other! Wish we knew a wee bit more: how regularly they're waking up together, whether they've said ''I love you'' or made long-term plans, all that mushy stuff. Their need to date on the QT perplexed me I mean, nobody's cheating. Can't the Pam and Jim plotline have a bigger obstacle than self-imposed, weakly enforced secrecy say, Andy Bernard crashing at Jim's place after being evicted during a rage relapse, or Jan proposing a threesome? Seems like this story line's details will be doled out very sparingly, so all we can do is trust the writers. (Recent Emmy winners, bravo!)
If you've ever found yourself wondering who this show's villain is, the wait is over. I never thought Temp was a dreamboat, but his college-boy image had its appeal. Now? Yikes! Ryan resembles a swarthy, underweight bouncer waiting in the back room of a casino for his shift to start. His bland menswear isn't all he ditched. I used to love the awkwardness of his quiet desperation when he'd get trapped in the crosshairs of the ding-a-lings who ran his life (Kelly and Michael). Ryan's ex hasn't stopped pining for him (nor has she figured out where Buddha fits into Hinduism), but odds are boy-crazy Kelly will nab a new guy soon, and probably with a tickle tackle. Meanwhile, I can't wait to see if the corporate ''wunderkind'' with the citified makeover will replace Toby as Michael's No. 1 nemesis.
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