Despite the fact that most contemporary sitcoms try to set themselves apart from your daddy’s STUFFY and OUT-OF-TOUCH old shows with their manipulative laugh tracks and their cheap-looking sets by filming handheld on location and using a cast of writers/executive producers, The Office boldly reminded us last night that these self-aware shows, behind their post-modern gimmicks and their mockumentary tropes, are still sitcoms after all. They did this by partaking in the noble tradition of the Flashback Montage episode, a technique used in such classic shows as Cheers, Friends, Seinfeld, Small Wonder, A Different World, and Designing Women. What happened, Office writers? Did you all decide you needed to take a nap at the same time?
Of course, with Dunder Mifflin up for sale, this episode could suggest a reset of the series, a look back before everything changes. And fair enough, the show could probably use it. But still. Watching a Flashback Montage episode of a sitcom feels like watching a millionaire collect a dividends payment. It’s not that the millionaire didn’t earn the dividends according to the rules of the game, but it still seems kind of cheap and undeserved. Don’t get me wrong, the episode was still TBS Very Funny (TBS, now showing reruns of The Office on Tuesday nights at 10/9C), but it is 2010. Supercuts are for YouTube, Hollywood. Make a note of it.
Luckily, the other Thursday night shows were not Flashback Montage episodes. Or were they? No, they were not. Or were they? The debate rages on. In the comments below.