In the twelfth episode of the fourth season of Leverage, I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH THIS EPISODE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Leverage.
I wonder how this episode would come across if you’d never seen a single episode of The Office. I think as long as you were familiar with this style, this episode would be easy to understand, but it also so heavily relies on specific references to both the British and American series that I feel like a ton of these jokes went over people’s heads.
I watched the original version of The Office right after the first season of the American version aired. I had a slight interest in watching the show and figured I should start with the original show. AND THEN IT DESTROYED ME. I had no idea what it was about; I’d never seen anything with Ricky Gervais or Martin Freeman in it. And I was pleasantly surprised both by the style of humor and the gut-wrenching drama. That combination was so new to me at the time. As I got into the American version, I was pleased that it also kept the same dichotomy. Admittedly, I only lasted about five seasons before I stopped watching the show. My interest in it waned, especially after the sole motivating arc was finally resolved, but I don’t regret getting into it at all. I mean, look, the fire drill scene is one of the most artful, poetic things ever put on television. EVER.
It’s interesting to think of the impact that this show had on television as a whole, and not just because of this specific episode of Leverage. Would we have shows like Parks and Recreation? How would the comedy landscape look without this show? This specific style – part post-modern reality TV, part meta-commentary, part absurdist comedy – has been copied plenty of times, for better and for worse. I suppose that’s why I ultimately have no issue with the format of this episode. I think it works well as a bizarre, humorous episode of Leverage, but it’s also a fantastic chance for the show to poke fun at itself, too.
Just in terms of the references to The Office alone, though, this feels spectacular, so I admit that’s part of the reason this was so fun for me. FOR EXAMPLE:
- The uncomfortable camera angles.
- DRAMATICALLY LOOKING INTO THE CAMERA. I know that is overused as hell these days, but goddamn it, I love it.
- Fred Bartley is like an overly masculine version of Michael Scott. He’s ineptitude personified, and it’s almost adorable by the end of this episode.
- The entire efficiency experts premise is so brilliant because it parodies the very same type of consultants who exist in the real world and it allows the show to poke fun of everyone else who works at Good Cheer.
- Sophie’s grift here, as the “creative” aspect of the efficiency consultants, fits so wholly into the aesthetic of The Office that it’s almost like there’s no parody happening. She is so fucking absurd here, and I loved every second of it. She’s so weird that I almost thought that Hardison was best-suited for that kind of grift, given how well he does absurdist distraction.
- The bickering between Nate and Sophie feels like a huge reference to Jim/Pam, while also being a chance for the show to explore these two characters’ idiosyncrasies. Like, I did not once think that these two people acted out of character here. This is exactly how these two would behave!
- Peter Stormare as Gunter Hanzig? Good lord, SO RIDICULOUS. Generally speaking, shows like The Office rarely break the wall separating the cast and the camera crew, and I understand why this episode did that so often. (In that sense, it reminded me more of “X-Cops” than anything else.) Gunter’s added chaos to “The Office Job” pushed this episode even further into absurdity. Aside from the final scene with him (which I thought was a little too on the nose), I thought he was a great addition to this episode.
- Parker’s greeting card suggestions. Unmistakably Parker, but also? She fits perfectly within the environment of The Office. She’s the kind of character whose strangeness is used to highlight a specific kind of juxtaposition. Greeting cards and Parker? I can’t imagine a greater juxtaposition.
- ELIOT AND HARDISON ARGUING OVER ELIOT’S SANDWICH. Like???? HOW AM I ALLOWED TO WATCH THIS? As with the other characters, these two are allowed to be themselves. We already knew Eliot was a great cook; we knew that Eliot and Hardison were super competitive and prone to argue; we knew that Hardison loved toying with Eliot every chance he got. But you could also interpret their arguing as a way for Leverage to reference the complex office politics that often played out on The Office, you know? It’s exactly the sort of plot that the show would use.
- Awkwardness. You can’t capture this kind of humor without a heavy dose of embarrassment and schadenfreude. THERE’S SO MUCH OF IT HERE.
I understand not liking this episode, but y’all, I loved it. So much!
The video for “The Office Job” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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