The Office

Backstrom

A year removed from his iconically weird role as Dwight Kurt Schrute III on NBC’s The Office, 47 year old Rainn Wilson is returning to network television in 2014, starring in the off-kilter crime drama, Backstrom. Fox jumped on the series, originally developed for CBS by Bones creator Hart Hanson and for a time in pilot limbo, ordering 13 episodes of the show based on Swedish novelist Leif G.W. Persson’s series of books featuring the prickly, self-destructive detective.

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Arrested Development

I’m not a big fan of TV Shows with laugh tracks. It might be pretentious, but it always seemed like laugh tracks were a crutch for shows with bad writing, like hearing it made you more likely to laugh at a joke you’d otherwise roll your eyes at. This always made me uncomfortable because it seemed like such a pretentious thought. My shows, like Arrested Development and Futurama, don’t need laugh tracks because they’re better (I’d think to myself) and you idiots wouldn’t know good writing if it got way too high, fell asleep on your couch and woke up in the middle of the night to eat all your cereal (Good Writing is kind of a stoner). But good news, everyone: that pretentious thought was wrong. Laugh tracks have nothing to do with the quality of writing, and everything to do with what the show is about.

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Andy Bernard The Office

In addition to its American counterpart, Ricky Gervais’s The Office has been remade in at least a half dozen different countries, including Chile (La Ofis) and Israel (HaMisrad). It’s often reductive to declare any cultural phenomenon universal or ubiquitous, but, more so than any other television series concocted during the twenty-first century, The Office approaches omnipresence. There’s something about the show’s droll depiction of quotidian cubicle drama that resonates across borders, languages, and cultures. It’s a profound statement about globalization that so many different countries recognize such a similar work environment to the point that such similar comic situations can be structured around it. For every fluorescent-lit cathedral of number-crunchers and quota-seekers, there seems to be an inevitable David Brent or Michael Scott. Since Steve Carell’s departure from the US Office, the show nose-dived into forced and contrived relationship drama. Despite its acts of trading in its trademark (and incredibly effective) cringe-humor for uninspired quirk, I’ve stuck with the show. Every now and then, The Office still delivers an inspired set-piece that reminds me of why I used to wait anxiously for a new episode each Thursday. And every now and again, characters connect genuinely and develop that way that pays off when you’ve been sticking with a sitcom through its ups and down for nine straight seasons. But The Office has made a remarkably different transition late in its last season, where the show’s focus has switched from depicting the droll absurdity of everyday middle class labor to something […]

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There’s a great short starring Martin Freeman making the rounds this week, and I recommend watching that two-year-old film, titled The Girl is Mime, when you get the chance. But there’s another short led by the actor that I’d like to showcase this weekend in anticipation of The Hobbit. Way back in 1998, before Freeman was in Sherlock or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Love Actually or even his breakthrough, the original UK version of The Office, he had two small yet notable gigs. One was appearing alongside Doctor Who‘s Shaun Dingwall in Vito Rocco’s music video for Faith No More’s cover of “I Started a Joke.” The other was starring in the 11-minute black and white film I Just Want to Kiss You. Written and directed by Jamie Thraves, best known for music videos he’s helmed for Blur, Radiohead and Coldplay, this French New Wave-style throwback has Freeman looking very young and very skinny and actually quite goofy as a guy just hanging out with his mate and meeting girls and getting into trouble with his dad. The goofiness is a bit surprising if you primarily think of Freeman as the straight man of The Office and Hitchhiker’s Guide and other such gigs. I certainly don’t know of him doing a lot of voices and vocal sound effects and the sort of spry physicality he exhibits in the short these days. Yet it does fit nicely alongside his completely physical performance in The Girl is Mime, and though he’s […]

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Culture Warrior

Last week, Thomas Catan and Amy Schatz of The Wall Street Journal published an article about the Justice Department’s antitrust investigation into whether or not cable companies are manipulating consumers’ access to streaming competitors of television content in order to reduce competition. The investigation’s central question is this: are cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner setting data caps to limit download time, speed, and amount of content in order to stave consumers off from using alternatives like Hulu and Netflix? Furthermore, the DOJ is investigating whether or not selective data limits applied to certain streaming outlets (like the fact that Comcast’s data limits can apply to streaming Hulu, but not Comcast’s own Xfinity services) violates Comcast’s legally-binding oath to not “unreasonably discriminate” against competitors. According to the WSJ, “Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday suggested he had sympathy for those who want to ‘cut the cord’ rather than paying for cable channels they don’t watch. At a Senate hearing, Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) said cable bills are ‘out of control’ and consumers want to watch TV and movies online. Mr. Holder responded, ‘I would be one of those consumers.’” What’s most important about this story for TV consumers is not so much the specific outcomes of this investigation (though that will no doubt have wide-ranging but uncertain implications), but the fact that lawmakers, regulators, and the industry will continue to be forced to recognize new distinctions being made between cable companies, networks, and individual shows as citizens increasingly […]

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Channel Guide: A Column About TV

I’m not generally a fan of the phrase “jumped the shark.” I think it’s presumptuous; as if I personally decided the standards with which a show should continue, and how it should be evaluated. I know what you’re saying “but… that’s exactly what you do.” Yes, yes it is. But that doesn’t mean I don’t oftentimes feel bad about it. So when it came time to think of what aspect of 2011’s television offerings I would break down for your perusal, a nagging feeling piqued in the back of my mind – a lot of what’s on television should no longer be on television. And I’m not just talking about shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, or any other number of programs that have worn out their proverbial welcome in the Neilsen households of America. No, I’m referring specifically to the handful of TV shows that chose 2011 as the year to hammer that final nail in the coffin of television irrelevancy. Just what, pray tell, are these shows that I’ve deemed no longer worthy of filling my DVR? Read on, and when preparing the hate mail, remember that Mikela has one A, not two.

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Channel Guide: A Column About TV

Editor’s Note: We are very excited to welcome you to the relaunch of Channel Guide, our twice weekly column covering the world of television. Taking over the column are not one, but two talented ladies with a wealth of knowledge and wit. Every Wednesday will feature a new essay from Mikela Floyd, a newcomer to FSR and a voice we’re really excited to be able to share with all of you. And now, on with the show… Something’s happening on network television, and it’s conjuring some pretty serious childhood flashbacks. That’s right, TV’s got a pretty big mean streak these days, and it’s got me feeling like my weekly viewing habits are just one televised squabble over the seating arrangements at the cool kids’ table. Sure, there are some notably peppy programs filling my DVR, but for every ‘Steak Me Home Tonight’ sandwich (Happy Endings) and anorexia-stricken stewardess (Pan Am), there are innumerable instances of primetime snark that are getting meaner and meaner.

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This Week in DVD

This is a pretty big week for DVD releases with plenty of titles worth buying and renting as well as a couple worth skipping completely. There’s no real common thread here aside from almost half of titles featured below being TV shows on DVD. The best of the bunch include the second and third seasons, respectively, of Community and Parks & Recreation, but other TV releases include the classic seventies series Police Story, the trippy Sigmund & the Sea Monsters, the piss poor Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, and more. But there are some great releases for film fans too including Hanna and X-Men First Class. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Rebirth The events of 9/11 affected all Americans in one way or another, but for many people the nightmare struck very close to home. Jim Whitaker’s documentary was almost a decade in the making and follows five of those people as they deal with the events across the years. Each year we revisit with a son who lost his mother, a woman who lost the love of her life, a man who lost his brother, another who lost his best friends, and a woman who suffered massive burns across her head and body. We see them descend into depression, struggle with survivor’s guilt, and hopefully emerge whole again. Everyone grieves differently, and this ultimately triumphant and redemptive film shows it as a necessary step when coping with tragedy. Time lapse […]

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Yup, it’s that time of the year again. That time of the year where we TV folk bitch and moan about what shows won’t be getting some golden Emmy love because the Academy is full of old people who think basic cable is what holds up the Brooklyn Bridge, which they also saw get built… I think… That said, this year’s Emmy Nominations are no more surprising than they were last year. Mad Men leads in the scripted drama series dept with nineteen nominations, but more interestingly, the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce leads the overall with twenty one nominations. Before we get and further into this, let’s check out some of the shows that didn’t get nominated for anything in either overall, acting or technical categories (not that any of this matters, like usual).

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Culture Warrior

Episodes and seasons and weeks after its inspiration and its humor have peaked, I still continue to watch new episodes of The Office week in and week out. I don’t know why – I never do this with dramatic shows, only with comedies – but I tend to stick with comedy shows whose legacy I appreciate even if their time has passed, either out of respect, blind hope, or simply the desire to have some noise in the room while I take a break to eat a meal or fold laundry. While The Office certainly isn’t what it used to be, even before Steve Carell left, it’s still an inoffensive and enjoyable way to pass some time. I can’t deny that the affinity I developed for the show’s characters early on in the series has carried me through a lot of its creative droughts (in other words, I hardly watch it only for its comedy) even as more recent network sitcoms like Modern Family, Community, and (especially) Parks and Recreation have made me LOL significantly more often. But in the bizarre cameos leading up to a strange and dry seventh season finale, The Office seems to have encountered much greater problems than a rudimentary lack of inspiration typical for the (possibly cyclical) lifespan of a long-running television show. The Office seems to have rejected the defining characteristics that made it unique in the first place.

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s newest late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?

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With premiere week over I’ve compiled a list of the week’s top premieres from each night. The winner of each night is based upon the quality of the writing, the shows entertainment value and if it’s a new series, the shows sustainability. This year had some extremely heavy hitters and some of the best performances we have seen on the small screen. So without further ado, here are the winners of the FSR Fall 2010 Watch List (please note that this list only applies to shows that started before or during the week of September 19th). Sunday: Boardwalk Empire In what should come as no surprise, Boardwalk Empire was top dog on Sunday. I’m not big into period pieces which is why I really never got into Mad Men, but Scorsese has made me fall in love with the 20′s and Atlantic City. Steve Buscemi is a great lead and a guy I can’t wait to watch every week. If only Scorsese could direct every episode and not just the pilot.

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Welcome back, it’s time for the longest day of the week. That pivotal day before Friday when everything gets simple. Thursday is also a great night for television, and this year is no different. Actually, this year is probably the most jam packed night of the week on the small screen. Everything from cops to vampires to college to dead people to spys to India, this Thursday has it all. So go grab that 16oz beer from the fridge and some fresh AAA batteries for the DVR remote because here comes Part V of the FSR Fall 2010 Watch List!

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Community

Nominations for the 62nd annual Emmy Awards were announced today — and boy, are they a let-down. Plenty of great shows were snubbed while some usual suspects were treated to another round of nominations. In the end, it’s hard to argue with several nominations for Breaking Bad, some send-off noms for Lost and a round of names from the Mad Men cast on the list. But I can’t help but wonder why recognition wasn’t paid to some of television’s best drama, namely Sons of Anarchy, or its best and most overlooked comedies, shows like Community and the dearly departed Party Down. Then of course, there’s Conan O’Brien getting a nomination for The Tonight Show. That made me giggle.

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Carrell has previously stated that he is unlikely to return to NBC’s highest rated series before, and only made that leaning more solid during further questioning. Carrell said, “I was only contracted through seven seasons, and I think it’s time for Michael to move on. I feel like we’ve done everything with him that we could.”

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Rob Hunter loves movies. He also loves competing against the Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company with his own paper company called Disemboweled Trees Inc. These two joys come together in the form of cash money payments that he receives every week and immediately uses to buy more DVDs. This week… Angela Lansbury, Jewish detectives, haunted houses, and more!

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office-space

Is Extract a de facto sequel to Office Space? Would returning to the world of red staplers and TPS reports be such a bad thing? Yes – says that world’s creator.

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AwkwardOffice

Prepare to cover your eyes, as we reveal the kings of the awkward laugh. Don’t. Look. Away. Wimps.

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gervais-cemetary-1

First image of Ricky Gervais as Len Taylor in the currently filming Gervais/Merchant joint Cemetery Junction.

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jake-kasdan-1

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the script for Bad Teacher focuses on a “foul-mouthed” teacher who romantically pursues one of her colleagues. As well, it looks like Jake Kasdan will be directing.

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