Last night, I watched a classic episode of the Office: Diversity Day!
Why Was I Watching It:
Down here in Dallas, they show reruns of The Office twice a day on Channel 27. I can literally say that I’ve probably seen every episode about 20 times at this point and now, if I’m home at night with nothing to do, I’m more likely to see what’s on LMN. However, Diversity Day remains like one of my favorite episodes of the Office ever so, when I saw it was going to be on, I had to watch it.
What Was It About:
As the show begins, we find ourselves in the familiar offices of Dunder Mifflin Scranton. However, things are slightly different from the office we force ourselves to watch today. Kelly Kapoor is dressed conservatively. Michael Scott, with his thinning hair slicked back, is still in the manager’s office and, as opposed to being a somewhat docile idiot manchild, is just kind of a jerk. Jim and Pam are still cute and flirty (and Pam is still dressing like someone who actually works in an office). Robert California is nowhere to be seen and, for that matter, neither is Andy Bernard. In fact, we manage to get through this entire episode without anyone breaking out into song. Dwight’s pretty much the same, though.
Basically, Michael has offended just about everyone in the office by performing the infamous “Chris Rock Routine.” Corporate has responded by sending down Mr. Brown (a hilarious Larry Wilmore) from Diversity Today who leads the entire office through “sensitivity training.” Naturally, Michael feels threatened by this and so he decides to form his own company (which he calls Diversity Tomorrow because “…(T)oday is almost over.”) and leads his own sensitivity training workshop. This, of course, leads to Michael eventually getting slapped by Kelly when Michael asks her if she wants to step into his convenience shop and sample his “cookie cookie.”
Yes, Diversity Day is old school Office, back when the show was both incredibly funny and achingly sad too. It was also the first episode to be broadcast after the pilot and it remains one of the best episode of the Office ever. Whenever I catch these old episode of The Office in syndication, I’m always surprised to discover just how sweet and oddly poignant these shows were. Michael is truly a bad boss, the characters are clearly coworkers as opposed to being friends, and there’s none of the silliness that has come to dominate the show after the third season. One reason why the relationship between Jim and Pam was so special in those early episodes is because its made clear that both of them would spend their entire workday miserable if not for the time they spend talking to each other.
I think the main difference between these old episodes and the new episodes is that, if someone had suggested everyone who works at Office spend the weekend together at a Garden Party during the first three seasons, no one would have shown up. That is perfectly epitomized in this episode as all the characters find themselves forced to interact in an awkward attempt to celebrate diversity and mutual respect. The show works because Michael is so hilariously clueless to the fact that most of his employees would just rather work until five and then go home.
(If this episode was made today, Andy would end up pulling out his guitar and leading everyone in a sing along.)
This episode is also full of wonderful little moments and an observant eye for the details that distinguish a good show from a great one. Among my favorite moments: Dwight’s explanation of what a hero truly is (and Mr. Brown’s patient response of, “You’re thinking of a superhero.”), Michael’s cheaply done Diversity Tomorrow Video, and Pam finally falling asleep on Jim’s shoulder.
What Didn’t Work:
The episode itself was about as perfect as perfect can be but as I watched it, it was hard for me not to think about how different The Office is today as compared to what it once was. And that’s all I’ll say about that.
“Oh my God! Just like me!” Moments:
I’ve always enjoyed talking about diversity training because it gives me an excuse to mention that I’m an Italian-Spanish-German-Irish American.
Reruns are always better. Plus, if you are a racist, I will attack you with the north…