Run For The Hills
It's Veep vs. Friends in the battle of the fun runs and we ask who wrote it better?
The challenge with keeping workplace comedies fresh eventually boils down to “How do you get the cast out of the office?” How do you change the location for an episode to spice up the show while still making it believable that everyone in the cast shows up there? In the case of Veep and The Office, the answer is a “fun run.”
Who Did It First?
The Office kicked off its fourth season with the “Fun Run” two-parter on September 27, 2007, nearly six years before Veep aired “Running.”
Winner: The Office
Who Did It Funnier?
Both episodes have amazing moments of physical comedy that galvanize the plot. The Office's “Fun Run” begins with the best cold open in the history of the show: Michael Scott (Steve Carell) hitting Meredith (Kate Flannery) with his car the Dunder Mifflin parking lot. Since this is Season 4 of The Office, it really is Michael Scott at his Michael Scottiest: trying to spin the situation so that he is equally blameless and beloved. When the doctors at the hospital discover that Meredith was likely exposed to rabies –- from a previous episode in which Dwight (Rainn Wilson) trapped a bat on her head with a bag –- Michael spins himself as a hero, because a cracked pelvis can’t kill you but rabies can and Meredith might never have known she had rabies if Michael hadn’t hit her with his car. But Michael’s guilt isn’t fully assuaged until he organizes Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race For The Cure, a title which he makes Pam say in its entirety when she answers the phone. The posters for the event ask, “Do you think you have what it takes? To Run 5,000 Miles for Rabies Awareness?” And the white Livestrong-inspired wristbands are imprinted with the phrase Support The Rabid. “Do I need to be liked?” Michael asks. “Absolutely not. I like to be liked. I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked. But it’s not like this compulsive need to be liked. Like my need to be praised.” As a bonus, we get to see Michael’s pixelated balls.
On Veep, flush with hubris derived from a temporary and uncharacteristic wave of positive press, Vice-President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) begins focusing on her run for the White House, six years in the future. On her way to a secret fundraising breakfast with the rich and powerful, Selina absent-mindedly walks into a glass door, shattering it with her face. “That woman has become a living metaphor of her own career,” says Dan Egan (Reid Scott). Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky) adds, “She just walked into a glass door, which is somewhat ironic, building up to an invisible primary.” Selina suffers no serious injuries, but her face and hands end up bloodied as a result of dozens of superficial cuts. As a first aid effort, her aide Gary Walsh (Tony Hale) gives Selina St. John’s Wort, which combines with the antidepressants he gave her earlier to make her high as a kite. While her team attempts to strategize and spin, Selina recovers (sobers up?) in a hotel room, sitting on the bed wearing a hotel bathrobe and Band-Aids all over her face. Blissfully stoned, she pats the bed and shouts, “Get over here, Gingerbread!” to Mike McClintock (Matt Walsh), then promises to buy his boat. When Amy arrives, Selina tries to show off: “Amy, watch this. Look how tiny I can make myself. Watch this.” Because of the political shitstorm brewing, basically from all of the preceding events of the season, Selina has no choice but to participate in a 10k “fun run” the following day. So she runs, face bleeding and covered in bandages. In order to convey the proper talking points, virtually her whole team ends up running with her, including the hapless Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons). Senior strategist Kent Davison (Gary Cole) describes “Jonad” best this episode: “He’s an idiot. I’m surprised he gets to work without being hit by a car or punched in the mouth.”
Winner: It’s close, but The Office.
Who Made It More Believable?
Selina and her handlers are all so brazen in their pursuit of political power, of course she would run a 10k without really training and one day after crashing through a plate-glass door. Selina will do virtually anything to forward or at the very least prolong her political career. On the other hand, the MSDMSMPMCRAPAFRRFTC is so unsuccessful that the only participants are basically the cast members we’re familiar with, plus a guy in a wheelchair we've barely seen before. Admittedly, this is part of the joke; part of Michael Scott’s ineptitude. But it does result in an episode that still feels somewhat claustrophobic, even though they found a reason to get the whole cast out of their office.
Whose Stakes Were Higher?
On Veep, nothing smaller than the fate of the free world hangs in the balance. The President could get impeached and Selina’s political career might get destroyed. Typical of Michael Scott, the stakes are only high in Michael Scott’s estimation/imagination.
Whose Outcome Was More Satisfying?
Season 4 Michael Scott dancing as fast as he can to win back the affections of his employees is truly The Office operating at its highest efficiency. Weirdly, even though Selina is hilarious when she’s high, she’s also more passive, more easy-going. And Veep runs best on Selina’s angst, panic and discomfort. At the end of the 10k, even though Selena describes herself with a phrase I’m sure I’ll appropriate for personal use -- “I smell like a hobo’s crap hole” -- she essentially throws in the towel. On the other hand, Michael Scott claims victory: “While I eventually puked my guts out, I never puked my heart out. And I’m very very proud of that.”
Winner: The Office.
So...Who Wrote It Better?
Ultimately, neither Michael nor Selena learns nor grows from his or her experience, which is their characters’ M.O. So it’s not a question of that. But by sticking to what makes the show work best, “Fun Run” elevates itself above the average Office episode.
Winner: The Office.