In Which 'The Wire' Meets 'The Office,' and We are Only Mildly Amused

You have a friend who is evangelical about "The Wire," who asks you once every two weeks if you were a fan, browbeats you into watching if you weren't, commiserates with you if you were, about how the best television show ever was snuffed out too soon because people were too stupid to appreciate it. You also have a friend who's obsessed with "The Office," who can recite an exhaustive treatise about why the American version trumps the British version, who owns a Dwight Schrute bobblehead, who fires off dialogue from the show any time someone mentions paper. Well it's time to play merry matchmaker, because your friends have plenty to talk about with last nights "Office" guest appearance from Idris Elba (who for three seasons played Stringer Bell on "The Wire.")

When I first read that Elba would join "The Office" for a six-episode arc as Michael's new boss, I was cautiously optimistic. I've never seen Elba, whose most known for his intense, taciturn performance on "The Wire," do comedic acting of any kind. But the mockumentary style is one in which even the straight man gets to knock a one-liner out of the park on the strength of the writing, not necessarily the delivery. And another former "Wire" cast member, Amy Ryan, was no less than brilliant in an arc as a love interest for Michael Scott (Steve Carell.)

After watching New Boss, Elba's first episode, my optimism is tempered with even more caution than before. It doesn't have anything to with Elba, whose performance as Charles Minor, Michael's new boss, was a quietly confident portrayal of no-nonsense management. It's the fact that the Charles Minor character sucked the funny out of every scene he was in.

"The Office" is a smartly written, observant show, and the Minor arc seems to be no exception. From Jan Levinson (Melora Hardin), to Ryan Howard (BJ Novak) to David Wallace (Andy Buckley), the preternaturally incompetent Michael has always been blessed with bosses who knew how much of a disaster he was from the outset and could comport themselves accordingly. Charles joins Dunder-Mifflin from the outside and has little patience for Michael's inefficacy. Hes also not thrilled with Jim (John Krasinski) and his incessant office pranks. Charles is all about results, and in an office where everyone slacks off because their boss won't hold them accountable, his presence makes everyone uncomfortable.

Awkwardness is an important component of the mockumentary style, but it has to be employed judiciously. In New Boss, the awkwardness was allowed to overpower and suppress the humor. As the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin gets to know Charles, and the initial nerves wear off, the character may get funnier. With five more episodes to go, here's hoping.