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Baby delivers twin 'Office' episodes with laughs

THE SHOW "The Office"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 9 on NBC/4

Much-anticipated episode entitled "The Delivery," or unofficially known as "Pam's baby episode." This is a one-hour special.

CATCHING UP Pam's (Jenna Fischer) baby is due any day now, and Jim (John Krasinski) is one increasingly nervous dude.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT While this hour is actually two separate episodes, with the second directed by Harold Ramis, this really feels like one complete whole, beginning with Pam's contractions in the first and ending with her leaving the hospital in the second. But the creative problem here was tricky: How do you keep this dramatic story line anchored in the office and away from the privacy of Jim and Pam's home? Problem solved!

Blame the HMO. Because Dunder Mifflin's HMO only allows a two-night stay in the hospital, Pam decides to work right up almost until delivery. Even though the contractions become a little less far apart, and a little more regular, darned if she's gonna pay for an extra night in the hospital. She wants to wait until midnight before she goes to the hospital, and (as always) Michael (Steve Carell) is understanding: "Too bad you didn't have sex seven and a half hours later."

It's probably not giving too much away to say that a baby is born, and that Jim and Pam have various - and well-read - ideas on baby care, lactation techniques, swaddling and diaper management. Meanwhile, Michael - naturally - takes credit for the joyous event, and decides - because he wants everyone to have a loving partner - to play matchmaker with other members of the office staff.

MY SAY Here's why "The Office" is such a great show. It has a genuine love and regard for its characters, and from that love springs truths - about each of them and, in small, wonderful and entirely unexpected ways, truths about each of us, too.

BOTTOM LINE Here's another reason for greatness. Baby episodes are among the most hackneyed conventions in television, yet this one captures something fresh, original and often hilarious.

GRADE A+

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