|‘The Office’ looks to carry on sans Carrell|
|Written by Kevin Pajor, Daily Vidette Staff Writer|
|Tuesday, 27 September 2011 20:28|
Over the last decade, there were few characters in television more iconic than Michael Scott. For seven seasons, Steve Carell’s impotent, inappropriate, unhip and yet lovable boss on “The Office” truly became a part of the American cultural fabric. His (usually failed) attempts at carefully treading around social issues were always a riot, and let’s not forget that he was the man who brought “that’s what she said” back into common parlance.
But while Michael Scott was undoubtedly the heart of “The Office,” Carell’s celebrity grew too big and as the lure of Hollywood stardom proved too strong, his character said goodbye to Dunder Mifflin late last season.
I didn’t care for Will Ferrell’s guest appearances last season, but I felt that the handful of post-Carell episodes were quite good. While it will obviously never be the same, perhaps Michael Scott’s departure will prove to be a breath of fresh air for a show which some think has undergone a steady decline since its first few seasons.
After the Ferrell debacle, viewers were treated to the inevitable and rewarding experiment of the always bizarre Dwight Schrute as boss. Then there was the star-studded set of interviews in the finale, which concluded with James Spader winning a role in the show, though not necessarily Scott’s old position. Spader seems to be a good choice, and I found his pseudo-social intellectual take on “Sesame Street” creating a “cultural ghetto” to be one of the funniest exchanges the show has seen in recent years.
The new boss (at least for the time being) is Ed Helms’s formerly short-tempered and currently well-meaning, sweet and educated Andy Bernard. As Helms’s career has also taken off recently, this seems to be a good move, though the argument can be made that of all the show’s characters, Andy is most like Michael.
As has been the case with the show since the beginning, though, the ensemble and the writing are the stars here. The office staff, divided by Spader into “winners” and “losers,” have to deal with the weight of expectations by their new boss. Andy ends up saving the day in true Michael Scott-esque fashion, and the episode ended with one of the sweetest moments in “Office” history, courtesy of network television’s First Family, Jim and Pam.
“The Office” has always displayed a propensity for incorporating current cultural phenomenon into its world, and in this episode the writers took on the asinine and truly bizarre pastime of “planking,” with Dwight providing the kicker as usual. In addition, some of the funniest moments involve Stanley, who usually serves as the show’s straight man.
I think it’s a fair assessment that the show isn’t as funny as it was in its heyday. While it’s certainly still amusing, I generally think that it has grown into a show about the connection we as an audience have with the characters. It will be interesting to see what viewership is like this season, sans Carell.
This season premiere, however, was definitely a success. Spader looks to be a great fit for the show, though it remains to be seen just how often he’ll appear. While the show is certainly past its peak, almost every other comedy on television would kill to have “The Office’s” strong ensemble cast, sharp writing, high production values and above all, heart.