Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Office" hours

"The Office" needs more of this, not less.

I've been thinking about this post at about the (probable/possible?) ninth season of The Office. For a post that isn't that long, it's plenty informative. Here's a snippet:

"The network and the talent are still working out deals, but it appears that both Ed Helms and John Krasinski will return for at least part of next season, which would likely be their last."

Though a huge fan of Cedar Rapids (how was that movie not a bigger hit?), I think Helms has been underutilized on The Office. His departure, while unfortunate, wouldn't be a show-stopper.

Krasinki's departure? That's just about the point when I say the whole thing needs to be shut down.

Jim and Dwight
Despite Steve Carell's brilliance as an actor -- and I mean that -- the Michael Scott character had serious limitations. Relying on him to supply a reliable A story each episode was like trying to make salt into an entree. Hey, man, I love salt ... but a little goes a long way. Jim and Dwight were what kept me coming back to The Office, not Michael Scott. (I can't even say "Jim and Pam," because "Jim and Karen" was fine with me.) The Office without Jim is like MASH without Hawkeye Pierce or Cheers without Sam Malone. Ain't buying it, guys.

Oh, and Dwight, played by the masterful Rainn Wilson? Yeah, he's probably gone, too. Again from Warming Glow:

"Paul Lieberstein — who is not only the showrunner, but he also plays Toby — is also leaving his post as showrunner to focus on Dwight’s spin-off. Assuming that goes through, Rainn Wilson would also be leaving the show."

I don't buy a Dwight spinoff, though I imagine the folks at NBC would view it as a sort of Parks and Recreation-lite (pretty meta, considering how P&R came about). Like Michael Scott, I don't think you build an entire show around Dwight Schrute as the character is currently constituted.

Still, if both of those characters -- Jim and Dwight -- leave, or even assume a reduced capacity on the show, what's the point? Seriously?

Mismanagement on a Dunder-Mifflin level
I think the producers bungled the post-Michael Scott era by not placing Dwight in the role of manager, toning down his lunacy a touch (which is going to happen if he gets his own show anyway) and pairing him on various adventures with Jim as often as possible. Did you see the Florida shows? They were some of the best in years (just the Florida parts, not the rest of the shows). How was that storyline produced without being recognized as pure sitcom gold? The "dead Jim" opening, Dwight saving Jim from the hussy, the fight between the two of them as Jim tried to save Dwight's job ... terrific stuff.

But not only is that NOT what we get, we get more of Catherine Tate, an extremely limited character whose return should have been limited to the Florida episodes and nothing further. I can't say anything about the actress herself -- this is the only work of hers with which I am familiar -- but good gravy: I will stop watching this show if she's on more than one or two more episodes.

And the hits keep on coming
Oh, and Mindy Kaling is reportedly ready to leave for her own show on Fox. If you back out Krasinski, Wilson, Helms, Kaling and Lieberstein, there's still a talented enough cast left, but certainly no star among them.

If The Office calls it a day after a ninth season that still features most of the current crop of players, I'll try to stick with it. But going beyond that with a reconstituted ensemble just seems cruel to the show's history. Even better: air a shorter ninth season -- say, eleven episodes -- and let the complete cast bow out with some dignity. If we stoop to love stories between Kevin and Meredith, I'm going to be really disappointed.