The Office Season 8 Premiere Review: The New BossA Chapter by Keaton S. Ziem
My review of The Office Season 8 Premiere.
Since The Office first aired (in the United States) back in March 2005, the show has chronicled the lives of these small-town employees and, paradoxically, their nearly incompetent (though well-meaning) boss, Michael Scott (Steve Carell). The humor that The Office relied on fell strongly on Carell’s shoulders despite the talents of a very strong supportive cast; the plot still demanded that these office workers were essentially trapped by their boss, someone in a position that you normally would look to for authority and guidance was instead a character more likely to pull a humiliating prank on you instead.
And it’s not difficult to see why people loved the show. How many people do you know who think they can do their boss’ job better than they can?
However, little by little, episode by episode, Michael Scott’s already delicate accountability was methodically chipped away until he was relatively in the same category as the people he supposedly managed. The comedy of Michael Scott’s ineptitude was no longer rooted in the fact that this cubicle jester ran his employee’s lives and was replaced with the comedy of Michael Scott’s awkward personality itself. Michael Scott became funny in the same way audiences might laugh at Dwight (Rainn Wilson) or Kevin (Brian Baumgartner).
Funny, sure. But it was no longer the engine that could drive the plot.
Michael’s authority was almost constantly being moved up the corporate ladder without him. There were seasons where the Scranton branch’s fate was left in the hands of New York big-time businessmen, or sold to another company called Sabre where Kathy Bates was the boss for a while until she left her assistant in Scranton as the in-office decision maker to undermine Michael Scott’s decisions from within, much to his chagrin.
Not to say that The Office couldn’t have continued to milk the Michael Scott comedy-cow for another three or four seasons, but the milk had already begun to curdle. Perhaps Steve Carell knew it; I hope he did. But instead of trying to push a square peg through a round hole after the shark was jumped (Friends), or instead of abandoning ship altogether (a la Seinfeld), the writers of The Office took things in a different route...
…Even if that ‘different route’ was more along the lines of ‘the more things change, the more things stay the same.’
Michael Scott gave his final adieu and flew off into the Colorado sunset for greener pastures and the search for a new manager for the Scranton office began. And right off the bat of Season 8, we find out who they picked to be The Office’s new manager; Robert California (James Spader).
Robert California is everything that Michael Scott isn’t. He’s up-front, confrontational, smart and intimidating.
Great choice. James Spader is the engine that will get the show running again.
Except we’re told that he quit as soon as he got hired.
But only to go back to the CEO who hired him and, well, because of his up-front, confrontational, smart and intimidating personae, steals the CEO’s job. However that works.
First order of business?
To hire Michael Scott (2) as The Office’s new manager; Andy Bernard (Ed Helms).
Again; the more things change, the more things stay the same.
However, this time the writers of The Office are at an advantage. Before, the continuing slippery-slope of Michael Scott’s failing authority was something that felt as if it was getting away from the writers; something that had gotten out of hand while the writers and actors were exploring what made the show so funny" Michael’s inability to lead, especially when everyone looks to him for leadership. Authority climbed up that ladder all the way to the CEO until Scranton found their branch owned by the ice-cold stare of James Spader. But in order for the comedic formula The Office evolved over the past seven seasons to continue, they needed someone behind Michael Scott’s desk that doesn’t know what they’re doing. Who’s only slightly more competent than Michael Scott?
…Who isn’t Ryan.
The answer? Andy Bernard.
Personally, I’m excited where this will take the show. It’s a setup that’s purposefully designed to succeed based off of the trial-and-error work that went into writing the past seven seasons. It could work because everything else remains totally intact; Dwight is still Assistant to the Manager, Jim is still Dwight’s foil, Stanley still pays as little attention as possible, and Angela is pregnant.
Oh. Well, less excited about that one.
The big change here is that suddenly James Spader’s character, Robert California, demands that everyone be accountable for their work and their actions in the office, something that could potentially lead to (gasp) consequences?! What a novel idea. And exciting. Because The Office has never been in that territory before, and the last thing a comedy show wants is for the characters, the jokes, the situation to become stale.
Maybe finally someone can get some work done at The Office.
© 2011 Keaton S. Ziem
My Published Work for The Script Lab
Keaton S. Ziem
Los Angeles, CA
AboutI was raised in a cabin in one of the largest Ponderosa Pine forests in the continental United States. I had nothing to do with the amount of trees that grew there. I am an only child with two brot.. more..