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It’s been one year since Steve Carell left The Office. When that happened, some felt that the show should have ended. Others felt it could be the necessary shot in the arm the Emmy Award winning comedy needed after floundering for a number of seasons. Now that the show has just completed its first Michael Scott-less season, what is the verdict?
Honestly? It wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t overly great, but it was more-or-less consistent. I do feel that, overall, the show was stronger than it had been for the previous two years. But still nowhere near its glory days. There were parts that really worked well, and others that were completely horrid.
For starters, I did not miss Michael Scott. It is likely that the writers (and actor) ran their course with what they could do with that character. Andy (Ed Helms) as the new manager also worked for me. Naturally, they spotlighted him at the beginning of the season, but I feel that might have dwelled too much and too long on his self-doubts as manager. One episode was enough. Two was pushing it. Three was a little excessive. I understand why they did it, but I don’t think it was needed.
I also really enjoyed it when Dwight (Rainn Wilson) and Jim (John Krasinski) teamed up for various things. They make a great comedy paring particularly in “Turf War” and during the Florida arc. I really wish the show focused more on this element as those moments were highlights from the season.
Speaking of the Florida arc, I really enjoyed it. It was a nice change of pace and was somewhat reminiscent of when Jim was working at the different branch during season 3 and when Michael started his rival paper company in season 5 as it split the cast. While the subplot with Cathy (Lindsey Broad) trying to seduce Jim had a lack of aftermath, everything else worked for me fairly well.
The season marked James Spader joining the cast as Robert California, the new CEO of Dunder-Mifflin’s parent company. He was a mixed bag. His shtick of spouting bizarre speeches was amusing at first, but it quickly got old. He seemed to really be a one-joke character. Nothing much was every truly revealed about him (which might have been on purpose), and he didn’t really add anything worthwhile to the show in the end. I can’t say I’ll miss him now that he’s gone, but I didn’t mind him being around either.
Things I didn’t care for this season included the Andy/Erin (Ellie Kemper) romance. It didn’t work for me mostly because it was a plotline mostly forgotten about by the end of last year resurrected in a very forced way. It pops up out of nowhere, and I really feel that there is little redeeming value to Erin. Why does Andy fall for her again? I suppose I just don’t like her character anymore. I liked her goofiness when she first appeared on the show, but since then, she’s become too stupid for her own good. I seriously don’t know how she is able to function in society. Erin might be funny if she was in a different show, but, considering The Office has been largely grounded in reality, I just can’t buy into a character like that existing.
I also can’t stand Nellie (Catherine Tate). I really loathed her character. I didn’t mind her during the Florida arc (although her gimmick got old quick), but when she came to Scranton and took the manager job away from Andy, I wanted to claw my brain out. As I mentioned, the show has always been largely grounded, and the way Nellie simply takes the management position completely broke my suspension of disbelief. Why Andy didn’t sue the company is beyond me. I’m no lawyer, but it seemed pretty obvious he had a case worth pursuing. The story arc did not work for me, and it made Nellie completely unlikable (which clearly wasn’t the intention). They were simply trying too hard with Nellie’s character to make her a new version of Michael Scott, and it didn’t work at all. During the last few episodes of the season, Nellie was minimized and she became much more tolerable. Hopefully, the writers realize this for next season.
The Office’s eighth season was a rollercoaster in quality with series of highs and lows. The ratings, though not terrible, noticeably dipped this year. I suppose that is to be expected. The show is returning to NBC in what is expected to be one, final season. It is probably for the best. Office developer, Greg Daniels, is returning as show runner and rumor has it that there is going to be a push to return to its earlier days. I hope they are able to do that, as I somewhat miss the more mundane storylines and natural workplace humor. If it is indeed the last year, then it’ll bring the show full circle.