"The Office" - Who's The Boss?
In the post-Steve Carell era of "The Office," things just don't feel right. Like when Joey Tribiani went to Hollywood in the post-"Friends" era.
"Joey" was an awkward spinoff of the irreplacable "Friends" sitcom, and this new "Office" only feels like an awkward spinoff.
Joey didn't work well without Chandler and the gang, and "The Office" gang doesn't work without Michael Scott. Who is Dwight Schrute supposed to worship now? Who will be racially offensive in the most endearing way? Who will hit on Ryan, the useless temp? Not Michael Scott.
"What is happening right now?" Jim Halpert asked at one point during managerial interviews in Thursday's season finale.
Frankly, Jim, it's hard to tell. The interview scenes feel too realistic... like we're watching NBC's casting directors desperately search for someone to fill Steve Carell's untouchable role as Michael Scott.
Sure, in the real world of paper sales, finding an office manager is probably a common part of the business cycle. But finding a replacement for the presumptive star of one of NBC's top-rated comedies is not a common or simple task.
In typical this-sitcom-is-totally-done fashion, the season 7 finale was a parade of celebrity guest spots looking to attract big ratings (sometimes referred to as 'stunt casting'). "Friends" did it during its later seasons with actors like Brad Pitt, Christina Applegate, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jeff Goldblum. In Scranton we had Ray Romano, Warren Buffett (weird, I know), James Spader, Jim Carrey, Catherine Tate, and -- the man responsible for all of this -- Ricky Gervais.
Still, the season finale was mediocre at best. Each guest star deserved a courtesy chuckle for trying their darndest to state their funny case to be the next branch manager. But not much else. They all had their quirks -- Arnett didn't know what he was applying for, Romano wanted to live as far away as possible if he got the job, and Tate had millions of ideas with zero focus -- but none of them had the lovable Michael Scott factor.
The only stunt casting that worked this season was the legendary Kathy Bates, who held a recurring role as the CEO of the Sabre corporation. Her infectious Southern accent, straight-talking ways and suggestive one-liners make it hard not to love her.
Don't forget about Will Ferrell as Deangelo Vickers. Actually, go ahead and forget.
It's sad to admit, but "The Office" should have ended with Steve Carell's departure. The supporting cast has always been and continues to be hilarious in their mini-story lines. But Michael Scott brought out the best in them.
If we've learned anything from primetime television, though, it's that popular programming will go on with new episodes well-past its heyday. "Seinfeld", "Home Improvement", and, yes, "Friends."
Let's just hope viewers aren't eventually presented with a "Dwight" spinoff.