posted on: Thursday September 29, 2011
Ryan Waxon ’12/A&E Staff
The Office returned last Thursday night for its eighth season, marking the beginning of the Michael Scott-free era of the series. Steve Carell exited at the end of last season, setting up an amusing four-episode “Search Committee” story arc. The episodes were filled with a ton of guest stars, including Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Ricky Gervais, Ray Romano, Jim Carrey, Catherine Tate, Warren Buffet, and, most importantly, James Spader. It was named late in the summer that James Spader’s character, Robert California, would take control of The Office.
Robert California is described as being an evil genius with an unbreakable deadpan demeanor. He was the standout among the vast array of guest stars in the finale and is a welcome addition to the cast.
In the premiere episode, it was quickly revealed that California is not the branch regional manager of Dunder Mifflin Scranton, but is now the company’s acting CEO. He walked in for his first day of work and immediately left in disgust, driving down to Florida to convince Jo (Kathy Bates) to give him her job, an outrageously baller feat, perfectly executed by a man that knows exactly how to get everything he wants.
The job of regional manager went to the company’s second pick, none other than the office’s own Andy Bernard. A very logical move by the producers, since Ed Helms is currently the biggest star on the show and the only cast member that really has the ability to carry it with Spader.
Aside from the cast shake up, the premiere episode was standard Office fare. The show has become much more of an ensemble-based program, which was highlighted throughout the opening “planking” sequence.
In the opening scene, planking had swept through the culture of the office and offered a few great moments, the most notable when Kevin, after getting stuck on a desk, was dropped by Dwight, Jim, and Andy seconds later.
Another highlight was Stanley’s new catchphrase, “and shove it up your butt.” He has developed this device to get laughs around the office, using it at the end of long drawn-out stories. The phrase actually works pretty well in real life, and I’ve incorporated it into my toolbox of boring conversation enders.
The majority of the episode focused on a list compiled by Robert California, which separated the members of the office into “winners” and “losers.” It was interesting to watch the various “winners” attempt to impress Robert as they sat scared in his presence. It was also fun to see Andy take his role as manager head on when he confronted Robert over the inaccuracy of the list.
I firmly believe that The Office will continue to be a great television show. The loss of Steve Carell was huge, but the show has enough of a talented ensemble built within it so that it will not fail. Andy Bernard has all the likability in the world as the nerdy goof-ball and Cornell alum. Robert California has all the creepiness to give the show a very different dynamic. Over the next few weeks, we will begin to get a feel for the new version of The Office as the show develops into something we may not necessarily recognize.