The Office

Yeah that was us a few months back, telling you not to worry about The Office, that their superior writers would make magic out of Steve Carrell’s departure, and that it was Carrell, whose movies largely suck, who we didn’t think was particularly funny except when Michael Scott.  Will Ferrell, a titan of comedy, as the temporary replacement, Deangelo Vickers, was not Michael, but he is a big name and a comedic genius probably of greater stature than Steve Carrell and he could’ve pulled it off.

We don’t know that any of the candidates we were subject to seeing interview last night were capable of pulling off running Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch with the possible exception of James Spader, who we don’t naturally love, but we have to admit that he did interview more dynamically than the others, and was probably the most quirky and unpredictable.  We are definitely not impressed with the process so far, nor are we impressed at all with the apple of show management’s eye, Catherine Tate (above), who we are reading everywhere is in the lead for the role as of right now.

While we waited with baited breath for Danny McBride to sweep into the conference room–something we thought we were assured of and was confirmed–a very weak bunch paraded in instead, and we thought them weak in every sense.  We weren’t thrilled with Will Arnett over a Danny McBride or Rhys Darby, but we still thought he’d do fine.  Well, last night’s Office couldn’t even manage to give Arnett any funny lines, or that extravagant flair he displays as Devin Banks on 30 Rock and of course, as GOB on Arrested Development.  And where in the hell was McBride?  Very upsetting.

Ray Romano?  We love him and written well, the role would be a piece of cake for him.  But like everyone else, he was flat and watching him was a struggle.  Warren Buffett?  Sure it’s a gag, but do they really have time to waste on non serious candidates in the season finale?  They advertise Jim Carrey all week as a candidate and then bring him in as an after thought at minute 58?

And why is Paul Lieberstein so skinny?  Do you guys know that is health status was one of the most frequently queried Google searches in the last 12 hours?  Farbeit from us to speculate on what could be an unfortunate situation for Lieberstein, but he looked like a skeleton, and he has missed a lot of time in the last few years, giving way to Amy Ryan’s Holly Flax.

As for Ricky Gervais, could this guy go away already?  We get it, we get it.  He’s the original David Brent, and as such, has clawed out a de facto EP position on The Office, but this guy should spend more time working on his own projects, which aren’t very funny.  How many shows will HBO hand the man, and when will one of them make us laugh?

It used to be that if HBO gave you a foreigner, it was appointment television.  Then there’s the Ricky Gervais exception.  Can there be any doubt that he isn’t pushing for Catherine Tate, of Dr. Who “fame”?  And what about The Office producers interview with our favorite band manager, Rhys Darby, who played Murray Hewitt hilariously on Flight of the Conchords?  We subsequently read that The Office wasn’t interested in Darby after meeting with him, and failed to grant him the courtesy of any sort of call back.

Bad form!  We’re very disappointed.  We’ll hold out hope that it isn’t Tate, and we’ll give her a chance to change our minds if it is her.  Who knows?  She very well may, but from where we sit, this is not the female John Cleese by any stretch.

If it’s not too late to offer suggestions for new blood, we may as well give it a try.  We thought Thomas Lennon of Reno 911 (Lt. Dangle) was an excellent, quirky boss of funny, oddball types, and we loved the short shorts.  After seeing Catherine Tate tell the cameras she thought she was Jo’s best friend, we also felt a desperate need to push a last ditch campaign for another excellent comedic actor, Bob Odenkirk, who is phenomenal, and always insanely good in a well done show and fine cast.

Crack (,

Evan Almighty.  Date Night.  Dinner for Schmucks.  We’ve got no problem saying this: The Office, a superior outift with exceptional writers made Michael Scott, not the reverse.  The tired Seth Rogan/Paul Rudd movie factory may have given us 1 good Carrell film–The 40 Year Old Virgin–but little to nothing else with Carrell worth watching.  Most of the reaction we’ve heard with regard to Carrell leaving The Office has been pessimistic pertaining to the future of the show.  We, on the other hand, have no doubts that The Office can function without Michael Scott.

We think Steve Carrell is crazy to leave The Office, which will undoubtedly be the absolute best product he has ever worked on.  We think it’s a poor decision to abandon his $300,000 per episode salary.  And we are extremely confident that the show, which has perhaps needed a shot of enthusiasm for a few seasons (not for lack of trying with the guest addition of Timothy Olyphant and Amy Ryan’s role reprisal of Holly Flax), can be an excellent and dynamic program and can return to the top of network sitcom television.  The Office can even reach new heights if they follow through on their plans to replace Michael Scott’s character with someone from outside the show.  While we love Jim, Dwight, and Andy, none do anything for us in the lead role.

The late summer talk about The Office producers contacting Flight of the Conchords alum Rhys Darby (top) and Eastbound and Down star Danny McBride (bottom), and to a lesser extent, recent rumors about Arrested Development star Will Arnett (middle) have our full attention.  McBride has seemed to generate the most excitement and buzz so far.  Frankly, he is absolutely hilarious as crass, washed up pitcher Kenny Powers, and has one of the funniest hairstyles of all time.  From what we’re reading though, at least out of HBO, is that McBride is unlikely to get the gig.  Producer Paul Lieberstein (Toby) recently denied that McBride was in the running, but it was confirmed that McBride would be doing a guest spot this season.  HBO has been less coy than Lieberstein, saying that McBride is signed up long term to do Kenny Powers, is paid very well, and went so far as to suggest that McBride would have no interest in joining the cast of The Office.

The cable network issued no similar statements with regard to Darby, leading us to believe that something is cooking.  We would emphatically endorse the hire.  Darby, as Brett and Jemaine’s band mannager on Flight of the Conchords was exponentially quirky in a way very reminiscent to the Michael Scott character, only with a New Zealand accent and the added awkwardness of a tourist with less than zero street smarts.  Darby, like Carrell, has even demonstrated his proficiency with the occasional musical number.  Darby’s low profile in America and immense respect in comedic circles would be a win win for a program in need of new talent and a network looking to make a reasonable deal with an actor.

The wildly popular and recognizable McBride would not come cheaply and without obstacles, or at least, that’s what HBO wants us to think.  And we have questions about how well McBride will do without the luxury of of his hysterical foul mouth rants and drug humor, which is not about to play on NBC.  He’d be unwise to leave the role of a lifetime on Eastbound and Down for the huge pressure associated with filling Michael Scott’s shoes.

Recently several Arrested Development actors have been mentioned for the job, including the legendary Jeffrey Tambor, Tony Hale, and most notably, Will Arnett, who Ricky Gervais has been publicly pining for.  We love Tambor.  “Hey Now” Hank Kingsley?  Classic.  George Bluth Sr?  JT played that role to a tee.  And we look forward to his frequent cameos as himself on Entourage, the long term client of Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven, another Larry Sanders Show alum).  Tambor isn’t really new blood to us though.  Hale is not a heavy enough hitter, and Arnett, though we love him across the board and loved his GOB character to death, we have way more enthusiasm for Rhys Darby, who we feel is the perfect fit.

Though we will not be surprised if Arnett gets the nod, having done a guest shot on his wife Amy Poehler’s very funny NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, and having played a corporate foil to Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy for 3 years on NBC’s 30 Rock.  Can Arnett jump to a 3rd Thursday night NBC sitcom?  No doubt he could.  But how about Ricky Gervais shuts the fuck up so that BJ Novak (Ryan), Lieberstein, and Mindy Kaling (Kelly), all Office producers, can go with their gut and bring in Darby?

Can you tell that we are really hoping for an Office dick meeting?  Wait…that sounds bad.  Just a Murray Hewitt/Flight of the Conchords reference!

Crack (,

Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) and Holly Flax (Amy Ryan).

Is it just us, or do you also look forward to the thought of Angela’s (Angela Kinsey) Christmas themed cat cards, Andrew Bernard (Ed Helms) a-caroling, and the dubious Todd Packer (David Koechner) and his drunken escapades?  If so, tonight’s our night with The Office’s special Christmas episode, “Classy Christmas”, on tap. 

While we may not have loved the acting performance Amy Ryan just turned in as Dr. Paul Weston’s (Gabriel Byrne) therapist on HBO’s superb 3rd season of In Treatment, just concluded, it’s hard to argue against Ryan reprising the role of quirky HR person Holly Flax, who, in 7 seasons of The Office, may have been the only cast member truly on the same wavelength of wacky Michael Scott.  We’ve read that Holly returns to the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin tonight to fill in for Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein), who is called away.

Michael is sure to go nuts over Holly’s return to Scranton from Nashua, as he’s only been pining for her from the second she left.  But how will Holly react to Michael, in light of her ongoing serious relationship with a Nashua branch salesman (last we knew), and in light of Michael’s rambling voice mail to Holly that we heard him record earlier in the season on which he insisted that he and Holly had been good together, that she was the only ex whom he had any good will toward and vice versa, and oh yeah–how she’d better head to a doctor and get checked for herpes?

Amy Ryan, who first came to us as port police on season 2 (“Nicky from the docks”) of our favorite all-time show, The Wire, who had, let’s call it an uncomfortable run on In Treatment, is sure to be back in her element once again in a large ensemble cast.  And we always love Dwight in elf ears.  Since The Office won’t be back after tonight until January 20th, we’re hoping tonight’s “Classy Christmas” is extra good.

Tonight @ 9 PM EST on NBC.  Happy holidays.

Crack (,

AMC’s new series The Walking Dead, the latest original series from the network that gifted its viewers the masterpieces Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and the flawed but watchable Rubicon, debuted on Sunday night–fittingly–on Halloween.  The new show starring Andrew Lincoln moved slowly and cryptically.  They got to the zombies alright, but did little to explain their presence, or the world that Sheriff Grimes wakes up in, in which humans are scarce and the walking, or staggering majority, are flesh fiending undead.

Don’t get us wrong.  We aren’t killing this show, pardon the pun.  We like a good, dark show, and we appreciate shows that take the time necessary to properly develop plotlines.  We like Lincoln as the choice for lead, and the premise, if not original, that the few humans left must have this back to the wall, edge of the world mentality to survive.  But a little more information about the nature of the zombies and the state of the world and its new world order would have been appreciated.  The dead, we have gleaned, have more than just primal instincts.  We learn as much in the opening scene when Grimes accosts a little girl, who we only learn is a zombie when she turns and reveals her decaying puss riddled face, after the Sheriff calls to her over and over, “Little girl!  Don’t be afraid!”  What we first see of her, before we get clued in, is that she bends down to retrieve a teddy bear.  So there’s more to these zombies than the mantra, “just eat flesh.”

They also seem to feature one zombie very prominently in camera shots in Atlanta, where Grimes gallops to on horseback, thinking that he’ll find life.  It’s an ironic sequence, where the Sheriff, unable to find gas for his car, tames a lonely horse by telling the horse he wouldn’t hurt him and that they could go to Atlanta together where there would be food, people, and other horses.  As soon as they arrive in the city, the walking dead smell fresh meat, seemingly led by one zombie, formally attired in a jacket and tie, and with a Frankenstein style mullet of hair.  The next thing you know, Tanto is being eaten alive by zombies while the Sheriff crawls up into an abandoned U.S. Army tank for cover, after briefly having his revolver to his head for a second.

So the army seems not to have survived the onslaught of the walking dead, but marital strife, we are glad to know, has made the cut in post apocolyptic zombie U.S.A.  This poor Sheriff, rightfully concerned about being eaten alive, also has a bitchy wife at home to worry about, who complains to him in front of his son that ‘she doesn’t know if he even cares about them.’

Obviously Sheriff Grimes has his work cut out for him in what we think will be a quality series.  That’s not to say that Community–what we know is a quality series–didn’t beat The Walking Dead to the punch last Thursday with a Halloween zombie themed episode that was more entertaining and that better explained why the Greendale campus became flesh eating monsters.  Dean Pelton (Jim Rash), one of two prominent male NBC characters that evening to dress as Lady Gaga for Halloween (Gabe, The Office…btw, respect to The Office and guest star Timothy Olyphant, Deadwood and Justified star, on his guest run as a Dunder Mifflin paper salesman), mistakenly orders a radioactive chemical thinking it’s taco meat for Greendale’s Halloween party.  Pierce (Chevy Chase), dressed for the party as Captain Kirk, gets sick and proceeds to bite Star Burns while Dr. Rich (Greg Cromer), the pottery ringer from last year’s episode “Pottery 101”, and our favorite Community hottie Annie (Alison Brie, below, who also plays Trudy Campbell on Mad Men) administer care to him.  Annie calls Star Burns (Dino Stamatapolous) Star Burns to his face, to which a panicky, infected Star Burns replies insultedly, “My name is Alex!”  Quickly thereafter, just about everyone is a zombie, and the study group, along with Dr. Rich barricade themselves into their study area as mayhem ensues.

The acerbic Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), dressed as David Beckham for Halloween (in an Italian suit holding a soccer ball), reels off a superb one-liner at his old nemesis from pottery class, Dr. Rich.  “Now would be a good time to mention,” he says “that I hate you.”  And in a stunning Community development, Senor Chang and Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) do the deed while locked in a bathroom out of reach of the zombies–gross–all while Dean Pelton’s iPOD plays Abba and a loop of the Dean’s verbal memos to self throughout the campus, making for a temporary hell on earth indeed.

We were disappointed that 30 Rock skipped out on giving us a Halloween episode last week, considering the creative genius behind the show.  We were expecting, in the least, some very clever costumes.  We guess that since they did it live a few weeks back–twice in fact–for each coast, they didn’t have to do it for Halloween.  But at least they did it with Mad Men star Jon Hamm.

Crack (,

The Office’s Andy Bernard (actor Ed Helms).

The above title is not meant to be misleading.  Even though The Office is not a 40 or 60 minute episode tonight, we’d defy any true Office fan to differ with our classification of tonight’s show as special.  Especially given the fact that in tonight’s episode, one of our favorites, Andy Bernard is set to star in a community theatre production of Sweeney Todd, and he’s invited all of his co-workers to the show.  The episode is entitled “Andy’s Play.”

The musically inclined Helms, whose Andy character famously showered Pam (Jenna Fischer) once upon a time with a Ukulele rendition of “Rainbow Connection” (video below), should be inspired, if not inspiring in tonight’s show within a show.  We are expecting visceral reactions from Michael (Steve Carrell) and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) in the very least.

We can’t wait.  See pics of Andy as Anthony from Sweeney Todd at the link below.

Crack (,

What can the super talented writing staff of The Office, many of whom also appear on camera, do to come close to hitting the notes that “Goodbye Toby” did?  Well, Dwight can hopefully be counted on for some mirth, and office birthday parties are always funny, especially when alcohol is involved.  Andy can always offer a ballad.  Perhaps David Koechner can reprise the role of Packer, Michael’s buddy, who is always good for some laughs.

The other night we waxed pessimistically about The Office, declaring it had gone stale, and that there wasn’t much they could do to freshen itself up for the season finale.  We made a few suggestions, but mostly listed complaints, and left off by saying we hoped we were wrong.

We were.

The media leak that had caused a stir, and which we thought was started by Andy and Darryl, we learn was started by more than just those two.  Kelly also contributed to the leak, mentioning that Sabre printers caught on fire via tweeter, skyping, instant messaging, email, text, and video chat.  One of our many complaints of the show had been that Kelly had little real involvement with the plot of late, and that her comedic talents weren’t being utilized.  Take that, Crack. 

We also complained that of late, Jim and Pam haven’t been funny–another aspect of the show that changed in the finale.  Pam takes Jim into the stairwell to tell him that she wanted to to go in and tell Michael and Jo (Kathy Bates)–there to figure out who the leak is, despite Michael assuring her that none of his people are the leak.  “I know these people.  I know their birthdays and what kind of streamers they like and what their favorite cake is.” says Michael.  Jo replies, “Michael, that’s just birthday information.”   

“This is good,” Jim deadpanned, “this is a very good idea, that you get all the bad ideas out now.”  But next we see Pam in Michael’s office and she’s fessing up, to Michael’s dismay, who counters that his mind is working “a mile an hour”, to which Pam replies, “that fast?”

A surprise star of the finale was Nelson Franklin, who plays Sabre’s IT guy Nick, who goes on a goodbye speech diatribe, in which he chides people for not knowing his name, and then is called “sport” by Jim and “champ” by Dwight.  But Nick gets his revenge.  He tells the office that he has seen all of their hard drives, names Andy as the snitch and in a hilarious moment, calls out Darryl.

“Darryl, you’re on facebook.  Why you tell people you’re not on facebook?  People wanna be your friend, man!”  We hope that Nick isn’t really leaving, as he said, to teach inner city kids in Detroit, whose character in the end turned out to be a real gem. 

Darryl (Craig Robinson), Erin (Ellie Kemper) and Nick (above). 

But the real star, who delivered despite our pessimism, was Steve Carrell.  His character, Michael Scott, the oddest boss on television, had his best yet chemistry with Kathy Bates, playing Sabre CEO Jo Bennett.  The two finally had some quality time together, after Michael, who initially told Jo he wished prison and murder on the person responsible for the leak, and then returns to her to tell her that they should go easy on whomever caused the leak.  Jo knows Michael isn’t telling her something, and they then drive off somewhere together, alone.  We next see them on Jo’s plane.  Jo tells Michael to “tell momma what’s wrong.”

Michael bares his soul to Jo, and reveals it has been a bad year, that his Blockbuster Video stock is down, that his favorite restaurant closed down, that his new favorite restaurant “really sucks”, and that he misses Holly (Amy Ryan, The Wire).  Then Michael agrees to go to the press and apologize for Sabre’s faulty printers, saving Jo the embarrassment of being the face of their corporate disaster.

We had hoped for Packer (David Koechner), and we got him, if only by phone.  We shot for a ballad from Andy (Ed Helms), who sang for us to try and convince us he came from a long family line of non whistle blowers, so famous for it in fact that Woddy Guthrie wrote a song about them: “Oh Mr. Bernard, Mr. Bernard, who have you silenced today?”

We even complained about the absence of David Wallace (Andy Buckley) from the cast, who popped up in a brief cameo.

The Office might not have topped in what our opinion is its best finale ever, “Goodbye Toby” with its season 6 finale, “Whistleblower.”  But the episode did help renew our optimism for one of our favorite comedies, going into what may be its final season.

–Crack (

Despite another guest appearance by Oscar winner Kathy Bates, we are afraid that The Office has gone stale, at least when compared to its former self, and that tonight’s finale will lack enough of The Office’s trademark awkward moment comedy to leave its hardcore fans disappointed.  In examining recent storylines, we are called to wonder which ones can satisfy our thirst for vintage Office moments. 

 Jim and Pam (above), the parents of a newborn, are tired.  We get it.  Andy and Erin are in love.  It’s good for Andy, but how funny is it?  Or the stud contract between Angela and Dwight?  Frankly, Angela will be hard pressed to ever match the comedic gold that was season 5, episode 11’s “The Duel”, in which Andy finally learned that Angela, her fiancee, was sleeping with Dwight. 

                     I’ll respect the outcome of the duel. — Angela

In fact, since “The Duel”, it would be hard to argue that the product being turned out by Dunder Mifflin Paper Co. hasn’t slipped a notch, when stacked up against earlier episodes of the hit show.

When Michael Scott was dating Pam’s mother, we thought that storyline was extremely funny but since, The Office has fallen short of its normal mark.  Ryan now wears bowties and coke bottle glasses and Kelly is being sent for management training by the new parent company, Sabre, headed by the sassy Floridian mogul Joe Bennett (Kathy Bates).  I dare say none of it is too funny.  The Office in recent years has shown a willingness to bring aboard quality guests, especially Idris Elba (Stringer Bell, The Wire) and Amy Ryan, who also lists The Wire, as one of her many credits, but Bates in this role hasn’t done the trick for us.  We enjoyed her much more in her guest role on Six Feet Under, because her character was pivotal in Ruth (Frances McDormand) realizing her own self determination, which led to her allowing Claire (Lauren Ambrose) to go off and live her life, driving to New York with Nate’s (Peter Krause) ghost urging her on to Be My Friend by Sia (though I prefer Michelangelo’s remix), in what was perhaps the best series finale of all time.  Listen to the song at the link below.

While The Office hasn’t been afraid to introduce big names to its cast, we are missing some of the characters who are no longer working with Dunder Mifflin.  We miss Jan (Melora Hardin) and David Wallace (Andy Buckley).  We also notice that episodes go by with talented cast members such as Mindy Kaling (Kelly) and Paul Lieberstein (Toby) having little to no real involvement with the plot.  Our favorite season finale ever, coincidentally, was one in which Toby figured greatly: “Goodbye Toby”–a 2 parter that featured total mayhem, a carnival atmosphere, and even a musical number by Michael, which you can sample at the link below.

What can the super talented writing staff of The Office, many of whom also appear on camera, do to come close to hitting the notes that “Goodbye Toby” did?  Well, Dwight can hopefully be counted on for some mirth, and office birthday parties are always funny, especially when alcohol is involved.  Andy can always offer a ballad.  Perhaps David Koechner can reprise the role of Packer, Michael’s buddy, who is always good for some laughs.

But as a betting man, which I am, I’d say there’s little that they can do for us tonight that will make the true Office fan feel like it’s 2007 or 2008.  I hope I’m way off base.

–Crack (

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