The Office: The List

Written by Hunter Phillips on . Posted in TV

Michael Scott was and always will be one of my favorite characters of all time. Some people called him an inconsistent character, but I always saw him as one of the most complicated and wonderful icons of the last decade of TV. Going on without his presence seemed almost impossible last year — and then The Office went on with life as usual.

Those last few episodes of Season 7 had some fantastic moments in them (read: the entire Dwight-as-manager episode), even if the whole wasn’t as strong as the sum of its parts. After the finale, I hoped the producers would pick James Spader as the new boss. He was magnetic, in the most disturbing way possible. He stood out in stark contrast to the rest of the cast, and I thought he would bring a fantastic new energy to make everyone forget about Steve Carell’s absence.

Well, I got what I wanted — kind of. Over the summer, it was announced that Spader, rather, Robert California, would not be the new regional manager, but the new CEO of Sabre, after “taking one look at the office and driving to Florida,” where he convinced Jo that Harry’s Law needs her more than this show does. So, once again, the Scranton branch is missing a manager.

Enter the Nard-Dog.

Andy was far from my first choice for manager. Personally, I was rooting for Darryl to get the job. But I found myself falling for this new development. I deeply enjoyed all of this episode, even the broader moments like the planking fad and Stanley’s new catchphrase. (On that note, did Stanley’s philosophy on work completely change after Michael left? In any case, I like it a lot.) Andy seems like a perfectly capable manager, at least for this branch, and I was particularly moved by his confrontation with Robert at the end of the episode. But there’s one catch.

I realized that most of why I loved Andy in this episode is because of him acting in much the same manner Michael would have. Is there anything Andy does that wouldn’t have made complete sense coming from Michael? For a season fixated on change and transition, it seems a little risky to keep the manager very much in line with the past characterization.

The new season’s true agent of change is Robert California himself. While he has been neutered considerably from his strange and cold performance in last May’s finale, he still brings a huge, mysterious presence to the office, as is evidenced by the employees’ panic at their new CEO’s ominous list. I think there’s a lot to be mined from this character, and he’s a nice break from what we’ve come to believe about the way Dunder-Mifflin works. He isn’t as grounded in reality as say, Charles Miner, but I’m excited to see where this show’s particular brand of crazy takes him.

Most of the cast was given a shining moment in the premiere (most notably, Toby’s brief screen time indicates that he has severe psychological issues after years of being berated), but outside of Andy and Robert, Jim and Pam’s story appears to be heading into more than just another season of wheel-spinning. It’s not entirely evident in this episode, but I’m predicting that this season, PB&J will be facing some real conflict — REAL conflict — for the first time in their marriage. The Office isn’t afraid to go dark, and with Michael gone, who better to focus on than the world’s cutest couple?

I’m sure I’ll have more to say in other weeks, but for now, I’m just happy The Office is back. It’s a relief to see that, yes, the show will go on without Michael. If the premiere is any indication, the creative hot streak that began midway through Season 7 is still going strong. It’s too early to write the show off yet — with much of what we saw last night, The Office has a new lease on life.

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