September 23, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Michael Scott is really gone.  Technically, that’s been true since a few episodes before the end of THE OFFICE‘s last season, but with tonight’s season premiere, Office 2.0, the most well-publicized reboot of the new season, began to tell us what it’s going to be.  
Which is, for now at least, a somewhat jarring mix of darkness and amiability, as personified by its new leading men.  (John Krasinski’s Jim–about to become a dad for the second time–remains, as before, the solid Everyman who’s our stand-in amid the craziness.)  On the one hand, James Spader’s Robert California, having managed to talk Kathy Bates’ CEO out of her own job (which, if the Harry’s Law ratings remain moribund, she may soon want back), is a Machiavellian player of mind games.  Garbed mostly in shades of black, tonight he labeled Dunder-Mifflin’s employees as “winners” and “losers,” humiliating the latter and making bullies of the former like participants in a sitcom version of the Stanfod Prison Experiment–only to suggest at the end that he was doing it to make everyone work harder.  Spader is certainly weird and fascinating in the part, but it remains to be seen whether he’s going to be very funny. 

On the other extreme is the actual inheritor of Michael’s job, Ed Helms’ Andy Bernard, who seemed for most of the episode like an ineffectual speed-bump to California’s Humvee (he was on the new boss’ Losers list), but who stood up for his employees at the end and won them the half-day before Columbus Day weekend that, well, they’d already always had.  Andy is a very sane kind of loony, without Michael’s brand of crazy, secretly terrifed self-confidence; as likable as Andy is, at this point, it’s not clear how well his diffidence will wear on center stage.  
The Office is still a superior TV comedy (there were funny bits tonight about planking, and the dueling pregnancies of Pam and Angela–although making pregnant Pam weepily hormonal was a less inspired idea), but right now the show is still searching for its Michael-less voice.  Paired with the unappetizing Whitney, this isn’t the best time for it to start fumbling the lead.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."