September 21, 2012



THE OFFICE:  Thursday 9PM on NBC

WHERE WE WERE:  Wondering how much longer THE OFFICE could last, as we wearily bid a not-so-fond farewell to Robert California (James Spader) and came to terms with the fact that Nellie Bertram (Catherine Tate) wasn’t going anywhere.  She seemed to be locked in a battle for supremacy with Andy Bernard (Ed Helms), the hapless and frequently pathetic successor to Michael Scott, until in the season finale, Andy engineered a takeover of Dunder-Mifflin by former exec David Wallace (Andy Buckley) who put Andy back in charge.

WHERE WE ARE:  Counting down the last 22 episodes of the series, as NBC and the producers announced somewhat surprisingly over the summer that this ninth go-round will be the show’s final season.  (Surprising because despite steep declines in both ratings and quality, The Office was still NBC’s highest-rated scripted series in the 2011-12 broadcast season.)  As part of the grand farewell, (US) series creator and original showrunner Greg Daniels has come back to take charge of the final season, and he wrote and directed tonight’s season premiere.

It was quickly clear that Daniels knew one aspect of the show that had to be addressed:  Andy Bernard.  Through the contrivance of a summer-long Outward Bound program, the Andy that returned to Dunder-Mifflin was notably tougher and more confident than the punching bag who’d left, although things may have swung too far the other way as he spent much of his storyline taking borderline cruel physical revenge on Nellie. Other housekeeping tasks were carried out quickly, as Kelly (Mindy Kaling) and Ryan (B.J. Novak) left for their jobs on Kaling’s new FOX show The Mindy Project.   (Thinking of housekeeping, readers of credits had to be amused to see that several cast members now receive show producer credit, including Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer and Helms, no doubt as a network give in their new deals.)

The episode’s other lead story was silliness about Dwight (Rainn Wilson) becoming paranoid about ambitious young “New Dwight,” as new employee Clark (Clark Duke) was nicknamed, which led to an abortive attempt to ride a bicycle on a high wire over the parking lot.  More interesting was Jim (Krasinski) and his reaction to “New Jim” AKA Pete (Jake Lacy), whose very Jim-like casual attitude toward ever moving on from Dunder-Mifflin prompted Jim to sign on to a new business located out of Scranton, which will clearly cause tension in his marriage with Pam (Fischer).  Perhaps the most shocking moment, though, was one of its most casual, as it turned out Oscar (Oscar Nunez) is having a full-fledged affair with Angela’s (Angela Kinsey) husband.

One can’t say The Office has found its legs again as yet, because tonight’s episode wasn’t particularly funny, let alone the mix of funny and humane that the show used to manage when it was firing on all cylinders.  But the premiere was significantly more promising than anything we saw last year, as characters started acting like themselves again.  It would be very sweet if The Office could exit on something resembling a high note… particularly because all signs are that at midseason, we’re going to get a spinoff, with the initially unappealing concept of Dwight and his family running a bed & breakfast, which NBC needs to launch with Office as the lead-in.  That’s some months ahead, though; for now, let’s just hope the current series can build on its final start.

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."