The Office isn’t quite the show it used to be. Steve Carell leaving the series certainly didn’t help—although, admittedly, Michael Scott’s farewell episode offered some of the most moving incidents in the show’s history. But The Office wasn’t ready to call it quits, as many fans had hoped. Instead, the show brought on a new character to keep things fresh: Robert California, played with a strange flare by James Spader. The Scranton newcomer definitely brings his own brand of comedy to the episodes on which he is featured, keeping things lively when he shows up. But now, the show will have a new hole to fill: Spader is also leaving The Office.
So without these commanding head honchos, The Office is forced to divert its full attention back to the office workers—and right about now, these characters and their stories have a fair amount of problems that need fixing. So what exactly can The Office do to keep us watching and invested? Here are a few ideas to start with…
Change Angela Back to Her Old Self
Sometime over the course of the past two years, Angela Martin, formerly a rigidly repressed, uptight and socially inept weirdo, changed completely. Now, she’s much looser, more sociable, and only marginally negative—a character whose primary humor seems to now come from the fact that she is completely oblivious to her husband’s homosexuality. You can make the argument that this is “character development,” but it just doesn’t quite work. Angela was much funnier when she was a stern oddball who took issue with anything and everything, and the office environment would fare better with that version of the character again.
Tone Down the Darryl/Val Relationship Story
On last week’s episode, Darryl’s pursuit of coworker Val, who is in a relationship with a hotheaded jerk, was compared pretty heavily to the Jim/Pam romance that drove the show for the first three years. Perhaps The Office was trying to drill it into viewers’ heads that we are supposed to care about Darryl and Val the way we cared about Jim and Pam. Unfortunately, we don’t. We were invested in Jim and Pam from the start, latching onto this world via the hope that maybe these two sweet and charming young people might get together. But we aren’t latching onto Darryl and Val. The Office’s world is already yards beyond established, and this new romance just seems tossed on top without much substance. Darryl works best in scenes with Andy, and vice versa—their friendship needs a jumpstart.
Start Andy Down his Rightful Path
When Andy was put in charge of the Scranton branch, there seemed to be a great opportunity for the character. Not comically—in fact, a lot of the humor involved in Andy’s running of the branch seems to be rehashed Michael Scott bits—but in terms of character development. Andy is a pretty strong, three-dimensional character (the current manifestation of Andy, that is—he is another one who has changed dramatically since his incarnation, with no apparent rationale), and one who is definitely on a quest to figure out where he belongs. Clearly, Andy is not there yet. But this new position as the branch manager is a great vehicle to help him find it. Maybe he’ll grow up and become more self-assured. Maybe he’ll realize that he’s meant to move on from Dunder Mifflin, as Michael did. Maybe he’ll succumb to his love for Erin and live on happily with her. Whatever it is that the show aims to do with Andy, they need to start doing it. As of now, the dynamic Ed Helms is not being used to full potential.