Rumblings of Dwight Schrute’s spin-off from The Office, now called The Farm, have been brewing for months, and with the news that Rainn Wilson’s character now has a sister and a nephew, things are getting real.
Of course, as easy as they may seem, spin-offs can be some of the riskiest endeavors in the television world. You could strike gold, like Kelsey Grammer and co. did with Frasier when Cheers ended; you could have some middling success like Kate Walsh‘s Grey’s Anatomy spin-off Private Practice; or you could travel into the land of the Friends follow-up, Matt LeBlanc’s Joey. Unfortunately for The Farm, Private Practice is a drama and therefore not the greatest barometer for its spin-off success, so really, we’re looking at greatness and, well, Joey.
As Dwight transitions into his role as the proprietor of the bed-and-breakfast he’s about to inherit, he’ll follow either the path of Joey or that of Frasier. Because we’re naturally curious about this late-blooming spin-off and because we’ve got some decent context built up now, it’s about time we took a gander at what this show has going for it. We took at look at nine significant factors for a spin-off and gave The Farm points in two categories: Frasier and Joey. And by the time we get through it all, we just might have some insight into the new series’ fate.
Personality: Generally salty, particular, often antagonistic.
No, Dwight is not Frasier. He’s not rocking Chihuly blown glass sculptures in his high rise apartment and listening to NPR’s latest expose on the dynamics of the London Symphony orchestra’s string section. He doesn’t have the emotional capacity to help anyone through their issues, though Frasier was a bit lacking as well, but he does fill a rather similar role to Frasier’s on Cheers. He is a supporting, often obnoxious character who, over time, has convinced us he’s worth caring about. Well, he’s worth caring about until he does something obnoxious again. Still, we’d root for Frasier over Lilith, and we’d root for Dwight over Angela.
Character Type: Supporting, Often Clueless Standby
The thing all three of our protagonists in question have in common is their utter cluelessness. Dwight has no understanding of how most normal people function. Frasier can’t wrap his brain around anyone without a Ph.D. And Joey… well, Joey just doesn’t get it. He sure is lovable though. And while Joey, Dwight, and Frasier are all part of ensembles, they’ve always been cast into the more supportive roles in their original series.
Spin-off Location: Somewhere in Pennsylvania at the Schrute Bed and Breakfast
Point: Frasier (1/2 point)
When Joey left his Friends, he moved to the city where almost every multi-camera sitcom settles: Los Angeles. Even if he settled somewhere like Chicago, or stayed in New York, he’d still be faux-exploring a city we’ve already met time and time again. Frasier moved his sophisticated hiney back to Seattle, which lent his series a little more of an interesting air — television audiences weren’t already acquainted with this Pacific Northwest metropolis. The one caveat of this Frasier-point for The Farm is that The Office has already introduced us to life in Northeastern Pennsylvania, so all we can really do at this point is get more rural. So we’re going to knock this one down to a half-point.
Boss Man: Former Office Showrunner Paul Lieberstein, and Office EP Ben Silverman
You’d think that having the original series’ showrunner take on the spin-off is a surefire plan for success, and being a fan of Mr. Lieberstein, I’d like to think so too. There’s just one issue: it didn’t fare so well when Joey did it with the co-showrunners of Friends‘ final season, Shana Goldberg-Meehan and Scott Silveri. There’s also an issue of context: the final season of Friends drew loads of criticism and so have the most recent seasons of The Office, which could signal that the boss man is growing weary of the material. The proof will obviously be in the pudding, but as far as track records go, this point goes to Joey.
Transition Style: Original Will End After This Season as The Farm Continues (In Theory)
Both Frasier and Joey picked up where their source material left off, and as we just learned Season 9 will be the last for The Office so Dwight is in the same boat. Joey even slid right into Friends‘ former time slot, literally filling the void in the NBC Thursday night lineup. It’s a bit trickier to have the spin-off run simultaneously with the original, but then when The Office finally goes, Schrute-buck holders will be forced to seek refuge at The Farm.
Family: Dwight Lives With His Sister, Who Is Wildly Different From Him and Has a Young Son Whom He Can Interact/Bond With
This actually is the same family log line as Joey’s. Except that where Majandra Delfino’s Schrute sister is a liberal former-Bostonian with a big heart. Joey’s sister was just a sassy, self-described slut. So there’s that. The main similarity here is the dynamic between the grown brother and sister with the wild card of a nephew with motor skills and (hopefully) an attitude. (You don’t hire Blake Garrett, the adorable kid from Bridesmaids and New Girl, if you don’t want some sass.)
Reason for Leaving: Going Back to His Roots and Family
Perhaps it’s the pressure of starting a new venture in the TV game while the series’ main character is also starting his own risky new life that helped in Joey’s demise. Either that, or his character just failed to be funny after 11 years. Either way, Frasier went home to live with his dad and Eddie, and Dwight’s heading out to rural Pennsylvania to run an old B&B. That return to his wacky family could be the factor that breathes life into a character we already know inside and out.
Number of Years on Original Series: 8.5 Years
Dwight will leave in the middle of Season 9, which will give him eight and a half years in his role. Frasier joined Cheers a few years into its run and he stayed for seven, and as we know, he went on to be majorly successful as the star of his own show. Joey, on the other hand, had 10 years as Mr. Tribbiani under his belt, which might have contributed to a bit of character fatigue. There’s no real rubric for this one, but suffice it to say, Frasier is the gold standard.
Original Series’ Theme Song: Incredibly Iconic
Alright, so this isn’t everything, but let’s look at the entire set of shows at hand. Friends and Cheers have come of the most memorable, singable theme songs ever. The Office’s familiar, plinky song evokes images of the Scranton sign and Jim’s resigned face almost immediately. That’s a lot to compete with. And let’s face it, that song is what viewers are going to hear every time they tune in. It will either elicit excitement or groans. And riddle me this: Frasier’s theme song, was of course, famously the “Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs Song,” but what, pray tell, was Joey’s? I’ll take your stumped silence as an “I don’t know.” Finding a theme song that resonates as well as the original is big hurdle, and The Farm will either rise to the challenge or (sigh) be a Joey.
Frasier Points: 4.5
Joey Points: 5
Outlier (Private Practice) Points: 1
*Obviously, there is no real formula for TV shows, or we’d all be living on the beach in Malibu, working on Big Bang Theory-level series and raking in the easy money. But hey, these are the chips, and they’re going to fall. They may or may not fall as we’ve seen in the past.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.
[Photo Credit: NBC (3)]