The star of a television series will usually become the face most often associated with that show, and the one that will make or break the series’ popularity. Imagine Mad Men without Jon Hamm, or M*A*S*H minus Alan Alda. Their characters helped each series due to their fantastic performances.
The Office is trying to stay afloat after losing its star. Steve Carell, who played bumbling boss Michael Scott, decided to leave the show during the seventh season, turning last spring’s finale into a series of auditions for a variety of actors, including Catherine Tate and Will Arnett.
Over the summer, the producers of The Office announced they had chosen James Spader, who played the strange and slightly brilliant Robert California in the finale. So how has Spader made the transition to the sitcom?
Strangely, California is not the manager of the actual branch, but now the CEO of the entire company (in a very lazily written scene meant to explain Kathy Bates’ departure,) putting Andy Bernard (played by Ed Helms) as the man in charge of the Scranton employees.
Spader is a great actor, but his character is too weird for the show. While credited as a lead actor, it appears California will rarely be seen working with the entire cast, cramming himself up in the conference room he has made into his personal office. The emotional connection everyone made with Michael Scott was wonderful, but this seems to be lacking with the relationships with Robert California.
The rest of the ensemble is still around, but whether that will lead to better comedy is yet to be seen. Whether it is nostalgia or an actual drop in writing quality, the show seems lost without Carell.
The Office is one of the best comedies of the last decade, but its current season seems to be headed down the wrong path, forcing long time fans to re-evaluate their passion for the series.