Who’s the new boss?   Leave a comment

There are ten people looking to take the place of Michael Scott as the regional manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company – ten delusional, sad, ridiculous people.

Counter-clockwise from upper right: Darryl Philbin (Craig Robinson), David Brent (Ricky Gervais), Dwight Schrute alias Jacques Souvenir (Rainn Wilson), Merv Bronte (Ray Romano), Fred Henry (Will Arnett), Robert California (James Spader), Warren Buffett (as himself), Nelly Bertram (Catherine Tate), [the search committee: Tobey Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein), Jim Halpert (John Krasinski), Kelly Kapoor (Mandy Kaling)], “Finger Lakes Guy” (Jim Carrey), Andy Bernard (Ed Helms)

The  seventh season of The Office ended last week, and I took the opportunity to throw a little sketch together. I haven’t watched the show regularly since 2009 – I got caught up in school work and I spent a semester in France and I never got caught up on what I’d missed. I watched the season finale last week, though, and I’m a little worried that the show has jumped the shark. In case you’re not familiar with that particular expression, let me educate you:

Jumping The Shark is the moment when an established show changes in a significant manner in an attempt to stay fresh. Ironically, that moment makes the viewers realize that the show has finally run out of ideas. It has reached its peak, it will never be the same again, and from now on it’s all downhill.

While the subsequent five seasons haven’t been able to quite equal the spectacular first two seasons of The Office, the show has still managed to stay nearly as funny and enjoyable as it was in the beginning. It’s lost a lot of its freshness, but not too much of it’s steam. The characters haven’t gotten too exaggerated, and they’ve been fleshed out pretty well. The real difficulty for a series like this is creating enough story lines to last several years without having anything too ridiculous happen. This is how the phrase “jumping the shark” originated, actually. The fifth season premiere of Happy Days ended with a cliff-hanger, resolved the following week, in which the Fonz travels to Hollywood and jumps over a penned great white shark on water skis as a dare.

It’s the guest-star cameos that make me worry that The Office has done just this. A few episodes back, after Michael announced his plans to quit and leave for Colorado to join his ex-lover and now fiancé Holly. His replacement is a man named Deangelo Vickers, played by Will Ferrell. Now, I love Ferrell and his ridiculous characters, but strength of The Office is that its characters, no matter how ridiculous they are, are always believable as people, and the Deangelo character just seemed too much like a Will Ferrell cameo rather than a real solid character.

The problem with celebrity cameos on this show is that they just can’t help but stick out as famous faces. The last episode took this to a bit of an extreme with eight celebrity guest stars playing candidates for Michael’s replacement. The characters themselves were all fine, but the fact is that when Jim Carrey’s appears on The Office for ten seconds as a candidate for regional manager of the Scranton branch, I don’t see the character he’s supposed to be portraying, I see Jim Carrey. And why in the world would David Brent, Michael Scott’s counterpart from the original BBC series played by Ricky Gervais, be interviewing for a job in Scranton, Pennsylvania??? Even Gervais, who is also co-creator and one of the executive producers of the American show, expressed some skepticism about what was going on in this episode.

All this said, however, I still thing The Office is a great show. It’s still funny, the characters are still engaging, and the stories are still interesting. I just hope that whoever they choose as the new boss is a worthy replacement for Michael Scott.

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