As those of you who care already know, Steve Carrell is leaving The Office. So… what now?

The most apt comparison is to Phil Hartmann’s death and replacement on NewsRadio. Not just because they’re replacing (assuming they replace him, which they probably will, since NBC needs anything they can call a hit) an anchor of the show, but because Hartmann’s and Carrell’s roles were in some ways pretty similar. They were comedy relief while the real plot focused on the sexual tension between two other characters (Dave and Lisa on NewsRadio and Jim and Pam on The Office). That was the case early on moreso than it is now, though. The Michael Scott (Carrell) character has turned out to be far more three-dimensional than Bill McNeal (Hartmann) ever was. And the Jim-Pam plot has more-or-less revolved itself.

Even so, I hope that they avoid the mistake that NewsRadio made and keep Jon Lovitz as far away from this show as humanly possible! I’m no fan of Lovitz to begin with, but he was 100% wrong to replace Hartmann. He wouldn’t be quite as wrong to replace Carrell, but his over-the-top manner would not fit in well. I’m not worried about Lovitz specifically since I doubt they would bring him on, but I do hope that they don’t go the same shallow route. Leslie Knope from Parks & Recreation is about the right combination of similar-but-different that they should be going for.

That’s assuming that they replace Carrell’s character with a new head-of-branch. One thing they could do is simply promote from within. After too long a wait, they finally added Edd Helms to the starting credits (he should have replaced Novak two seasons back) and so losing Carrell would simply put them back at the previous number. One commenter in the linked article at the top of this post suggested Gabe (the empty suit from Florida). That could actually be a great idea as a true foil for the rest of the cast. The character doesn’t have the depth now, but they could add to it.

One of the unfortunate things is that they’ve already played out the plots that it would be really useful to have about now. They’ve already had Jim be the boss (or co-boss) and having him replace Michael would have had some possibility. And since they’ve already more-or-less resolved the Jim-Pam romance, they can’t lean on that, either. I’m not sure who else from the office (besides Gabe) would be a suitable replacement. Dwight from earlier in the show might have been, but it wouldn’t seem quite right at this juncture. They’ve also run with the Ryan-as-a-foil plot. So… I don’t know.

They do need to figure out something if they’re going to continue the show. The ensemble cast is particular strong, but I don’t know if it’s that strong without a Michael-like anchor or a really good romantic subplot.

I say go with Gabe.

Category: Theater

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7 Responses to Vacant Office

  1. web says:

    I really enjoyed The Critic, and wish it had run on for longer (despite the terrible “Simpsons Guest Star Episode). Granted, that was animated with Lovitz only doing the voices, but it was incredibly entertaining and still holds up today.

    One of the unfortunate things is that they’ve already played out the plots that it would be really useful to have about now.

    Nohamotyo could easily have the solution for that.

  2. Barry says:

    I’ll have to agree to disagree on Gabe, since I don’t see anything inherently interesting about him except as a foil to the cast. One of Michael’s biggest strengths was not that he was just a bad boss, but that he was a much more complete rounded character in himself that made him interesting to watch outside of the office interactions. I can’t imagine us caring about Gabe, even in a pitying way, like we do Michael.

    I see this almost as a Henry Blake/Sherman Potter kind of thing. Michael is a lot like Henry – sort of one of the guys, though in charge. Had some quirks (though not nearly as bad as Michael), was very good at what he did (a surgeon/salesman) but was basically a lousy CO/boss. Potter was regular army, and a skilled surgeon, but he was a much better CO than Blake ever was. He became dad or grandpa to the whole unit, while still allowing room for Hawkeye and BJ to carouse, drink, and annoy Frank (and Charles).

    I’m thinking the best choice for new boss would be David Wallace – he’s got enough post-Dunder Mifflin quirks to be interesting, but judging by some past episodes (the one with the dinner party at his house where he shot hoops with Jim) showed him to be a strong, respectable leader.

    After Wallace I might think about bringing Jan back. A female boss would be an interesting dynamic versus the chauvanistic Dwight, the married Jim and the manipulatable Andy. Plus she could threaten Angela’s idea of what a strong female would be, and be the thorn in rival to Ryan due to their shared corporate history.

    I wouldn’t promote from within, no. Bring back David, or Jan!

  3. trumwill says:

    Web, The Critic was indeed great and Lovitz is great for it. He could be passable in a live-action version, even. He has the right demeanor for it and is very passable as a movie critic. In NewsRadio the problem is that he just wasn’t credible as a radio personality. Hartmann’s voice was perfect for it. He would be worse for The Office because his grotequely exaggerated nature is so different from the more grounded humor of the series.

    Thanks for introducing me to the concept of Nohamotyo. I’ll have to remember that one.

  4. trumwill says:

    Barry, you make some good points and have good suggestions.

    My thought of Gabe is that he would definitely not be replacing Michael Scott. His character would be more at the Idris Elba level. The focus of the series would shift to the rest of the cast. I agree that he would not be good as part of the central cast.

    If they’re looking to add another name, you’ll probably have to go from the outside completely. Someone recognizable but not as expensive as Carrell. Kevin Nealon has probably been gone too long, but someone where he was 10 years ago.

    Your suggestions got my mind moving. David Wallace and Jan Levinson are not bad picks. Jan got me thinking of who might be perfect but is unavailable: Karen. Her send-off would have made it tough, though. Holly would be a good pick, but (a) she’s superficially too similar to Ms. Knope from P&R and (b) Michael’s sendoff will probably involve her riding off into the sunset with him. It’s too bad they exhausted Ryan-as-boss, cause that could work, too.

    I was thinking that someone (new) could come up from Tallahassee which had me thinking of southerners, which brought to mind the absolutely, positively worst pick: Larry the Cable Guy.

  5. Mike Hunt says:

    If NBC and The Office had any class, they would allow the show to end gracefully after seven years.

    Now that you are done laughing, I don’t know what will end up happening. I don’t think the Henry Blake analogy holds because McLean Stevenson was never the star of M*A*S*H, while Steve Carrell is the star of The Office. Also Blake (and Trapper John, for that matter) were only on the show for three years.

    I don’t see Holly being the new boss, if only because Amy Ryan doesn’t want to commit full-time to TV. Also, I’m sure that Michael and Holly will end up married at the end of season 7.

    Jan has lost a lot of esteem in the eyes of everyone since she got fired, so I don’t see her character making a triumphant return.

    I also don’t see David Wallace returning either.

    I think the solution is obvious…

    Ted McGinley

  6. trumwill says:

    Ted McGinley! That’s perfect!

    If NBC weren’t in such bad-shape ratings-wise, I expect they would cancel it. But The Office is one of the few shows pulling in fair ratings (though last I saw it actually hovers around CBS’s cancellation point, which goes to show how far NBC has fallen).

  7. Maria says:

    Gary Cole, as Bill Lumbergh redux.

    Cole could rant about TPS cover sheets a million ways to Sunday and still be funny.

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