Has The Office become one of the most disposable comedies on TV?

Being that this is Steve Carell's final season, I expected last night's Office premiere to really shake things up. Hell, this might even be, you know, the show's final season. Yet other than a few stray gags, the premiere was pretty much par for the show's recent course. The main characters were the most uninteresting, and the sideline characters brightened only as much as they could. Has The Office become one of the most disposable comedies on TV?

"Nepotism" opened with the news that, in the off-season, hired his nephew Luke to be the office's assistant. Luke screws up coffee orders. He fails to send packages he promises to send. He listens to headphones while sitting at other people's desks and distracts everybody with his stupid drumming. He needs to go, but Michael can't fire his nephew. Nor can he even tell people that Luke is his nephew at all. Of course, the rest of the Dunder Mifflin crew finds out and forces Michael into a corner, which means Michael does something childish, impulsive, and awkward. He gets angry at Luke, bends him over, and spanks him.

That moment was certainly momentous, but the lead-in was far less interesting than the pay-off. We see Michael milling about and wondering what to do, and then he holds little seminar for the rest of the office—where he tells them not to hassle Luke and uses a bunch of confusing symbols and instructions. It's been seven seasons; Michael Scott needs to be outrageous, or at the very least unpredictable. Otherwise it rings far too familiar, and the build in "Nepotism" has been done before, to death.

The remainder of the episode focused on Jim and Pam hassling Dwight. Now that Dwight is the owner of the building, he's locking up thermostats and walking around like he owns the place (because he does). Jim tries to sneak some keys onto Dwight's massive keyring, and Pam snickers so loud Dwight finds out. Next: Jim is bummed, Pam decides to pull her own prank on Dwight to make up for it, Pam ends up stuck in an elevator with Dwight. Dwight is no longer funny. He's simply stupid for stupidity's sake, last night peeing in the corner of the elevator as soon as it got stuck because he wanted to "establish a pee corner." He was funniest when there were shades of realism, just as Michael Scott is funniest when you sort of feel bad for the guy. But Dwight has become a caricature of himself, and Pam has lost any distinguishing characteristic other than "fondness for Jim-style mugging."

Me, I want to see way more of Erin and Andy, because something tells me that relationship isn't over. And, of course, more Creed.

What did you think of the premiere?

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