He came, he saw, he CEO'd. And now he's leaving. James Spader will not be returning to The Office if the show is renewed for another season, reports Variety, another sign that the future of the long-running NBC comedy is in doubt.
After the departure of star Steve Carell in Season 7, Spader joined The Office as a series regular in the currently airing Season 8 as Robert California, the new CEO of Dunder Mifflin. The character was first introduced at the end of Season 7, when the series interviewed several famous faces in an attempt to fill the hole left by Carell. The stunt-casting bonanza also featured several other well-known actors, whose characters all vied for the position of Scranton's new regional manager (ultimately, Robert California was hired as the new CEO of Dunder Mifflin and the regional manager gig went to Andy Bernard). Spader's arc was always meant to be a one-season trip, so his departure isn't exactly shocking.
However, if things were going well on the show, Spader would have stayed, right? This is another ominous sign for The Office, which is the TV equivalent of a ship sinking into a pit of lava full that's full of lava-proof piranhas. Writer/actress (and Office executive producer) Mindy Kaling (who plays Kelly Kapoor on the show) is one greenlight from leaving herself. She's writing and starring in a comedy pilot for Fox about a young OB/GYN, and if the network orders it to series, she'll leave The Office. And last month, NBC reportedly started developing a spin-off centering on Dwight Schrute and his beet farm, providing an escape for another one of the show's original cast members, Rainn Wilson. Clearly, the people behind The Office are scrambling for a way to keep the show alive.
Then there's the current state of the show itself, which has divided fans and critics. The ratings are at an all-time low as NBC's Thursday-night comedy block continues to collapse, leaving NBC with a big decision to make this spring.
Look, eight seasons is a great run. But The Office is a long way past its heyday and would be better off exiting in its current state than running until all the wheels fall off in Season 9. However, it's still one of NBC's top shows, so it's likely that we'll see it will return for at least one more season, if only to remind us that the plug should have been pulled after Season 7. Steve Carell looks smarter and smarter everyday.
Are you still watching The Office? Will you keep watching if the show lives to see Season 9?