At times, last night’s Office season finale—which set about finding a replacement for the sorely missed Michael Scott—started to feel as drawn-out and uncomfortable as some actual job interviews I’ve been subjected to. Which isn’t to say it was a disaster! It just didn’t have the narrative oomph of the show's past season finales. But watching The Office's amazing group of comedic actors riff off of each other is mostly a joy, their amazingly honed chemistry often elevating the proceedings to a kind of free-form comedic jazz.
As for the cavalcade of celebrity guest stars, I actually enjoyed quite a few them—particularly James Spader’s mildly sociopathic (but highly effective) Robert California. Whoever wrote that guy’s dialogue deserves a shiny gold star, and Spader, twisted genius that he is, hit it out of the ballpark. This was the kind of specificity missing from Deangelo Vickers. Bonus points to the trio of search committee members—Jim, Gabe, and Toby—whose reaction shots were equally priceless, as well as Dwight, who mounted a cafe standoff that counts among the highlights of the season.
Now, let’s quickly run down the job candidates:
Pros: Enjoys communicating with clients.
Cons: Unaware all his clients are Pam.
Pros: Feels passionately about paper.
Cons: Describes his managerial style as "fascist geek."
Pros: Can sell you anything with his evil mind rays.
Cons: Might leave behind a trail of bodies.
Pros: Willing to work with your needs.
Cons: Wants to hire a Thai masseuse.
Pros: Nearly gave his life for paper.
Cons: Might not be who he says he is.
Pros: Loves the folks at Dunder-Mifflin.
Cons: Requires a workplace-distancing fee.
Pros: Has a three-part plan.
Cons: Doesn’t really have a three-part plan.
Pros: Knows good jewelry.
Cons: Not above sleeping her way into the corporate office.
Finger Lakes Guy
Pros: Likes the outdoors.
Pros: Good with money.
Cons: Why the f**k is Warren Buffett on The Office? Did he buy a cameo?
Pros: Has done the same job overseas.
Cons: Takes jobs, then disses the people who hire him on the internet.
Pro: Most competent guy in the office. And...blaaaaaack.
Cons: Tried to use his own child to guilt his way into the job. Can't write a resume without the help of Microsoft Word's cartoon paperclip, Clippy.
Pro: He’s a Bernard: born to at least try, then fail.
Con: Will likely instate Showtune Fridays.
Con: Is a sock.
Well, as much as we’d all love to see Erin’s sock puppet become the Dunder-Mifflin manager, I think we can pretty much rule her out. So who does have a shot? As Rainn Wilson told us last week, not even the writers know who’s going to get the job, so it’s anybody’s game!
Round One: The Familiars
Of the the internal possibilities, Dwight, Darryl and Andy are the frontrunners. We shouldn’t rule out Jim entirely, but the last time he was manager, we learned that putting a competent person being that desk doesn’t exactly produce comedy gold. Based on last night’s episode, I’d give it to Dwight. Darryl and Andy just didn’t produce as many self-generated laughs. Think about it: Who would you like to see every character interacting with the most? The focal point of the series? (Okay, fine, Creed. But he’s too weird to take center stage.)
Round Two: The Unfamiliars
Of the external candidates, the two I would love to see become regulars were Catherine Tate’s Nellie (a brilliant British comedienne as big over there as Ricky Gervais is, and a rumored network favorite) and Spader’s Robert. Nellie was a little all over the place last night—though I loved how quickly she turned on a dime, offering MORE cubicles and meaningless titles when her suggestion of doing the opposite wasn’t winning her the job. Robert was, as I already mentioned, a comedic tour-de-force—but perhaps only in small doses?
Round Three: The Finals
Nellie vs. Dwight! I’m torn. If you’ve ever seen The Catherine Tate Show, you know what a hysterical and well-observed performer she is. Yet Dwight has earned it. He’s consistently, to me at least, the most fascinating and watchable character on the show.
Additional thoughts on the episode:
... What do you think about Gabe’s departure? (I’m really bummed about it. I really liked Gabe, but I know he wasn’t popular with many of you.)
... There were some fantastic lines last night. Which one made you laugh hardest? My favorite came from Dwight: "Bread is the paper of the food world. You write your sandwich on it."
... Were you relieved or disappointed to learn Erin and Phyllis aren’t related?