The first Michael Scott-less Office episode aired tonight, and to be honest, I enjoyed it. For the most part. I was really liking the episode until about halfway through when it started to fizzle out.
But the plot itself was pretty good. The cold open introduces right away to the new manager: Andy. It turns out that Robert California (a strange and brilliant James Spader) was the manager for a day, saw the office and immediately left to Florida where he coerced Jo into giving him the role of CEO. All the while, the office is planking in the background. The planking was weird, but it was a good way to give us the information of what happened over the summer and combining a weird thing such as planking (Kevin planking was the best).
The episode itself gets its name from a list that Robert leaves laying around the office. On it is a list with people from the office split onto two sides. Everybody attempts to figure out what in the world it is, while Andy, in his new role as boss, attempts to please the office by figuring out what it is California is doing here. Things get even sketchier after he invites the left side of the group, with Jim, Dwight, Daryl, Kevin and others and leaves Andy, Pam, Erin, Stanley and the rest of the office behind.
As it turns out, the side that Robert invited to dinner are winners, in his eyes, while the ones left behind are losers. It's a bit anti-climatic after all the build-up, but for an Office premiere, I was pleased enough. I just thought the episode lost its funny bone about halfway through. Things got serious after that, and while there's nothing wrong with that, I liked the start more than the end.
However, gone was the goofiness that Michael Scott brought to the office. Again, there's nothing wrong with it every now and then, but Michael seemed to be goofy for seven straight seasons. Andy seems to be a bit more serious, though still retaining his weirdness. And the win he gets at the end by claiming the losers are winners as well was well written.
Overall, I think James Spader will mesh well and that Andy will grow into his role as boss. I think what the show needs to do now is figure out what it wants to do with this season. It can't just move along with no thought as to what the plot will be. At least there was a plot last year with Michael leaving.. this year, they need to bring that fun back.