‘The Office’ prevails without Carell

By Acacia DiCiaccio

Thursday marked the season eight premier of the NBC comedy “The Office.” This premier was more crucial than many others because it kicked off the first season without the show’s focal point, Michael Scott. Scott, played by Steve Carell (“The 40 Year Old Virgin”), was the awkward but loveable branch manager at Dunder Mifflin Paper. Carell announced his decision to leave the show after seven seasons because he wanted to spend more time with his family. Fans of “The Office” had mixed feelings about Carell’s departure and critics wondered if the show would even be worth watching once the boss had gone.

However, the show’s writers and directors seem to be up to the challenge. The premier episode begins with the office employees participating in the fad of “planking” and throwing down jokes at every turn.

A few surprises spring up as the episode unfolds. Jim and Pam are pregnant again, and so is Angela, by “The Senator” (though speculation deems that the baby is probably Dwight’s). Stanley has created a new way to tell people off, and the biggest news of all is who will take over the branch manager position for good.

The boss employed at the end of the previous season, Robert California (James Spader of “Boston Legal”), seemed a bad match for the eccentric office. Though his character is definitely intense and odd, something did not feel right having the show’s familiar characters under his jurisdiction. The writers kept California by giving him the position of CEO, while Andy Bernard (played by Ed Helms, “The Hangover”) took the position of new branch manager. Though Bernard did not seem like much of a viable option in terms of leadership skills and sales performance, as a character he fits into the role perfectly. Like Scott, Bernard appears to be unqualified to manage anyone, but his dedication and love for the individuals in the office proves him to be perfect for the position. Bernard is just as naïve, loveable, socially needy and eccentric as his predecessor.

When receptionist Erin (Ellie Kemper) discovers CEO Robert California’s personal notebook with each employee’s name written in one of two columns, the office goes haywire trying to decode the meaning of his “doodle.” This creates a hostile atmosphere and proves again why California felt out of place as the manager, but it still allows for some creative growth in the script. Bernard fails multiple times at asserting his new managerial powers to stop California’s cruel list-making, but in the end Bernard illustrates his compassion for even the “losers” of the office (well, except for Gabe.)

The episode closes with a Jim and Pam moment that would melt even the hardest of hearts, proving once again that the absurdly cute couple acts as an anchor for the show. What makes them so adorable is that they, like the other characters on the show, possess an element of reality that often gets lost when writers create “characters” instead of “people.”

As many have pointed out, Michael Scott was one of the main characters, but he was not the only character. “The Office” has an unparalleled ensemble cast and a great team of writers. Though Michael Scott will be missed, the fleshed out cast will have no problem carrying on the show. Dedicated fans that ruled that they would stop watching “The Office” after Scott’s departure underestimated the power of the writers and actors that are still going strong.

Acacia DiCiaccio can be reached at [email protected]