As we enter into season eight of The Office, fans of the show know few things for certain. One is that Steve Carell is gone for good, and with him Michael Scott—the show’s main character and heart & soul. Another is that James Spader will be joining the cast to fill in the boss void left by Carell. And probably the last thing fans know for certain, if they watched last season’s finale, is that Spader’s character Robert California is kind of a bad-ass.
We don’t know yet if The Office can maintain its run without Carell, but if adding James Spader gives it a temporary boost and keeps it above water, these will be the reasons why:
4. Michael Scott Being A Total Idiot Stopped Being Gut-Funny About Three Seasons Ago
The whole appeal of a boss like Michael Scott was that he was exactly the kind of boss you’d hate to work for but love to watch—a sort of methodical train wreck of hilarious ineptitude. But like any kind of shtick, there’s a certain life expectancy of truly funny in that. It was always an inside joke between the rest of the Dunder-Mifflin staff as to how egregiously unqualified Michal always was for being the boss, but as the episodes piled up, his antics slowly went from cute, to stale, to literally unbelievable. Plus, the guy was kind of a dick.
We know it’s all make-believe, but if The Office claims to be a reality-based mockumentary, the writers at least owe it to us to ground it in some kind of real-world credibility. We never asked that Michael be the paper industry’s version of Jack McCoy, but the dude’s total lack of basic social skills and common sense were starting to become a little insulting to viewers who expected at least some real-world continuity.
This is where Robert California changes things. He’s neither incompetent nor socially awkward. On the contrary—he’s smooth, and almost diabolically manipulative. He can talk his way out of Compton at midnight and steal your girlfriend on the way home. Sure, he’s a little creepy too, but the same way Angelina Jolie is creepy.
3. California Scares The Sh*t Out of Everybody Else
You saw it after he walked out of his interview in that season finale. He stared across the office like Caesar overlooking Gaul, and everybody else—Stanley, Phyllis, Oscar, Andy, Darryl, Pam—nervously eyeballed him back like a third grade classroom would eyeball a substitute teacher who shows up dressed like a drill sergeant. You could see it on their faces—they instinctively know he’s smarter than the rest of them, and that somehow he’s going to end up being in charge.
This is a nice change of pace from their usual attitude towards Michael holding yet another one of his pointless conference room meetings, or ridiculously stupid initiatives. There’s a new sheriff in town – a creepy, bastard-genius sheriff – and they all have to wake up and keep their heads on a swivel if they know what’s good for them. For the first time in a long time, they’re not bored and dissatisfied, and that’s a good thing.
2. New Office Boss Means New Office Interpersonal Dynamics
Robert California’s management style is a potentially awesome alternative to Michael Scott’s because there’s a good chance you’ll see new sides to every character you’ve never seen before. Michael being the boss meant everybody else had to base their behavior around him. They had to constantly deal with the fact that he was kind of a childish idiot, albeit with a heart of gold. But now that he’s gone, they have to readjust their disposition to better deal with the new influence of California.
Case in point—Jim. Jim has always been smug and arrogant, and a large part of his character is based on the fact that he knew he was the smartest guy in the room and didn’t have to work very hard to outshine and manipulate Michael. The fact that he’s still appealing is a huge testament to John Krasinski’s like-ability as an actor.
But now all those expectations we have of Jim being a preening, satisfied, would-be prick are kaput. Like everybody else, he knows he can’t mess with California. If you go back and watch the scene where he, Toby, and Gabe conduct their interview of him, he’s trying probably the hardest he’s ever tried to figure someone out without sounding stupid and obvious. It was like watching a 12-year old trying to out-negotiate his dad.
1. Because… he’s James Spader?!?!?
You mean the smarmy, cocky guy from all those 80s movies? You mean that James Spader? Apparently, they do. Quick show of hands…who had their money on James Spader ending up taking Michael’s chair when he was gone? Nobody? Yeah, us neither.
To be fair, word is that Spader will actually be playing the CEO of the whole Sabre company, instead of just the manager of the Scranton branch, so technically he’s taking Kathy Bates’ spot instead of Michael Scott’s. But, whatever. Tomato, tomahto.
Think we’re wrong about James Spader being good for The Office? Think there’s no way it can continue without Michael Scott? Let us hear you’re thoughts on the comments section.