It’s the beginning of the end for The Office. The NBC comedy returns from its summer hiatus with its ninth season premiere. In its first attempt (last season) to recapture the magic in a post-Steve Carrell Office, the show suffered. Even with the addition of the excellent James Spader – out after one season, along with Mindy Kaling — it didn’t work. This time, Dunder Mifflin has reloaded with new cast members Jake Lacy and Clark Duke, both featured prominently in the opener, and is ready to go out with a bang.

 

The Players:

  • Director: Greg Daniels
  • Writers: Greg Daniels
  • Cast: Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, B.J. Novak, Jenna Fischer, Ed Helms, Leslie David Baker, Brian Baumgartner, Kate Flannery, Creed Bratton, Ellie Kemper, Angela Kinsey, Paul Lieberstein, Oscar Nuñez, Craig Robinson, Phyllis Smith, Clark Duke, Jake Lacy

Episode Title: “The New Guys”

Fresh from his leadership weekend, a newly empowered Andy takes charge, dealing with a defiant Nellie and two new staffers.

The Good:

  • Cold Open: Funny and informative! We get to see how Kelly left, as well as Ryan. The Pam and Jim set-up was also good. With the long goodbye officially underway, season nine opens with a win!
  • Clark Duke: Dwight Jr. looks like he’s going to fit in nicely. Duke had some good back-and-forth with Rainn Wilson’s Dwight. “Is this like code for gay stuff?”
  • Jake Lacy: New Guy #2 also had some nice moments in the opener – especially his awkward scene with Jim outside in the parking lot.
  • Wow #1: Oscar and the Senator! Nicely done, writers!
  • Wow #2: Jim decides to join his friend’s new awesome start-up. But it’s in Philly. Uh-oh! Does this mean John Krasinski is going to be MIA most of the season?
  • Heavy Metal: Dwight Shrute, Slayer fan.
  • Jim Makes His Move: The scene at the end with Jim struggling to find the confidence to make the call about the new job opportunity worked rather nicely. Good work, Kransinski!
  • Best Line: Meridith wins the night with: “Hey, new Jim, come sit on my face.”

The Bad:

  • Robert California: Best to get it out of the way right from the get-go: the absence of James Spader and his woefully underutilized character will be missed. RC could have provided even more eclectic fun to the final season.
  • New Andy And His Colorful Shirt: Even new and improved and authoritative Andy is still kinda annoying. His “Toby-Out” comment was solid, but ‘Ice Man’, as he was nicknamed on his Outward Bound adventure, still looks like a guy with not a lot to do on the show anymore.
  • Nellie’s Still Here?: Still not sure what to make of Nellie as a regular on the show. So many viewers have long ago written her off, not sure it matters what happens.
  • B.J. Novak: This is in the Bad section because it sucks Novak/Ryan is no longer a full-time regular. But most likely he will make recurring appearances throughout the season.

Overall:

The farewell season of The Office begins much like it closed last season: good here, so-so there, and… okay… they should have wrapped it up after the wedding episode! I know! I know!

There is a reason the show is ending, but the addition of Lacy and Duke pay quick dividends as the opener provides flashes of comedy moxie, while helping wash away painful memories of last season. Ultimately, one hopes the venerable show can merely string together a lot of funny episodes over the next few months as the end approaches, reminding us why we loved the show so much to begin with.

Rating: 6/10

The Office airs on NBC at 9pm (ET/PT) on Thursday nights.

What did you think of tonight’s episode?