By the time season eight rolled around, I’m sure a lot of people had abandoned The Office, and the occasionally amusing but mostly abysmal first entry into the post-Michael Scott era would’ve justified everyone who’d stuck around leaving too. The Office was once the funniest show on network television, and though it’d been in decline for a while (depending on whom you ask, maybe even since season three), it was never in danger of falling out of my personal rotation.
Well, season eight sure made me question that decision with storytelling sloppiness that wishes it could be called half-assed, near-complete character disintegration, and an absolute dearth of laughs that would sometimes stretch for several consecutive episodes. Sticking it out through all 24 episodes was a war of attrition, but not one I’m exactly proud of winning.
It’s really too bad too, because the creative staff behind The Office had a real opportunity to reinvent the show after the departure of Steve Carell’s Michael Scott at the end of season seven. Sure, he was the cornerstone the entire series had been built on, but The Office has always had a strong ensemble, filled with members just waiting to pick up the slack in a brand new way (The only actor who actually did it — Ellie Kemper, whose guileless Erin is the sole consistent bright spot in season eight). Without huge ratings — well, huge by a non-NBC standard — to compel maintenance of the status quo, The Office was ripe for a dramatic new approach. In some ways, it could’ve been like starting a brand new series again.
Of course, that’s not even close to what happened as Ed Helms’ Andy was called upon to become bumbling boss 2.0, a pale imitation of Carell’s singular creation. It’s not really Helms’ fault; he’s a fine comedic actor who’s been shuffled into a variety of roles in this series depending on its narrative needs, and he’s emerged as an identity-less cipher.