Currently in its eighth season, The Office is a television show about a group of workers in the Scranton, Pennsylvania branch of a dying paper company, Sabre-Dunder Mifflin. Set in a mockumentary format, the show follows the lives of each of the workers as personalities clash, sales are made, and clients are lost within the isolated and seemingly self-sufficient world of their office.
Towards the end of the first seven seasons, the show had fallen into something of a comfortable (but still hilarious) rhythm; bumbling branch manager Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell, salesman Jim Halpert (John Krasinski), and assistant to the regional manager Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) formed the perfect comedic trio to lead the show.
However, during the final few episodes of the seventh season fans of the show dismayed as they were forced to watch Michael Scott step down from his position as branch manager to move to Chicago with his new fiancé Holly Flax (Amy Ryan). Sadly, Carell’s contract with the show had expired and he decided he wanted to move on to other projects. The next few episodes of the show clearly showed that the writers were struggling to reconstruct the show around the gaping hole created by Carell’s absence. This post-Carell phase to the show was loaded with guest stars such as Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, and Ricky Gervais—all playing characters vying for the now-open position of branch manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin. These episodes lacked the painfully awkward absurdist vernacular that has become native to The Office; they seemed confused and lacked direction.
Season eight has veered the cast and plot back to the classic The Office feel, however, as a command decision was made to put salesman and series regular Andy Bernard, played by Ed Helms of The Hangover, in the position of regional branch manager. Although this decision may have been off-putting to regular viewers at first, as Helms has never been very central to the show, the first few episodes of season eight have seen him coming into his own in his new role. The other office workers seem to be adjusting well to the new rhythm as well. Viewers have also been pleased to see the return of James Spader in his role as Robert California, the new CEO of Sabre-Dunder Mifflin, whose ridiculously quirky and haughty manner of dealing with the workers enriches the show—as well as provokes several incredulous glances towards the camera on the part of Krasinski every episode.
Although The Office has seen several dramatic changes within the past few episodes, viewers can appreciate the continued growth of the characters as long-time couple Jim and Pam (Jenna Fischer) prepare to have another child, Dwight deals with his farm and various other schemes, and Angela (Angela Kinsey) copes with her pregnancy and her relationship with “The Senator.” Viewers had to suffer through a rough patch after the loss of Carell, but those who hung on will continue to be well rewarded as The Office gracefully proves its ability to stand alone as a comedy without having to lean on the star power of a single actor.
Meghan McCullough is a native New Yorker who has always had a deep interest in writing. She is continuing this passion as an English major at Amherst College.