If you can erase last season from your mind, you’ll see this – the series’ fall opener – is exactly how “The Office’ should have carried on after Steve Carell left.
With Robert California (James Spader) out of the picture, Andy (Ed Helms) has become the sole authority figure and he’s just as wacky as Michael Scott.
Even better? Two twentysomethings have joined the staff and have quickly been dubbed the “new Jim” and “Dwight Jr.” They do bear a striking resemblance to the two originals, threatening to take the paper company in a fun new direction.
In the final season premiere Sept. 20, Andy has returned from an Outward Bound experience and wants to share the teachings with the staff. He sets up a tightrope and sees how well the others warm to it. It’s a perfect journey back to the wacky.
Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer), meanwhile, worry they’ve become too complacent in their work and home lives. Jim has an opportunity to go in another direction but isn’t sure he should take it.
In that first episode, we discover what happened to Kelly and Ryan, where Angela’s relationship with “The Senator” stands and what scheme Dwight (Rainn Wilson) is hatching.
The opener – written and directed by Greg Daniels – even lets us hear the voices of those unseen documentarians. Pam and Jim toy with them, suggesting we’ll get to see the result of their work sometime near the end of the season.
Broken relationships? There are a couple; but there’s also the start of another – one that was only hinted at during the last season.
The only situation that rings false is the face-off Andy has with Nellie (Catherine Tate), the newcomer who once held the reins. Andy’s too mean for his own good. If Daniels can make this less adversarial, it could work. Now, though, it’s just an easy gag and a throwback to the early days of the American version of “The Office.”
The good news? New Jim and Dwight Jr. are so good you could see them become the centerpiece of a new series. They’re Daniels’ hat tip to Broadway’s “Book of Mormon.”