Film and TV

The Week in TV: Dunder Mifflin Finds a Boss

James Spader joined The Office! Well, he kind of already did, but now it's official! Oh, who are we kidding, that's boring news. This was the week in TV Land:

• Well, the rumors became reality last week: The Office is adding James Spader to its cast. He'll be reprising his role as Robert California, who interviewed for the manager spot last season, but he's not really a replacement for Steve Carell. According to the announcement from producer Paul Lieberstein (who also plays Toby on the show), Spader's character is brought in as manager only to be kicked up the ladder to the CEO spot. That lets the show bring in new blood, gives Kathy Bates the chance to leave and keep making bad jokes on Harry's Law and leaves the actual manager spot wide open. My money's on Jim taking the job, since it would provide a nice end-point to the arc that's carried him from reluctant salesman to middle management and beyond. Plus, it'd be a nice note for the show to end on. The real question is, will people still be invested in the show without Carell?

• There's Charlie Sheen news. Actually, several pieces of it. But I'm going to do something radical here and suggest we just not talk about it. I am willing to write about a lot of things as a critic, and I think it's possible to find relevant cultural observations or artistic lessons in even the cheapest and most odious of TV series and stars (I once wrote a column dedicated to unlocking the mystery of Mystery). But Sheen is just too much. There was a two-week period there where he transformed into the Internet, generating memes and catch phrases as quickly as he could, bouncing between talk shows with the frightening energy and passion that felt like a by-product of a machine gaining sentience and opting to destroy its programmers. But he just wound up becoming more of a joke than ever, and each successive press release from his increasingly desperate camp feels like a pathetic attempt to recapture some of the ironic hate-love that we all briefly felt for him. Do you really need to know that he's trying to get a show off the ground, or that he's being honored with a roast? You do not. Join me in this. We all, as a people, have to stop talking about Charlie Sheen.

• Speaking of men who have morphed into parodies of themselves: David Hasselhoff is set to join Sons of Anarchy as a former porn star who now makes his money shooting amateur lesbian flicks and has ties to the bike club. The Hoff, who will indeed consent to be hassled as long as he's getting paid, is clearly gunning to be the next William Shatner.

• Hope you like aliens: TNT has renewed Falling Skies for a second season of 10 episodes after the show's ratings have stayed strong. The series will likely return next fall for another summer run. Confession: I still haven't seen the show. I've got it sitting on my DVR, but I just haven't made the time for it, in part because I'm only now catching up with Game of Thrones. Anybody out there watch it?

• Speaking of TNT: The cable network your parents love has given the go-ahead to a new version of Dallas. Unlike recent remakes like Battlestar Galactica, the new Dallas will be a continuation of the original in which Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman will appear as their classic characters alongside people named Josh and Jordana, who will play characters you will probably not remember. The first season of 10 episodes will debut next summer.

• The A.V. Club put a pair of great TV interviews up last week: Louis C.K. and The Upright Citizens Brigade. The Louis C.K. piece is a typically great read that gets into the comedian's approach to his FX show and how he's found success by forfeiting budget to retain creative control.

• After a year away, Breaking Bad returns this Sunday on AMC. The Emmys don't always get it right, but it's no accident that Bryan Cranston has won the award for best actor every year of the show's run so far. And Aaron Paul won a supporting actor trophy for his work last season, too. This is probably the best drama airing right now. It's that good. If you haven't seen it, snag the DVDs or get the episodes via iTunes. In the meantime, set your DVR to start recording new episodes so you can binge when you're all caught up. You will thank me. No more half measures. It's time to do this.

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Daniel Carlson
Contact: Daniel Carlson