It just might be time for The Office to go out of business. Staff writer and executive producer Paul Lieberstein is rumored to be leaving the NBC staple at the end of this season. In addition to being the guy behind the guy, Lieberstein plays the under-appreciated Human Resource rep Toby Gunderson. Toby may not be a main character, but his cameos are always a treat. Why Lieberstein is leaving is a whole different issue.
Allegedly, Lieberstein and actor Rainn Wilson, who plays Dwight Schrute, are headed to a spin-off show entitled The Farm. The show will focus on Schrute and his beloved beet farm and will be tested during an episode of this season's The Office. If the show goes well, Schrute, who is undoubtedly one of the show's stars, will be history. To kick the show even more when it's down, Mindy Kaling, a writer and one of the best characters, has a pilot hitting the airwaves this fall on the rival Fox network. And wait, we're not done yet, the show's head writer Daniel Chun just signed a deal with ABC.
The departure of these mainstays is only the tip of the iceberg. Let's face it, since Steve Carell left the show last season, the once shining star in the NBC Thursday night lineup has been dragging. The addition of James Spader to the
Dunder Mifflin Sabre team was ingenious and his every minute of screen time is well worth sitting through the rest of the episode, but that's just it. He is not in the show enough to carry it. He needs some help and the writers have not been too kind in the good ideas department. The recent introduction of the British Nellie Bertram as a potential new boss of the Scranton Office is as implausible as her character is unfunny.
The characters that used to be so ridiculously witty -- Jim, Andy and Darrel -- have become one-trick ponies. At what point will Jim's standard, arched eyebrow stay that way from repetition? How many drunken jokes can Meredith make about herself? At what point will Kevin's childish idiosyncrasies stop being amusing? Or have they already?
The Office had at least six years of greatness, but all good things come to an end. There is no shame in it. The show was brilliant. Watch an older episode and you'll be reminded how funny a show it used to be. Carell had a way of holding the cast together and bringing out each of their comedic strengths because none of them needed to be the focus. Even at Carell's worst, he had the support of the ensemble. In his absence, everyone has to be the leading man, and no one is up for the challenge.
The only advice to give NBC, who still needs The Office due to ratings, is to suck it up and end the show after this season. Hanging onto a dying program only prolongs the inevitable. Why re-sign the actors for another season only to pull the plug somewhere in the middle of the ninth season? We all had our love affair with Dunder Mifflin Scranton (and the Stamford branch), but it is time to put this paper company into the shredder.