This season, The Office survived losing Steve Carell’s Michael Scott character. But could it survive losing Jim and Pam and Dwight and Andy and whoever else may fail to return to the show next season or the one after? Deadline reports that NBC is considering rebooting The Office into something half-old, half-new, with some supporting characters returning — the Oscars and Creeds, I’m imagining — to supplant a brand new cast of principal players. As the contracts for John Krasinski (Jim), Jenna Fischer (Pam), Ed Helms (Andy) and B.J. Novak (Ryan) are over at the end of the season, and with some of them looking to explore other commitments, executive producer Greg Daniels is set to present his plan for a renovated future to NBC bosses sometime soon. Previously, Deadline reported that series malingerer Dwight Schrute would receive his own spinoff series some time in 2013. If that holds, then it’s easy to see the rest of the cast being broken apart and remolded into something with a little more longevity.
It’s not hard to see that the show’s quality has tapered off in recent years, due to a complete tonal shift. Whereas the early seasons followed the British example of shoveling crushing depression on its characters at all times, it turns out there’s only so much tonnage of shit you can drown in before the audience demands more. With every subsequent season, The Office moved from semi-realistic mockudrama to more conventional sitcom: Jim and Pam finally got together, Michael morphed from a jerk to a doofus, supporting characters like Angela and Kevin turned into goofy caricatures of their initially mundane personalities, and numerous guest stars from Will Ferrell to James Spader were shoved in without little rhyme or reason besides “Hey, it’s Will Ferrell.” Which isn’t to say that The Office still isn’t funny now and then, or that it didn’t make the mold for whimsical-meets-awkward television. But maybe it’s time to accept that the series has gone on as long as it should, especially if the characters who got us into the show will be long gone. Even Seinfeld only lasted 9 seasons.