The Office’s series finale airs tomorrow night, and while it has certainly had its highs and its lows, it cannot be denied that it left behind an unforgettable legacy of cubicle parkour, Jell-Oed corporate property, and yes, true love. Here are some of the Grantland staff's favorite highlights from its nine-season run.
In the words of the legend himself: "It has to happen sometime." Bill Hader — who, over the last eight years at Saturday Night Live, has quietly put together a body of work that can rival the best to have walked through the doors at Studio 8H — is leaving.
In an interview with the New York Times this morning, Hader announced that this Saturday's season finale will be his last SNL ever. (Silver lining: Kanye's the musical guest. Maybe Bill will get an Auto-Tune emo ’Ye rant all to himself?) As the Times explains, "Mr. Hader's contract at 'Saturday Night Live' expired in spring 2012, but he was persuaded to stay on for an additional season. In February, he told Mr. Michaels that he was ready to move on, he said. 'I’d heard stories that you get very emotional in those conversations,' he added, 'and I’ve had other people tell me, "Oh, I cried." I didn’t, but I did think I was about to faint.'" As for why he's bouncing: He wants to move to L.A., where his wife, movie director Maggie Carey (The To Do List), works, and where he's got his own fair share of upcoming movie projects; also, seeing Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig leave pushed him to do the same. Basically: "It got to a point where I said, 'Maybe it’s just time to go.'"
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the agents are drinking. It's upfronts season in New York! This is the week the broadcast networks throw fancy parties to announce the new shows they'll be canceling in a few months and celebrate the returning veterans whose survival was brokered through a bruising backroom combination of studio strong-arming, dumb luck, and blind optimism. Over the next few days I'll be posting my thoughts on all of the announcements with the giant caveat that I haven't yet actually seen any of the new shows in question. Which isn't such a big deal because, odds are, you won't be seeing them for very long either.
First up: NBC
If Eskimos have multiple words for snow, then surely Comcast, NBC's new corporate overlord, must have cultivated at least a dozen synonyms for catastrophe. At this point, the Peacock's stumbles are legendary, and we're not talking the good kind of legends, either — those tend to have happy endings. Entertainment president Bob Greenblatt was hired in early 2011 to lead NBC out of the basement to which its previous caretakers — Jeff "Super Size Me" Zucker and Ben "White Tiger" Silverman — had abandoned it. But two years into his reign of errors, Greenblatt has only managed to dig himself in deeper. Yes, The Voice is a legitimate hit with a pronounced halo effect, but, if anything, its outsize success could also be seen as a hindrance. Last fall, the bleating of Christina Aguilera and friends drowned out a lot of obvious cracks that became all too obvious in the spring. Revolution, one of the network's 2012 success stories, cratered without its lead-in, and NBC went from winning the fall (at least in the coveted 18-to-49-year-old demo) to losing the year yet again.
As rumored and conjectured, Saturday Night Live's Seth Meyers will indeed take over Late Night after Jimmy Fallon moves to The Tonight Show. The news was confirmed this weekend by NBC and Meyers, who told the New York Times "Working at 'SNL' requires 100 percent of your mental capacity — on easy weeks. And so I had not really spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to do next. Obviously I can't quit Lorne [Michaels]. So this seems like a pretty good deal that I have an opportunity to keep working with him." According to Lorne — who'll now be executive producing Late Night and Tonight (plus, of course, SNL — the NBC after-hours trifecta) — the decision to hire Meyers came with "complete agreement [at NBC] the only name that kept coming up was Seth."
Hello, Earthlings. It has been a week since I have been beamed down to your planet from HG-430 Helioplex, my home planet, and boy am I enjoying myself in my humanoid role as manager of a movie theater in Missouri, a job I secured after a quick scan of the interstellar classifieds. You all have no objection to guns in movie theaters, right? I can't imagine why that would cause anyone to become alarmed. So what's your beef with my Iron Man 3 publicity stunt? Why would you balk at the image of "people dressed in full tactical gear and carrying what appeared to be assault weapons storm[ing] the screening"? Why would that glue you to your seat while you frantically dial 811 (earth police telecommunication signal)? I don't know. I'm just here on vacation. And my flight was awful. (h/t The A.V. Club, photo credit Amber and Amanda Photography)
This week we're trying to see the bigger picture for you. If you renew Parenthood (and you will, right?), you should probably go all in with it. Spend more money and optimize it to cross-promote your other successful franchises. And maybe you can even get Ellen DeGeneres onboard! Thank us later.
Yesterday, FX announced it was going into business with ex–talk show host George Lopez on what's become known as a "10/90" deal. It's not a tax thing — though it does have serious financial implications for those involved. Rather, it's an industry term referring to the sitcom strategy popularized by Tyler Perry and TBS a few years back, in which a new show is given 10 trial episodes to find its sea legs and to hit certain ratings benchmarks. If all goes not-catastrophically, a subsequent order is given for 90 additional episodes. It worked for FX with Charlie Sheen's comeback vehicle Anger Management, and it'll likely work again with Saint George, in which Lopez is set to play a guy with a wacky family life who does stuff. This sounds flippant, but it's not meant to. 10/90 deals for creaky-premised sitcoms are ideal for networks in search of reliability, not excellence. Saint George, like Anger Management and Tyler Perry's House of Payne before it, will provide value not by breaking ground or cracking wise, but by being a known quantity. These are the shows that no one talks about but produce a uniform, dependable product. They're the humble bricks necessary to build a solid schedule and protect a network from the slings and arrows of outrageous ratings misfortune. Quality aside, these sitcoms are a throwback to the way television used to be before auteurs and recaps, back when "social media presence" were three words that played about as well together as Charlie Sheen, Les Moonves, and Chuck Lorre.
As valuable as it may still be for programmers, consistency doesn't get much play these days from those of us on this side of the screen. There are too many shows debuting, too many sharks being jumped, too many cliffs being hanged to take time to consider the series that don't need to stand out to deliver. It’s a conundrum faced by Parks and Recreation, now gliding effortlessly toward the conclusion of its fourth consecutive stellar season. (Its first season was a mere six episodes and is necessary only for completists.) No show on TV, comedy or drama, has been as steady or as wonderful as Parks these past few years. It's not as quick as Happy Endings nor as cute as New Girl. It's not as creative as early Community nor as cringey as late-period The Office. But Parks chugs ever onward, as smart, sweet, and silly as ever. It is, in the words of Chris Traeger, the tall drink of Vitaminwater played by Rob Lowe, "a locomotive of positivity that runs on team power."
Last month, New York Magazine laid out The Today Show’s dirty laundry. Oodles of details about the infighting between Ann Curry and Matt Lauer spilled out, and, for NBC, your basic everyday public shaming was piled onto the severe financial sting of losing the "top-ranked morning show" title, for the first time in 15 years, to Good Morning America. But hey, at least the whole embarrassment is now behind them, huh? Time to move it on and move it out, and get back to trying to right the ship. Yep, just back to the regular ol' ah, not so fast! Earlier today, the New York Times Magazinedropped its own version of the sordid Today Show tale. Soooo, anyone up for kicking NBC around some more?
You have to trust your body. Your body will tell you what to do, what to think, how to feel … you just have to listen to it. If you dent a parked car and don't leave a note, your body will punish you with guilt. If you stand close to the edge of a cliff, your body will override your brain and back off of it. If you get drunk, when you wake up, your body will make you get a Gatorade and a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. Your body is smarter than you are. This week, my body was telling me that it can’t watch Ready for Love.
I tried; I really did. I carved out a couple of hours and sat down, ready to love Ready for Love. My body just wouldn’t let me.
I had an epiphany this week: I'm an NBC fan. Not only do I advocate for Parenthood, but I've been with The Voice since day one, and I'll continue watching Ready for Love even though it's a total mess. (NBC fans are hard to come by these days, so I wanted to make sure you were aware. Can you really afford to lose anyone else? Remember, I'm firmly in the 18-35 demographic.)
As always, when you make the right choice and renew Parenthood, here are some story lines for the writing staff to consider.
Last week, we here at Grantland spent an afternoon playing a guessing game. With Jimmy Fallon now confirmed to take over Jay Leno's spot on The Tonight Show, who'd be in line to take Fallon's spot on Late Night? An early consensus had formed around Seth Meyers, but history has taught us to expect the unexpected here (remember, they hired a Simpsons writer in 1993), and so a couple of other ideas were batted around. Leading things off was Bill Simmons picking Alec Baldwin.
It's time to add some new shows to the GRTFL. With only Survivor and Real World in the lineup, we had to diversify. I was going to wait it out until Des made her debut as The Bachelorette on May 20 … but then this happened.
With Ready for Love, NBC is straight gunning for that “I like to watch people fall in love in the most preposterous way possible” demographic. They aren’t even being coy about it either. The trailer begins with a voiceover that says, “Hey, Bachelor fans, are you ready for a new show?” So, yeah. NBC is promoting the show as The Bachelor with a couple of twists. First twist: The girls are vetted by matchmakers who assign them to their “team.” Second twist: The bachelors are all quasi-famous, fully handsome bros. Third twist: NO CHRIS HARRISON! I'm skeptical that human beings can find soulmates on national TV without the help of the Love Shepherd, Chris Harrison, but stranger things have happened. Stranger things like Eva Longoria EP'ing this show and Bill and Giuliana Rancic hosting it.
I will include this show in the GRTFL next week, but GRTFL lifers will remember NBC’s last attempt at getting that Bachelor money, Love in the Wild, which cursed this column and my life for three months in June 2011.
I hate the sight of blood. Not in real life, where I tend to order my steaks the way Lil B prefers his swag, but on television, where arterial splatter has become dispiritedly commonplace. On dramas both good (Boardwalk Empire) and bad (The Following), crimson is the chosen color for a crude, paint-by-numbers approach to adult storytelling. I hate the way these shows mistake the harvesting of hearts for the exploration of them and conflate horror with maturity. Just because something's shocking doesn't necessarily make it interesting.
So why, then, do I find myself transfixed by Hannibal? The serial-killer series (premiering tonight at 10 ET on NBC), doesn't just tick all the boxes I tend to deplore, it gleefully impales them on a sharpened deer antler. For every character introduced in tonight's pilot, another is brutally murdered. Throats are cut like sides of beef, livers and lungs are palpated, salted, and peppered. And running through it all like a vein is the blood: pooling beneath bodies in thick puddles of dark vermilion and misting through nearly every frame, a sticky pink miasma of gore that stains all it touches. And it touches a lot.
We haven't forgotten about you, nor have we forgotten about Parenthood. Actually, with Dax Shepard becoming a real-life dad, we’ve become acutely aware of how much we miss Crosby. Luckily, we've had Craig T. Nelson acting just like Zeek, talking about NBC's inexplicably poor treatment of this show. Even though The Voice is back (Team Monique Abbadie), your 2013-14 slate has not improved to our knowledge, so just renew the show already. And when you do, please demand that the audience meet some of the Braverman siblings' in-laws. We know that Jasmine is not the only spouse with her own family.