With The Office winding down toward that great big nothing in the beyond, Rainn Wilson is letting nostalgia get the best of him. Today on Facebook, he gave us this informative update: "This is the original sign-in sheet for the first day of casting for The Office given to me by Allison Jones, our incredible casting agent. I was the very first person to audition for the series, 11/06/03. Notice all the amazing talent on the sheet, including the amazing #13! This is perhaps the greatest Office keepsake I have. So grateful for the best job I will ever have." But never mind Rainn Wilson's sweet sentiments! Look at all these quasi-well-known actors who auditioned for The Office!
Nostalgia, like the human neck, is one of humanity's greatest weaknesses. Thus spake Dwight K. Schrute, assistant to the regional manager of a paper company lo these many years, and doomed to remain one for untold more. Thankfully, despite NBC's bullheaded dependence on humanity's other great weakness — an inability to let go — those years will be mercifully untelevised. Last night's episode of The Office was a glimpse into what could have been and now will never be: a proposed spin-off called The Farm, in which Dwight and his heretofore unseen siblings till some inherited soil. Instead, the entire idea was buried; the people we met last night will never be seen again. It shouldn't really be a surprise. As any actual farmer could've told network president Bob Greenblatt, you can't expect to reap fresh rewards from such relentlessly overworked land.
When I got to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art last night just minutes before showtime, the theater was nearly full. Every unoccupied seat was marked with a bag or coat, and for a few minutes, I thought I’d being spending my evening propped against the back wall. The crowd was here for the final installment in a series of immensely popular live reads organized by director Jason Reitman, of Up in the Air and Juno fame, and tonight’s film of choice was Ghostbusters, which just so happened to be directed by Reitman’s father, Ivan, so the fact that I thought I’d just roll in and plop down was probably my own fault. Eventually, though, I found a seat in the back row, and the lights went down, and everything was fine.
After a brief introduction, Reitman was the first one onstage, and the jokes about not fucking up his inheritance began. “Everyone wanted to be a Ghostbuster for Halloween,” he said. “But I was the only one with a real Ghostbusters gun.”
Sometimes shows are canceled with a whimper. Usually shows are canceled with a harangue. This is not one of those times.
On a random summer Tuesday, executive producer Greg Daniels casually let slip that the upcoming, unasked-for ninth season of The Office would be the series’ last. Unlike with the premature passing of similarly influential sitcoms, there will be no kvetching in the streets, no mail-in campaigns, no strongly worded letters. This is an act of mercy, no different from the necessary euthanasia of a beloved pet.
Every week in this space Grantland pop culture correspondent Andy Greenwald will run down the happenings and mishappenings in NBC’s Thursday comedy night done mostly right. (Note: The order reflects newsworthiness, not quality. Although occasionally the two just might overlap.)
1. The Office
How do you know when the spark is gone? For a romantic naif like Andy Bernard it’s pretty simple: You fall in love with someone else, drive to Tallahassee, share a few laughs, a couple sandwiches, and then crash a bachelorette party to tell your soon-to-be-ex the great/terrible news. But with a sitcom, it’s rarely that clear cut.
The Office has been a mess all season, but the last run of new episodes before a not-particularly-earned spring break were at least an interesting mess. The banishment of half the cast to the Florida panhandle enlivened the writers' room like nothing since the Michael Scott Paper Company, creating an arc that, while manic and bizarre, at least demonstrated the 8-year-old (that’s 150 in sitcom years) still had some fight left in it. The hot Southern sun brought out a strange sort of crazy in familiar characters — Stanley the rum head, Dwight the sympathetic psychopath — and there was a palpable charge that resulted from pushing such a well-established franchise to the bleeding edge of plausibility. It wasn’t good, necessarily. But it was something. After a stuttering, frustrating start to the season, it seemed possible that The Office had somehow survived the loss of its head.