Will the last one out the door at Dunder-Mifflin Scranton please turn out the light?
As first reported by Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein, James Spader – who was brought in to give the show some star power in the wake of Steve Carell’s departure late last season – will not return to the show when it presumably returns for a ninth season. “The Office” showrunner Paul Lieberstein told Wallenstein that Spader had only wanted to do a one-season arc.
Spader hasn’t been the biggest problem with the post-Carell version of the show, but he hasn’t been part of the solution, either. His Robert California was introduced last spring as a charismatic lunatic, but has mellowed considerably as a semi-regular on the show. On occasion, he can be wryly amusing as he comments on what idiots he’s forced to work with, but more often than not, his lack of engagement sucks the life out of any scene he’s in. (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the last few episodes, California-free, have been a bit better than most of what the show has done this season.)
Though the ratings are noticeably down this season without Carell, a ninth season – featuring some combination of the current cast (Mindy Kaling may not be back, for instance, as she has a project of her own in development) – seems a formality, considering how well it still does relative to NBC’s many other disaster areas. There are plans in the works for Rainn Wilson to move to a Dwight-centric spin-off at mid-season next year, and NBC may decide to have the new show simply replace the old one.
Since Robert isn’t the branch manager, anyway, Spader may not need to be replaced. But if Lieberstein and company want to continue having a corporate presence, they did just bring back Catherine Tate for this current arc set at Sabre’s offices in Tallahassee.
What does everybody else think? Will you miss Robert, or was this an experiment that didn’t work?