Does ‘The Office’ have a frontrunner to succeed Steve Carell?

Senior Television Writer
05.20.11 115 Comments

As I mentioned in my review of “The Office” season finale and all its guest stars, there are published reports out there suggesting that the show’s producers have settled on a frontrunner to succeed Steve Carell/Michael Scott as the new branch manager. Though you can argue about whether or not that news is a spoiler, I thought it would be easier to separate out all discussion from the actual finale review and confine it to this separate post. That person’s name, and my thoughts, coming up just as soon as I’m another “Porky’s” baby…

So apparently, the producers’ favorite is Catherine Tate, who appeared in the finale as Jo’s old British friend Nelly.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. Of the finale guest stars, she had by far the lowest profile in America, and is also the only one who might plausibly take the permanent job. (I could see James Spader doing it, I suppose, but the others are all either otherwise employed or not at a place in their career when they’d do it.)

Tate’s a very successfull popular comedienne in the UK, and she’s known to some audiences here (like me) for a terrific one-season run as the Doctor’s companion on “Doctor Who” (a part that leaned more towards the dramatic, albeit with the occasional funny bit of pantomime or slapstick). I think she absolutely has the chops to be the boss, and she wouldn’t be a Michael Scott clone in the way that, say, Will Arnett might have been had he been available and interested.

That said, I really have very little sense of Nelly from Tate’s brief appearance last night. Her interview was as much of a disaster as the others. I’s plausible that she might still get the job because everyone was terrible, because she’s friends with Jo, and because Jo is eccentric in her hiring choices. But if she really is the pick, Greg Daniels, Paul Lieberstein and company need to figure out exactly who Nelly is and how she’s going to relate to the staffers between now and when they start writing the script for the season premiere.

What does everybody else think? Would Tate be a good choice as Carell’s successor, or do they need to keep looking?

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