James Spader Crashes ‘The Office’

“The Office” has always been so full of comic talent and singular characters that the loss of Steve Carell would never threaten the future the show the way, say, Ricky Gervais’ absence would have sunk the British version.

So with Carvell gone in Thursday’s season premiere, a movie star was inserted, just as one had been earlier in the week on “Two and a Half Men” (and on “CSI” too if you count the addition of Ted Danson). In each case, the new star isn’t a straight replacement, but a new star to mask the absence of the other.

Spader’s Robert California isn’t the new regional manager – it’s Ed Helms’ Andy. Rather, he’s more in the role of Kathy Bates head of the corporation, dropping in from time to time to make her demands. Now she’s “Harry’s Law” and in come Spader, who in his sports car and stand-offish style is more of a mystery than Bates’ character ever was.

The overreaction of employees to new bosses is ripe subject matter for “The Office” and the premiere played it to the hilt, over analyzing a list the big guy made dividing the employees into two lists – what could it possibly mean?

He came right out and told them that one side was winners and the other were losers and the winners all went out to lunch. Still, they didn’t know how to act. Andy, left back the others tried to order pizza and raise morale, but in the end told off California about the skills of the supposed losers – a bigger thing than Michael Scott would have done. And in the end people still didn’t know how to react to Spader’s character.

And that’s probably how audiences will also respond for a while. But in the mean time, there are a whole lot of characters in the mix to make it all funny.

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