How The Office Miraculously Managed to Stay Good

Andy Bernard is a better boss than Michael Scott. There, I said it. Disagree if you like, but let me explain why I’ve come to this conclusion.

Everyone wondered who would replace Scott, as Steve Carell’s character seemed like too much of a staple for the show to lose. He was the lead after all, and had about 60% of all screentime on the show.

It seemed like they were going to go with Mr. Outside Hire, bringing in a host of comedians and actors at the end of last season who could possibly fill the chair. But their ultimate choice? Andy Bernard. Why Andy? Plot-wise, it makes almost no sense. He’s always been the worst salesman by a mile, and his performance would normally never let him rise in the ranks like that. But with Dwight and Jim getting their own chances to run the office in previous seasons, they were out of the running. I guess a Cornell degree helps.

But personality-wise? It makes perfect sense. Andy is a socially awkward, tries to be funny, desperately lonely but still all-around likable weirdo, exactly like Michael Scott. Yes, he wears more pastels, but fundamentally he’s the same character archetype. But what’s good is that he’s a more toned down version of Michael. When The Office started to get bad a season or two ago, and I mean really bad, it was because they had morphed Michael and Dwight into borderline cartoon characters that consumed the show with their craziness. Low points included Michael driving his car into a lake because GPS told him to and Dwight setting the office on fire. Scott also suffered from “Larry David Syndrome” which involved getting into overly awkward social situations on a weekly basis that would never happen in real life.

Last night’s Office revealed just how far the show has come since those low points, and how it’s gotten its characters back on track for a truly funny, awkward show. Dwight is no longer burning things down, rather his “stand all day” philosophy was the right level of wonky. And the main plotline? Andy between a rock and a hard place as he tried to deal with Robert California’s mixed signals about hiring his wife was cringe-worthy but in a believable way. It didn’t have to do with Andy being a social retard, rather it was just a tough situation he was thrust into. Andy may have all the traits that Michael had, but he’s only about 60% as much of a buffoon which has lead to less over-the-top plotlines and a more coherent show overall.

At season eight after losing its star of seven years, I fully expected The Office to tank, hard. But that’s not what’s happened at all, and somehow, some way, the show has managed to make me laugh out loud once again. And I think Andy Bernard might just be to thank for that.

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  1. It may not make you laugh every other minute, but every episode with Andy as the boss has been extremely likable. Sort of like The Muppets or Community, not always laugh out loud hilarious, but you will have a huge smile on your face from start to finish. Also, James Spader is just killing it on a weekly basis. I mean, last week when he realized Kevin was talking about cookies the whole time his facial expressions were just priceless.

  2. Really? I thought last night’s episode was pretty sub-par. It was okay, and the characters doing what they do.. but I just didn’t care. I don’t like California; did at first, but the office is just tense and annoying now, with a few subtle bits of humor throughout.

    Still, anything is better than freakin Whitney.

    Did you see the League last night? Omg, I hurt laughing so hard.

  3. Andy still hasn’t won me over totally as a boss but I keep watching anyways. I agree the desperate attempts by Micheal Scott were painful to watch. The episode with Scott’s Tots where he had to renege on a promise to pay for a group of city kids to go to college was the worst episode I’ve ever sat thru. Andy’s constant need for approval is a bit annoying at times, but it’s not as consistent and he doesn’t go as far as Michael Scott did. Is he as great as Micheal from the first couple of seasons, not yet. Better than the last couple seasons, absolutely.

  4. Little tip here, man. I’d try to not use the word “retard” in your posts. You are bound to offend somebody and it comes off as incredibly unprofessional.

  5. @Uncoolaidman
    He didn’t use it as a slur or to put anyone down. He simply said Andy is socially retarded, which is a fact. People should only get upset when someone uses it to replace the word stupid or idiotic. Given the right context it is a perfectly acceptable word and you should just get off your moral high horse.

  6. I like it when people use the word retard! If you keep following the path of not using words that offend people, your blog posts will start to sound like a Dr. Suess book. Keep it up man, I have your blog on my RSS feed for a reason!

  7. @uncoolaidman

    Take your political correctness and shove up your ass. Shouldn’t you be busy petitioning schools to remove dodgeball from gym class or fighting math book publishers to put a kid in a wheel chair on every page of word problems? What did you get bored of trying to remove Speedy Gonzalez from the Looney Toon archives? Tired of sending hate mail to Trey Parker and Matt Stone?

  8. I still think they’ve gone on for at least two seasons too long. I’ve tried to watch a couple episodes this year but just couldn’t get through them. I think at this point they’re at what, 500% of the number of episodes the original had?

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s still better than Whitney by a long shot – it’s not BAD, but it bugs me that they’re putting Community on hiatus while The Office and 30 Rock are still around as a shell of their original greatness.

    That Cummings girl must be making nightly visits to the NBC executive’s offices, if you know what I mean. Her shitty show isn’t even ONE season complete and it’s already being syndicated on Comedy Network in Canada.

    The only comedies I’m making a point of trying to watch this year (besides Community) are Up All Night and Happy Endings. Max from the latter may be the best gay character in primetime, and it will make you actually like Elisha Cuthbert again.

  9. @UnCool

    Websters defines retarded as slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress.

    Not only was Paul correct to use the term to describe how behind the curve Andy is socially, but in your attempt to be PC you were even more un-PC by insinuating that word retarded only refers to retardation of a mental kind.

    So congratulations, you retard.

  10. I think my biggest problem with the new Office is the lesser characters seem to get swept under the rug. Other than a few one-liners, you just don’t see them doing much for the episode. I miss the struggles and trials of the group as a whole, with reactions towards happenings from everyone. It just doesn’t happen anymore.

  11. I agree with you Michael and Dwight being like cartoon characters in some of the later episodes, but I disagree about him driving his car into a lake because the GPS said so.

    The way I saw it: Michael was upset with Ryan because he was trying to push Dunder Miflin forward in the way they use technology. Micheal was being resistant about it, went out with Dwight to prove he can be successful without furthering his use in more tech, him and Dwight were failing miserably at it and in a last ditch effort he drove his car into the lake because the “GPS told him so” therefore “proving” to everyone, mostly Ryan, that useing technology is bad.

    Of course this backfires on him because everyone else, like any rational person, thinks that Micheal just did something stupid, again.

  12. If you want to see more of the minor characters, watch the web exclusives on hulu. It has some of the funniest scenes that they couldn’t include in the show due to them not meshing well with the main story lines.

  13. The show pretty much has two bosses now: Andy and California.
    It’s like they couldn’t decide who to pick so they went with both, the made Andy the manager of the office and California the new CEO.

    But why is California, the CEO of the company, ALWAYS hanging around this office? His predecessors never cared so much about this particular branch.

    It’s really kind of lame because no one is intimidated by Andy, California is the real new boss of the show. Andy just sits in Michael Scott’s old desk. He has no real power, is not respected by the rest of the office and is pretty much treated the same as he was before.

  14. What I found most encouraging for the long term viability of the show in this week’s episode was the Jim chase scene. How long has it been since they allowed Jim to be funny instead of “too cool” for the show. By incorporating him into the act, they produced one of the funniest parts of an already funny season. More of that please and not just with Jim either.

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