TROUBLE CITY

THUD: BUILDING A BIGGER 'OFFICE'

THUDBrendan M. LeonardComment

THUDAs its third season winds down and the upfronts approach, NBC is planning big changes for The Office. According to Thursday’s Variety, the Emmy-award winning series and second-most watched comedy on tv (in the 18-49 demo, it’s behind only Two and a Half Men) is being groomed to assume the fabled timeslot held by Cheers, Seinfeld, and Frasier. That’s right, fellow members of the Dwight Army of Champions, the peons of Dunder-Mifflin may be heading into the Timeslot of Doom, Thursdays at 9. In addition to this, a recent Money magazine article reported that Jeff Zucker, the George W. Bush of Television, is considering expanding The Office from a half-hour to hour. 

I don’t know how I feel about this. Readers of this column know I think The Office is not only the best comedy, but the best show, period, on television right now, and even I have felt that this season’s been pretty uneven. I am chalking this up to post-Emmy growing pains, because a just-okay Office is still pretty great, and both of these moves have been telegraphed for some time now. 

The Office has had a ton of “super-sized’ episodes this year, including last week’s and this week’s, and has even aired a couple of times in the 9 PM slot. Even though I wasn’t the hugest fan of last week’s super-sized episode, when The Office does have that additional fifteen to twenty minutes to play, it’s clear that the writers and cast are making the most of the additional time. Fans of the show have been calling out for it to be an hour every week. The deleted scenes that Greg Daniels and co. put online, scenes which have revealed important plot points, and are watched by most fans of the show, make The Office close to an hour already for diehards like me. 

But then there's that ridiculous “play up the Jim/Pam love triangle, play down the perverted awesomeness of Creed Bratton” spot the NBC promo monkeys aired a few weeks back, the spot that made it clear they want to make this into the next Friends. 

Zucker, NBC, I’m saying this right now: The Office is not Friends. It will never be Friends. I understand you guys are in trouble right now, but do you really think The Office – a show that is as twisted as it is touching – can take on Grey’s Anatomy and CSI? I realize Thursday nights are high noon for the networks, but it scares me to death that you might try to tinker with what has made The Office a bright spot among your worst season ever to compete with forensic techs and sexy docs. I believe there is a time for you guys to take on the titans of television and reclaim the throne, but I don't The Office is the show to do it. I believe you guys mean it when you say “be the best, then be first,” so I want to believe if you go ahead with this move, that you won’t make The Office into Friends – that you won’t compromise a show that has the potential to be one of the all-time great American comedies, a show truly worthy of the legendary NBC Thursdays at 9 slot. You’re so much better off trying to make this into the next Seinfeld, but let’s make sure that turning The Office into Seinfeld doesn’t mean that you turn all the characters into cartoons. Michael and Dwight are can be cartoon-ish, but the joy of The Office has always been the humanity interspersed with the hilarity. I implore you, keep that in mind.

(By the way, I was completely out of the loop on National “That’s What She Said” Day, which was February 15th. Since this has annoyed me to no end, I hereby declare that May 15th is the make-up day for all of us who missed out on National “That’s What She Said” Day. Mark your schedules accordingly.) 

The Office airs Thursday nights at 8:30 on NBC.