Stars: Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, B.J. Novak, Ed Helms, Leslie David Baker, Brian Baumgartner, Creed Bratton, Mindy Kaling, Ellie Kemper, Angela Kinsey, Paul Lieberstein, Oscar Nunez, Craig Robinson, Phyllis Smith, James Spader, Catherine Tate, Andy Buckley
:  B.J. Novak
:  B.J. Novak
: NBC, airs Thursday nights
Original Telecast
: May 10, 2012

After Steve Carell departed THE OFFICE last year, the question mark was how could the show continue and still be funny, inventive and watchable.

While some may argue, the series has been D.O.A. all season, I would argue that I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how the show has continually reinvented itself and found new ways to tell stories about how mundane life is working at a paper company.

Certainly making Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) the regional manager of Dunder-Mifflin was a wise choice, and a multi-episode arc where most of the office were sent down to Florida for a “special project” also breathed new life in the series.

What didn’t work? Well, clearly, James Spader as the enigmatic Robert California proved to be too weird for the series. A little bit of California goes a long way and it’s great that the character will be departing before he wore out his welcome.

Catherine Tate as Nellie Bertram proved to be utterly annoying when she was first introduced during last year’s season finale and her return mid-season was just as irritating. Yet, I’ve found myself liking the character more and more – and now that it looks like Andy may have reclaimed his position at Dunder-Mifflin, perhaps the writers will find more things to do with her that carries her into a softer more relatable direction.

As for the Season 8 finale of “Free Family Portrait Studio”, this episode pays off many of the story strands set up throughout the season. Number 1 being Andy finding a way to get back into Dunder-Mifflin after being fired and usurped by Nellie. Namely, he’s convinced David Wallace (Andy Buckley), the former Dunder-Mifflin figurehead (and now a self-made millionaire) to buy back the company since California has run it into the ground.

Meanwhile, Dwight  (Rainn Wilson) is still hell-bent on proving that the baby Angela (Angela Kinsey) had with her Senator husband Rob Lipton (Jack Coleman) is actually his. To do this, he wants to get a DNA sample from the baby – which he does. The pay-off, is obviously saved for next season.

And, by the way, yes, the Senator is gay – something that is revealed by episode’s end.

California makes a splashy exit, as would be expected, by bilking Wallace for some dough for one of his inane philanthropic follies and then plants a big wet one on Andy’s lips before he leaves.

Is any of this funny? Well, not really. It’s actually quite uneven, but I did like that THE OFFICE was trying hard to bring the series back to its roots with this quasi-reboot. While NBC has not officially renewed it, a Season 9 is almost a certainty (you don’t end a series with an uneventful episode like this)

The current configuration looks like the return of Helms, John Krasinski and Jenna Fishcer while Mindy Kaling will be out (she has a new show on Fox) and perhaps Novak too (since he is also involved with Kaling’s series). The rest of the supporting cast are likely not going anywhere, and plus, it’s great to see Buckley back as David Wallace. I always liked the character and it was a shame when the character was written off after the Saber merger.

Although THE OFFICE will probably never reclaim the sheen it once had – it still is an occasionally enjoyable show. It’s weathered the worse this year in trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t – and if Season 9 is touted as the last season, it might even inspire the writers to take  bigger chances.

Of course, the reality is, it may be more of the same, but I’ll settle for mediocre THE OFFICE than ten minutes of WHITNEY any day.


Related Link: TV Review – THE OFFICE – Season 8  – “The Incentive”

Related Link: TV Review – THE OFFICE – Season 8 premiere – “The List”

Related Link: TV Review – THE OFFICE – Season 7 – “Search Committee”

Related Link: TV Review – PARKS AND RECREATION – Season 4 premiere – “I’m Leslie Knope”

Related Link: TV Review – COMMUNITY – Season 3 premiere – “Biology 101”

Related Link: TV Review – WHITNEY – Series Premiere

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Article: TV Review – THE OFFICE – Season 8  – “Free Family Portrait Studio” – Season Finale

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