Fun With Pop Culture

The Office Spin-Off: An Open Letter to Greg Daniels

Dear Greg:

I can call you “Greg”, right? We go back, you and me. Back to your days on The Simpsons, really. If you never did anything other than write “22 Short Films about Springfield”, you’d be my hero. But, and you may know this about me, I’m a giant King of the Hill fan. FOX stopped releasing the DVDs, so I spent the summer burning five seasons myself. I not only bought the KotH action figures, I paid full retail for them. Remember when Kay-Bee Toys had hundreds of Bill figures for fifty cents each? The Bill I bought for twelve dollars was already well established on my bookshelf.

And then came The Office. Sweet Jesus, The Office. Words can not express my love for this show. In fact, I can really only convey my true feelings through interpretive dance. So obviously, I’ve been very excited about all this talk of a spin-off. However, the lack of a premise makes me nervous. After all, the most important thing is that the new series not hurt the original, and the second most important is that it not suck.

Now, when people hear about the spin-off, their first assumption is that it would either focus on Jim and Pam or Dwight. Neither of those would be a good idea. Sure, I love Jim and Pam, and a show about them beginning their relationship in a new city would probably be really good. And Dwight, well, Dwight is just about my favorite character on television. He could carry a show, and his presence would make any existing show better. NBC should really institute a Must Schrute TV policy, wherein Dwight visits every show on the schedule. Everything from Heroes to American Gladiators would be so much better with Dwight’s involvement.

But either of those spin-offs would irreparably damage The Office. Dwight, Jim, Pam, and Michael make up the heart of the show. When one of them is missing for an episode, the show invariably becomes about how different things are without them. Remember when Jim was in Stamford for several episodes? Everybody missed him, and so many of the Dunder-Mifflin scenes were about the fact that Jim wasn’t there. And that was with Jim still appearing on the show. Take him and Pam away, and the viewers will be moping around just like the Dunder-Mifflinites.

But it’s OK, because you’ve got several characters who could carry a spin-off without damaging the dynamic of the mothership. And I know that what you’ve come to expect from me on this site is sarcastic jackassery, but these are all ideas that I genuinely think could make for a strong series.

TOBY – Yeah, none of us believe that Toby is actually going to Costa Rica. Sure, he cited that as his dream in Season Three, but he only blurted that out because he touched Pam’s leg and panicked. In my vision, Toby decided to stick with the lie to save face, and he knew he couldn’t work with Pam any longer. He’s still in Scranton, and he probably has to take a job far below his level of experience. After all, he can’t use his former employer as a reference without exposing his lie. Perhaps he’s working somewhere with a boss who’s the exact opposite of Michael – he doesn’t care about his employees liking him, but he takes on Toby as a confidant for reasons that aren’t really apparent. Since Toby is so tempermentally different from the leads on The Office, it would allow a different approach without losing the style of the show.

JAN – OK, Jan’s clearly been going a little bit crazy for the last season or two. Her decisions have been wildly inconsistent, but we know that she’s smart and she’s going to get it together sooner or later. And when that happens, she’s not going to stick with Michael. She’s going to take her baby and try to start over. After all, if she doesn’t want Michael fathering her child, she’s not going to want him raising that child. A show about a driver career woman and single mother would certainly have a different flavor than The Office, and it would make for some nice balance on the Thursday schedule, with My Name is Earl and The Office having male leads, and 30 Rock and The Jan Show with their female leads. (Please note, the show should not actually be called The Jan Show.)

DARRYL – True, Darryl’s at his best when he’s interacting with Michael. I mean, “fluffy fingers”! Nothing is funnier than fluffy fingers. I would hate to lose those moments, but there’s an easy solution. Darryl only pops up once every few episodes, despite being a regular cast member. Have the new show focus on the Dunder-Mifflin warehouse staff. A blue-collar workplace show would be a nice complement to the main series, and you can have a crossover every time somebody uses the stairs. The rest of the warehouse staff hasn’t really been established, so there’s plenty of nice character work to be done.

ROY – Pam’s ex-fiancee has been gone since he attacked Jim last season. He’s a very funny character with a much different sensibility from any of the characters on the main series. This is a guy who hit bottom, he’s got a criminal record now, he’s lost his girlfriend, and now he’s got a whole new life ahead of him. It’s another opportunity for a blue-collar show, but away from the environs of Dunder-Mifflin. You don’t usually see a series lead with the kind of unseemly past that Roy has, and there are a lot of comedic opportunities in his unique mindset.

RYAN – Ryan’s drastic fall this season has been hilarious and uncomfortable. But instead of being the viewer identification character that the temp was on the British series, Ryan’s always been kind of a tool. Now, just imagine a series set in a minimum security prison. Because you just know Ryan’s going to end up in one of those prisons where the inmates wear sweater vests. And with Season Three’s comparisons of prison to office life, you’ve already got a nicely established theme for the series. I want to watch Evil Ryan have to reinvent himself on the inside. I think this would be the hardest show to write, but the results could be very funny.

ANDY – Yes, I’d hate to see anybody actually leave the main series, but Mr. Andrew Bernard has the perfect out – when his engagement to Angela falls apart, as we know it will, he’ll have to leave Dunder-Mifflin in shame. Andy’s not that emotionally tied to the rest of the office, and Ed Helms is a strong enough comedian to carry a show. As long as his new workplace is not an exact duplicate of Dunder-Mifflin, this could really be a good show.

CREED – Hear me out on this one. I love Creed. He has never spoken a line on the series that wasn’t hilarious. Creed should not, under any circumstances, leave The Office. However, it’s not as if he’s in every scene or anything. If Creed is missing, we just assume he’s busy selling fake ID’s or something. That should free up some time for his very own spin-off which features his adventures through the years. His time with the Grass Roots, his years as a homeless person; this guy’s had an interesting life. The episodes could take place during different phases of his life, but no matter when the episode is set, Creed Bratton will still play himself. Modern-day Creed will play twenty-year-old Creed without any attempt to make him look younger. After all, nobody sells Creed like Creed. I know the shooting schedule would be tricky, but can you imagine the sheer genius of a series focusing on our favorite “quabity assyoorance” rep? If there were a Creed show, I would allow you to print an advertisement for it on my forehead.

Bottom line, you know this stuff better than I do. However, I do spend a lot of time watching The Office and even more time thinking about The Office. I have the utmost faith in you to come up with a worthy spin-off. And, you know, if you need to add to the writing staff, I know somebody who works cheap. OK, it’s me. And I work for free, actually.

Your friend,

Share Button

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *