Steve Carell is gone, the ratings for The Office have been dwindling, but don’t think NBC isn’t going to try to squeeze more overtime yet from its closest thing to a primetime scripted hit. (At least until it manages to get Smash, Smash: L.A., and Smash: Las Vegas: Cirque du Smash! on the air.) Deadline.com is reporting that the network has plans to create an Office spinoff, for midseason 2013, about… Dwight Schrute.
Now, standard disclaimer: TV shows are all about execution. Spinoffs especially so. You have your Joeys and you have your Frasiers. There’s no reason that a strong cast and good writing can’t turn one long-lived, creative franchise into another, distinctive one. It is way too early—if this project even ever comes to pass—to say that this is a terrible idea.
This is a terrible idea. This is not a knock on Rainn Wilson, who’s made playing Dwight into a physical feat while giving him just a touch of humanity, nor to the character itself. As an American counterpart to the UK original’s Gareth—the eccentric with an outsized opinion of himself—he’s been a great supporting character. Emphasis on supporting. But unless a spinoff reins Dwight’s cartoonishness a lot, this would seem like a Newhart spinoff starring Larry, Darryl and Darryl. (Which someone may very well have once pitched.) I’m a big fan of condiments, but just because ketchup is delicious on a hamburger does not mean I want to eat a bowl of it.
According to the Deadline piece, the plan would be for the new show to involve Dwight and his family running the bed and breakfast at Schrute Farms. Again, it’s all in the execution, but given what we’ve seen of Schrute Farms on the show—and seen and heard of relatives like Mike Schur’s Mose—that would suggest, if anything, dialing the cartoonishness up. (That, or suddenly making Dwight a more grounded and realistic person, in a context where we’ve seen him behave very differently.)
I would be delighted to be proved wrong! But in any case, if we’re going to be realistic and recognize that NBC is a business and will act like one, are there better characters to spin off The Office? I’ve been on record saying the show could be doing more with Pam and Jim, but it sounds as if John Krasinski may not be interested in committing to TV that much longer. The Office has a number of other excellent supporting characters who work best in small doses—Creed, Kevin, Meredith, &c.
Kelly Kapoor, on the other hand, has been drawn broadly, but with enough room for development and hints of hidden competence that I could see her as the center of a show (and Mindy Kaling has a development deal with NBC), but I don’t know that fans have enough of an attachment to her character to follow. Andy Bernard may have had similar potential, but he now essentially stars in a spinoff of The Office called The Office. Darryl Philbin, maybe?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. As Deadline notes, NBC tried to spin off The Office once before, but that project eventually evolved into… Parks and Recreation. And we’re much better off for it. So by all means, let NBC try to earn a buck, as is its God-given right. But the best spinoff for The Office might be one that’s not a spinoff at all.