I am increasingly concerned that the syndicated reruns of The Office will continue to be the best of the show. And after watching the premiere of the new season, I’m actually worried that the new season will spoil even those good shows in my head. (For me, The Office started getting the water skis waxed up for the shark jump after Jim and Pam had a baby. Yet, for this new season, I held out hope. That hope is fading fast.)

You bring James Spader into the show. Great. I’m intrigued. He was hilarious in his one episode that tried to find a replacement manager for Michael Scott. And then, all summer, NBC airs previews promising that Robert California will be back. Yet, when the new season premiere beings, I see “and James Spader” at the end of the opening credits, I start to worry. It’s obvious that Spader is just making a few cameos. Uh oh.

Then you write into the show that Robert California is the new CEO. And how did he get the job? He talked Kathy Bates’ character “Jo” into giving him the keys to the castle she spent a lifetime building and loved running. It was obvious to all fans that it was all-but impossible to talk Jo in or out of ANYTHING, let alone her business. Jo’s stubborn. Really stubborn. So talking Jo into giving the CEO slot to a guy she just met would take some doing. I’d like to see that. But … no. The writers don’t show a scene of Robert California (Spader) doing the impossible — which would be awesome to witness. They simply have Jim narrate the whole inconvenient problem away … in 40 seconds.

GAAAAHHHH! That’s just lazy writing, and a capital offense for such a smart show. I get the feeling that the writers didn’t know at all how to handle the departure of Michael Scott — even though they had more than a year to prepare. No ideas. Nothing. And when they have something really fresh, like Spader’s character, they waste him with lazy plot devices like having Robert California hang out in the Scranton branch’s conference room … well, just because Jim tells us he likes doing that.
And you make Andy the branch manager? Why? Because he’s the existing character closest to Michael Scott’s bumbling-but-good-hearted guy? I actually feel sorry for Ed Helms, who plays Andrew Bernard. The memorable character he created over several seasons is going to suffer with this new assignment.

Yes, it’s only one episode. And I will give The Office time to find its footing this season. It’s a show that I find so enjoyable, I start laughing even thinking about the gags I’ve seen dozens of times. But I’m afraid that the lethargy in writing and energy I saw last season (and the last couple, to be honest) was a sign that NBC should have just ended the show on a high note with Michael Scott leaving. The incredibly lazy “clean-up” of the latest premiere is proof of profound disappointment until I see better.

An aside: “Planking” is out. It’s so out, the writers might as well have made their opening scene involve collecting Beanie Babies.