‘Office’ Open for Business with New CEO James Spader

James Spader (left) and Brian Baumgartner in "The Office" (Photo: NBC)

Contrary to popular belief, James Spader is not Steve Carell’s replacement on “The Office” — not technically anyway.

Sure, Spader’s a new cast member, and he did spring from the small group of guest-stars seen in the NBC sitcom’s final episodes last spring (Ray Romano, Jim Carrey, Warren Buffett) who turned up as “applicants” for the regional manager’s post that had been vacated by Carell after seven glorious seasons (for which he was robbed of an Emmy last Sunday, in our opinion).

But to set the record straight, Spader is joining the show in a new role – CEO of the paper company, a man named Robert California. How he made the transition from applicant for Michael Scott’s job to head of the whole organization will hopefully be explained when the series has its season premiere Thursday night (Sept. 22) at 9/8c on NBC.

A couple of other questions you might want answered before you watch the episode:

What’s the episode about? It’s about what all the other episodes in last season’s waning weeks were about: Naming a new manager. And all signs point to the job finally being filled in this new episode. The incredible thing is: No news about who it is – either someone already in the cast of characters or some new regular cast member – has leaked out anywhere, which in this day and age of furtive, hand-held social media, seems like a miracle. Titled “The List,” the episode has everyone in the office feeling as if he or she could be a candidate for the job after a list containing all of their names is found.

How is the show’s quality now that Carell has left? That’s the most key of all the key questions. And we won’t know the answer until after the show airs since NBC did not send any preview DVDs to TV scribes. Our take is: How can the show not suffer from a loss that big? We think the best way to move on is to just try and judge the “new” set-up on its own merits, without constantly comparing it to what came before.

Any other cast changes? Not that we know of, except for Kathy Bates, who played the recurring former head of the company who has moved on to “Harry’s Law.” Apparently, she won’t be back. Come to think of it, we’re not sure if her exit means that her corporate liaison, Gabe Lewis (Zach Woods) is also gone. And of course, there are the various characters related to the Michael Scott storylines – most notably Holly Flax (Amy Ryan), who Michael presumably married, and former flame Jan Levenson (Melora Hardin). Holly is almost definitely gone. As for Jan, we shall see.

“The Office” starts its eighth season Thursday (Sept. 22) at 9/8c on NBC.

Watch this preview of the new season of “The Office”:

[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/The-Office/7370/2112053853/Season-8-Preview%3A-Who-ll-Be-Boss-/embed 580 476]

Watch Full Episodes:

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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