Two oddball comedies are back on TV after a long hiatus. Do they still work?
It was only a matter of time before the networks turned back to the most unusual comedies under their aegis. And though The Big Bang Theory and 30 Rock are, to varying degrees, more well-regarded this season — thanks in no small part to Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) — I would be lying if I said that the return of The Office had not been on my mind when I heard that NBC had renewed the show for its final season. But as the show’s star, Steve Carell, said at the Television Critics Association press tour this week, he didn’t return because of pressure from the networks, but because he was looking for more time to make The Big Bang Theory his own.
The first season of The Office premiered in September 2010, five years ago. Its success was largely due to Carell, who was also a co-executive producer on the show, and his quirky, off-the-wall characters that poked fun at modern office culture. (The Office creator, Greg Daniels, said he used to joke that he would be a better leader if he dressed like a cowboy.) It was a sitcom about the office as it was, not a deconstructed version of it. What was funny about the show was that it got jokes out of workplace norms, in a way that the “real-world” comedies on television today often miss.
On some level, it wasn’t just the writing of the show that was making it stand out. The Office was a big part of NBC’s push for “workplace comedies” on the network as part of its strategy to draw audiences. But NBC still wanted to compete against The Big Bang Theory, which is also a workplace show, and Modern Family, which is essentially just a family sitcom and is aimed at a whole different audience. The Office, by the way, was created by Daniels and his partner, Michael Schur, which raised some