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The Office Recap: The List (Season 8, Episode 1)

Movies & TV

The Office Recap: The List (Season 8, Episode 1)

This is a recap/review of the eighth season premiere of NBC’s The Office entitled The List and featuring James Spader in a recurring role.

THE OFFICE -- Pictured: (l-r) B.J. Novak as Ryan Howard, Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor, Zach Woods as Gabe Lewis, Craig Robinson as Darryl Philbin, Cody Horn as Jordan Garfield, Phyllis Smith as Phyllis Lapin, Ed Helms as Andy Bernard, Creed Bratton as Creed, Oscar Nunez as Oscar Martinez, Brian Baumgartner as Kevin Malone, Ellie Kemper as Kelly Erin Hannon, Leslie David Baker as Stanley Hudson, Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, Kate Flannery as Meredith Palmer, Angela Kinsey as Angela Martin, Paul Lieberstein as Toby Flenderson, John Krasinski as Jim Halpert, Jenna Fischer as Pam Halpert

Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC

The first episode of the new season of The Office begins like every other season premiere, where we get caught up on what everyone did last summer. Except this time, we get to see some of the officemates planking. Fun. The overused and trying-too-hard Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) is established as branch manager because The Hangover Part II did incredible business; Dwight (Rainn Wilson, star of Super, one of the year’s best movies) takes out his aggression from not getting the job in various ways; the newly re-pregnant Pam (played by the actually pregnant Jenna Fischer) is sitcom-level-emotional, crying at commercials; Angela (Angela Martin) is also pregnant and married to the supposedly homosexual state senator from Heroes; and Stanley (Leslie David Baker) has turned “and shove it up your butt!” into a catchphrase. It’s not what you’d expect from the character, but neither was his ultimate dream being taking a rocket ship to the moon. And then there’s Robert California (an ever-reliable James Spader), the only guest star from the season finale’s comedy star cavalcade who made any impression.

During the summer, California, the first choice for branch manager, spends less than five minutes in the office before going to Florida and convincing Sabre CEO Jo Bennett (Kathy Bates, not featured) to make him CEO of the entire company. We don’t know how he does it, but with a character like California, mystery generally serves him well. He comes across as introspective and offbeat, so him loudly declaring his intentions would defeat his character. Nevertheless, despite the company being based out of Florida, he does half his work out of the Scranton, Pennsylvania, conference room because…this is an area where mystery does not work in his, or the show’s, favor.

James Spader as Robert California

Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC

The main plot revolves around a list California created that separates the names from the office into two groups. After everyone ponders what the segregation could mean, the new boss invites one of the groups (consisting of Jim, Toby, Oscar, Phyllis, Darryl, Angela, and Kevin) out for lunch where he reveals that he considers the second group losers. After a brief bit where the cool kids lords it over the uncool kids, Andy goes into California’s conference room to tell him how he hurt everyone’s feelings.

California, challenged, goes to the crowd and explains his stance- logically, coldly, and honestly. He even tells the losers to prove him wrong. Considering how much crap the staff gets away with on a daily basis, even on this “day” where they devoted themselves more to figuring out the list than to actually working, it’s a wonder that California doesn’t consider them all failures. However, despite him being right, he hurt people’s feelings, and that makes him wrong. When he returns to his office, you expect a laugh track to go “ooooooo….” But instead of taking this lesson to heart, Andy (one of the losers) returns to Robert where he goes down the list of the losers explaining why they are all super awesome. The laugh track “awwwwws.” Scene out.

Ed Helms as Andy Bernard

Photo by: Ron Tom/NBC

The “family togetherness” of The Office played a major factor behind its ruin last year. The show might have lost a lot of credibility by that point, but everyone going to a co-worker’s (Andy’s, of course) play, attending the Christening of Jim and Pam’s baby, watching Glee together, and filming their boss’s pet film project took it way too far. However, one could understand it back then without really accepting it; the staff was losing its captain. But this year it’s come back in full force. The realistic pettiness and bickering between Angela and Pam is replaced by the type of goofy pregnancy rivalry where you know their kids will grow up great friends. When Andy praises his crew, he handles the task like a 1980s sitcom dad, with the same aplomb as Full House‘s Danny Tanner telling daughter DJ why she is pretty and shouldn’t become anorexic.

The most important thing worth pondering from this episode is how Robert California will fit into the show. If tonight is any indication, he won’t. California is too serious, too real, and too dark for a show thoroughly entrenched in sitcom-tomfoolery. The character could work elsewhere, maybe the first seasons of the show, maybe some place on pay cable, but he’s simultaneously too weird and too grounded to mesh with everyone else at Dunder Mifflin (an affiliate of Sabre).

Additional thoughts:
• Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) was also invited to D’Angelo Vickers’ (Will Ferrell) round table. What makes him so cool?
• I still cannot determine if Creed (Creed Bratton) and Hipster Douche Ryan Howard (B.J. Novak) are terribly underused or used the perfect amount to avoid burnout.
• If California considers Andy a loser, why did he name him branch manager? EDIT: Because I forgot a scene.
• Why bring on David Brent (Ricky Gervais) TWICE if he is not going to mention the cameras following everyone around ONCE? He wasn’t in this episode, but that has just bugged me since last season.



  1. Matthew

    November 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    I started watching this show about 2 years ago, having netflix ive watched every episode from start to finish from seasons 1-7. after seeing this premiere, my heart sank… this premiere episode wasn’t drastically awful but it easily created a vision in which sometime this upcoming spring the office shall be cancelled. i can’t go and say that the show was solely based off michael- not true- though he served up generally 85% of the laughter and comedy whether it was his witty/incompetent remarks or his instigation of his co-workers. seeing dwight perform, trying to impress anyone but michael, is like walking past an unadopted new born puppy- dazed and confused on where to put himself. it is genuinely obvious dwight cares about nothing but work now-where as he used to do anything and everything for michael..

    I really hate Andy as the manager. i believe- as you said- the only reason he was the one to take that spot was solely because of his acting( untalented, at that) in the hangover. i could rant about hangover 2, but that’s not what im here for, plus that would take a good 3 hours. regardless, i dont think andy deserves the manager spot. though, i can see the creators of the show being in a tough position considering there are not many other contenders in the office who could fulfill it. andy has been brought up since Day 1 on the office as someone who is foolish, dumb, and conceited. he was/is, nonetheless entertaining, though it’s a rather extensive paradox to place someone in a manager’s position when you’ve spent 5 seasons proving them the exact opposite. darryl, too, is hard to picture in the managerial position. though robinsion is quick with his remarks ( or his characters remarks) i feel like he’d have a hard time establishing himself as a figure of importance in the show seeing as he’s always been that funny guy who comes by for visits once in a while. im aware now that michael is gone, he is more apart of the show, though still. the only person, all past aside, who i can picture being the manager, is jim, though, we’ve already seen jim as the manager for, i dont know, a 10 episode arc? and i personally never really found it that entertaining. as this season has progressed, i have slowly watched is descend from a high pedestal down to a bronze medal. every week, i hope, with doubt, that it will be able to make me laugh, but to no avail. it’s upsetting, really, because the cast is genius and will always make me laugh- but their quick remarks and funny skits are enough to fill up a weekly youtube channel rather than a full tv show. every episode to air to date (in season 8) always gives me high expectations, with wikipedia descriptions that make it seem very comical, though the plots always sizzle out. another sad thing is, i know its been a while since the pam and jim relationship has reached climax, and i miss that. one of the best plot lines to follow was indubitably the pam and jim. following from season 1, as jim desperately attempted for her love, all the way up to when they get married, i’ve loved them. when she denies him, in the casino episode- probably more sad than those abused dog commercials (arguable, i know). though, now that they are married, and all is said and done, their plot has dropped down to her simply going mad over the child and marriage, the both of them disliking their jobs (still), and the both of them simply living a life of a married couple working together (basically the plot for 20 other shows on tv). another thing i’d like to question-i’m aware that most of the workers are care-free, but its time to draw a line. in reality, there is no way IN HELL a woman would still work at a job in which her ex-fiancee who she cheated on with a fellow co-worker became her boss. sorry, no. the interaction between angela and andy is infuriating as they show no sign of emotion or care at all. i dont want a shot of angela crying over him, no, but i don’t understand why the show places them together as if they have never talked in their lives. it’s dumb. same iwht angela and dwight. someone who you were supposed to have a baby with, and used to love- no way you’d sit there and never address it. i dont know, they are missing much realistic plot lines they used to address in past seasons, and that’s what makes the show all the more unlikeable. TWO characters i can praise, just two, for this season. firstly, ERIN. Erin is an amazing actress for this part, and her character never fails to entertain me. the only worthy plotline is her’s and andy’s, which is surprisingly not that boring compared to the rest of the show. and secondly, of course, ceo california. though, he’s creepy, he plays the character with such precision and with such curiosity that i can’t begin to fathom whether it’s his odd personality or his indefinite acting that attracts me to him and makes me laugh. the only characters im able to say im disappointed in are angela, gabe, andy. angela’s character has become anything but entertaining and the only thing i find joyful about her is the fact that she’s married to/impregnated by a gay man. secondly, gabe, i despise. his character is awful. i hate him and erin together, i hate his acting, and i hate how he is placed among the episodes. its stupid. the only time i’ve ever laughed with him on screen was when michael told him he would lesser resemble a transvestite if he put makeup on his adam’s apple. and finally, andy, who i’ve spoken of before and given my opinion. the other’s, i’m at ease with. it’s very hard to dislike meredith, dwight, kelly creed, phyllis, stanley, or kevin. creed has always made me laugh because his character is genius. as this season progresses, i am generally positive i will start to like toby more and more, seeing as either he will be on the show less, due to michaels departure, or on the show more, with a more exhilarating personality, as he spent most of the past 7 seasons serving as michael’s punching bag. jim and pam, as much as i love them both, have not satisfied me this season. nor has oscar or ryan, who both bother me, oscar doing nothing but being a smartass, and ryan being a prick who pisses me off. i don’t know if this review will be taken seriously see as i’m 16, though i hope i get some responses. i’m an avid office-watcher and i’d love to discuss it with anyone up for it. oh, and i guess i’d have to say my overall rating of the office so far would have to be a c+ to a b-. sadly, i wouldn’t be shocked if the office closes up following the season 8 finale. hopefully i’m wrong!

  2. Julie

    September 26, 2011 at 9:32 am

    As a super fan of this show I am definately going to give it a chance. I loved Michael Scott but all all the characters together are what make the show. I admit the all have been a little weird since michael left, maybe he brought the best out of them. Ive tried to think of someone who could replace michael…no one came to mind.

    Hopefully Andy will fill the managers shoes and bring this show a new life that all of its fans will be satisfied with.

  3. The_office+Fan

    September 25, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Hey everyone,
    I think like most people I was a bit sad that Michael Scott left the office. The show will certainly change a lot!! I agree this first episode was not worth of a whole summer of planning.

    I really hope it gets better and better as there are still pretty funny characters in the show.

    I hope but doubt for a season 9 unless Michael Scott decides to comes back!!! That would bring their show back on top…
    Right now… C+

  4. stuart

    September 24, 2011 at 4:26 am

    While the characters are still likeable, Andy was never that funny – least not Michael Scott funny and while Spader makes an impression, he provided few if any laughs. The Office may be going out of business.

  5. Grody2theMax

    September 23, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    They had all summer to get it together, knowing that audiences are fickle, yet this was the best they could do? I don’t think there will be a season 9, but I hope they can pull it together.

  6. Cailin

    September 23, 2011 at 2:54 am

    Hated it. Spader’s character reminds me of every awful manager I’ve ever worked for. Hated his first day as CEO, he was arrogant and abusive, hardly a leader. Calling him ‘quirky’ gives him too much credit. Too close to the real world of toxic organizations to be entertaining.

    And his performance in this role was underwhelming, especially considering his great work in the past. He must be desperate for work to take this part. The show must be desperate to cast him.

    Whoever wrote the script ought to be drawn and quartered.

    Some will like it, I’m sure … but not I.

  7. Brett Harrison Davinger

    September 23, 2011 at 12:38 am

    You’re right. That moment completely slipped my mind.

  8. Adrian

    September 23, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Andy wasn’t on the “loser” side when promoted. Remember how Robert moved him to the loser side after bringing up the list?

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