I thought the ensemble was strong that it might be able to survive without Michael Scott (Steve Carell), but it occurs to me that it's lost so much more than that. Gone is the byzantine upper management that gave us leaders like Jan and David, gone is the soul-crushing feel of the daily cubicle drudgery. Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) doesn't have the fragile ego that made Michael do impulsive, selfish things. Andy started off as a jerk who had to go to anger management. Now he's a puppy-dog who just wants to please everyone, and all of his co-workers want him to succeed. Where's the comedy in that?
Now with Sabre CEO Robert California (James Spader) I thought we'd get some darkness to rock the boat, but Robert's been hit and miss. This week's episode, where we meet his wife (Maura Tierney) may have been the best use thus far of the potential of this mind-gaming genius. I enjoyed Andy twisting himself into a pretzel trying to do what he thought Robert wanted him to do.
These characters are still fun and funny. Dwight, Jim, Pam, Ryan, Kelly, Toby, Angela, Meredith, Stanley, Creed, Erin, Oscar, Daryl, Phyllis... I just hope the show can find some consistent Michael-free magic. Or maybe they should quit while they're ahead.