The deal is done: Robert California is taking over Sabre.
News leaked last week that Office execs were in talks with Emmy winner James Spader to reprise his role from the season 7 finale in a recurring gig. NBC announced today that Spader is officially coming to The Office for season 8 as the new CEO of Dunder-Mifflin’s parent company, Sabre.
Executive producer (Toby!) Paul Lieberstein had this to say about the exciting hire in today’s press release (and part of his comment might be considered spoilery to some):
“James will reprise his role as Robert California, this uber-salesman that has a power to convince and manipulate, like a high-class weirdo Jedi warrior. […] He’ll have been hired over the summer as the new manager, but within hours, got himself promoted. Within days, he took over the company. James has an energy that is completely his own, and The Office has no tools for dealing with this guy. We’re thrilled he’s joining our cast.”
Lieberstein and his crew have ample reason to be excited. With the exits of Carell and Kathy Bates, who played Sabre CEO Jo until her NBC sitcom Harry’s Law got picked up for a second season, they needed a star to add to their cast. Spader’s credits and three Emmy awards for The Practice and Boston Legal speak for themselves, and his big name will likely add new buzz to the aging comedy.
But perhaps even more importantly, Spader’s role as Robert California was unquestionably the funniest and most exciting guest spot in the season 7 finale. His character’s highly charismatic, enigmatic and slightly terrifying sexual energy would have overpowered the established dynamics within The Office (which, with Carell’s exit, are themselves in the midst of transition), but his addition as the new CEO makes sense. The California character (whose motto, you’ll recall, is “everything is sex”) is ripe for new avenues of conflict and humor among the office-mates, and his new position as Sabre CEO gives the character just the right mix of power and distance in relation to the Scranton office.
What still remains to be seen is whether and how this cast addition will affect the larger question of who will replace Steve Carell’s irreplaceable Michael Scott as the Scranton branch regional manager.
Alan Sepinwall of HitFix reported on the same news this morning, and made what I think is a compelling case, given California’s promotion, for former co-manager Jim Halpert to assume the position: “Krasinski was terrific working with Spader in the finale, and the idea of Jim having to constantly deal with this CEO who is both incredibly crazy and incredibly persuasive – of Jim having to be the buffer between Robert and the staff in the way he at times was between Michael and the staff – sounds like a lot of fun, and a very good role for a character the writers have struggled to use for several years.”
With such an off-the-wall character above him, and so many crazies below him, it just seems fitting that perpetual straight-man Jim would become the much-needed buffer between California and the rest of the cast. If Jim won’t work, I also think Pam would make a great regional manager. Her increasingly maternal role with Michael (and her recent gig as office manager) makes her jump to overseeing the rest of the office a logical one, and putting her directly underneath the openly sexual California could potentially make for some hilarious HR-nightmare scenarios. But I’ll leave the Office writing to the Office writers.
For now, refresh yourself on Spader’s role from the finale, and take to the comments with your take on how he’ll fit in at The Office come September:
(Image courtesy of NBC)