“The Office” Returns

Season 8 premieres - sans Steve Carell - Thursday night, September 22nd, at 9 PM ET. Here's what's in store at Dunder-Mifflin.

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Chris Haston / NBC
After seven years under the erratic and often destructive leadership of Michael Scott, the gang at the Dunder Mifflin branch in Scranton, PA, are getting a new boss.
Chris Haston / NBC
Steve Carell has decided to forgo another season playing Michael Scott to peruse his film career—as sad as we are to see him go, it's a move we wholly endorsed when it was announced.
Chris Haston / NBC
Taking over for Scott is Robert California (James Spader), whose interview with the search committee was so bizarre that Jim Halpern could only say, "he creeps me out...but I think he might be a genius."
Chris Haston / NBC
Not only is Mr. California taking over for Michael Scott, rumor has it that he will be buying the company from CEO Jo Bennett (Kathy Bates, who's landed her own series, Harry's Law, since she started on The Office).
California beat out a talented cast of applicants, including Will Arnett, Jim Carrey, Warren Buffet and the former boss of Wernham Hogg in Slough, UK, David Brent (Ricky Gervais).
Chris Haston / NBC
What would possess a man like Michael Scott to give up such a sweet gig? Why the love of a good woman, Dunder Mifflin HR rep Holly Flax (Amy Ryan). They couple are engaged and moving to Colorado to be near her ailing parents.
Chris Haston / NBC
Over the years there've been others to run the office, such as Deangelo Vickers (Will Ferrell), who for a brief time was being trained by Scott himself to take over. But his tenure was cut short when an attempt to dunk a basketball landed him in a coma.
Chris Haston / NBC
Charles Miner (Idris Elba) enjoyed a brief stint leading the office when his management style inspired Michael to quit and launch his own paper company, which he runs out of a closet in the same building.
The genius who started it all was Ricky Gervais, star and co-creator of the original "The Office," which opened for business on July 9, 2001, as a BBC sitcom. The show depicted the work-a-day tedium of office drones in the format of a faux documentary, starring Gervais as the manager David Brent, a sexist, racist, preening moron with a gift for being offensive.
In the classic British tradition, the show lasted only two six-episode seasons, which were followed by two subsequent Christmas specials, but by the time it was over, it had already established itself as one of the great sitcoms—so naturally they had to remake it for Americans who couldn’t possibly understand English English.
Chris Haston / NBC
To fans of the original, the parallels were immediately clear, Wernham Hogg Paper Company of Slough moved to Scranton, PA, and became known as Dunder-Mifflin, with David Brent turning into Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell.
The Daily Show
Carell (3rd from left) had been a popular correspondent on The Daily Show (along with Stephen Colbert, 2nd from left and future co-star Ed Helms, 2nd from right), but the role of Michael Scott first passed through the hands of Paul Giamatti, Martin Short, Hank Azaria and Bob Odenkirk, among others.
Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook) Brent's overly officious toady who would argue bitterly that he was "assistant manager,' as opposed to "assistant to the manager," became the demented beet farmer/ninja Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson).
Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman, aka Frodo in the upcoming film The Hobbit), Gareth's arch-enemy/tormentor, and his love interest, the receptionist Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis), became Jim Halpern (John Krasinski) and Pam Beesly.
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As with the original Office's Dawn, Pam was unavailable due to a longstanding, if unsatisfying, relationship with one of the guys working in the warehouse. But on this side of the pond, Pam and Jim ultimately tied the knot and commenced to making babies.
Chris Haston / NBC
Krasinski got the role largely thanks to his high school friend BJ Novak, who'd been hired as a writer and to play the role of Ryan Howard, the sketchy MBA intern on whom Michael would develop a huge mancrush.
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It was Novak and Krasinski's shared love of the author David Foster Wallace that led to the naming of Dunder Mifflin CFO David Wallace. Krasinski has also written and directed a film based on the authors anthology, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men.
Chris Haston / NBC
Paul Lieberstein, who plays the sad-sack HR rep Toby, is the brother-in-law of Office producer/writer/director Greg Daniels, and used to be brother-in-law to...
Chris Haston / NBC
Angela Kinsey, aka cat-loving Office scold Angela Martin.
Chris Haston / NBC
The Office at first tried too much to be like its predecessor, but as it progressed, and things started to hit their stride, the new version provided portraits of the types of manically petty and idiosyncratic personalities that seem to dominate life within the concrete and steel habitrails of America.
Chris Haston / NBC
The big question now is whether the show can survive without Carell, and it would appear the answer is yes. Carell was a progressively less dominant personality on the show, the writers wisely weaning fans. And Spader seems like a great fit, as he brings a similar lack of self-awareness. We'll know for sure when the series returns to NBC on Thursday, Sept. 22.
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