Friday, September 30, 2011

Seeing James Spader in top James Spader form is reason enough to watch the current incarnation of "The Office"


The incomparable James Spader dazzled last season as the visionary genius, or perhaps megalomaniacal crackpot, Robert, interviewing for the old job of Michael Scott (Steve Carell) as manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin.

by Ken

Since I try really hard to avoid media promotion that will "give away" stuff I plan to watch, I don't know whether James Spader has landed for the season as the new boss of The Office (I think back to Will Ferrell's unexpectedly and amusingly short tenure at the end of last season), and I don't want to know -- I'd rather take it in as it's dished out. What I can say is that so far that the writers are writing for Spader in a way that allows him to do, you know, all that stuff that I've never seen any other actor do, that sense of being powered by an inner power plant that generates power and heat and vision and confidence and . . . well, I have no idea how to describe it. I can't even say whether the writing for him is really that good, or good-for-him, or he's able to animate anything he sees on a page in front of him.

Another thing I can say is that seeing Spader as new Dunder Mifflin Sabre CEO Robert California reminded me with a jolt of the Spader deprivation I've been feeling since the demise of Boston Legal.

Spader was part of the queue of improbable celebrity guests who appeared in last season's "search" episodes as Dunder Mifflin Scranton and parent company Sabre sought a permanent replacement for departed Scranton manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell). There he was as Robert California, with that familiar Spader aura of visionary genius that might possibly be crackpot megalomania, and the obvious assumption was that he was wildly overqualified for such a humble job, which seemed to be his opinion too.

As we learned from Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) in last week's season opener, "The List." Robert was indeed offered the job, but he was already on his way to Florida, where he persuaded Jo, the CEO of Dunder Mifflin parent company Sabre (a hilarious recurring guest role for Kathy Bates, who of course has gone on to a show of her own) to hire him, not as Scranton branch manager of Dunder Mifflin but as CEO of Sabre -- yes, as Jim underscored, he persuaded her to give him her job!

At the moment, two episodes into the new season, Robert has the office in a state of generally terrified anxiety, hanging on his every utterance, and even every hint about his intentions, as with that "list" from last week's episode --

Now the thing about that state of terror among the staff is that it's totally believable. When Robert opens his mouth, I get a little scared too. Hey, he doesn't even have to open his mouth. One look from him -- a look of disapproval, or doubt, or scorn, or whatever -- says more than most actors can say in a five-minute speech.

So it was totally understandable that the staff was on pins and needles following the surreptitious discovery of a list Robert had made of all the employees separated into two groups. And it was, well, very James Spader-ish when, after Robert tried to insist that the list was merely the result of his habit of doodling, that the two columns represented "winners" and "losers"! But then, there was eventually a classicaly Spader-esque twist in terms of Robert's understanding of those designations. Similarly, when Robert finally did his version of an office pep talk, explaining to the staff that really a small paper company like Dunder Mifflin should have no reason to exist at the present time, the actor invested the character's explanation with such calm conviction and far-seeing wisdom that it was easy to believe their overwhelmed reaction.


I would have liked to show you a clip with Spader's Robert, and it's possible that there is such a thing on the NBC Office webpage, but I gave up trying to find it. The website, which appears to be operated by somebody's idiot nephew, seems to function on the principle that even if you manage to figure out where you'd like to go, it will take you where it feels you might want to go, even if you've managed, against all odds, to figure out where you'd at least like to try to go. The one certainty is that when you get where the website takes you, there will be two commercials to watch. Eventually the combination of exhaustion and futility did me in.

I was at it long enough, though, to notice that the clips I managed to find from this season seemed almost to go out of their way to not include James Spader as Robert. This represents either some transcendent marketing genius or a total lack of awareness at the Nothing But Chumps network what the show's hottest current asset is. Anyway, here's a clip. Based on my admittedly limited perusal, I'm gathering that Office clips can be counted on to include Dwight (Rainn Wilson).

The last candidate interviewed in last season's "Search Committee" double episode for a new manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin was this mysteriously camouflaged "mystery" man.

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At 8:22 AM, Blogger J said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8:24 AM, Blogger J said...

The title of the blog is "Down with Tyranny," right.

Alas , Spader works for the tyrants. Actually he was alright in Ballard's "Crash"--tho' he seemed a tad ..confused. Rosanna Arquette--poifect. sexlies ,etc. overrated.


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