The Office: 10 Casting Decisions That Hurt The Show (And 10 That Saved It)

The Office has become one of those shows that many seem to watch on a continuous loop. Whether you catch the re-runs on TV or cycle through the series on Netflix, this sitcom seems to never get old.

While the cleverly-written jokes serve as an initial hook, it’s ultimately the cast of characters that made The Office such a lasting success. After all, there are plenty of hilarious and whip-smart sitcoms out there, but not everyone can relate to the start-up culture of Silicon Valley or the riches-to-rags odyssey of the Bluth family. However, many of us know all too well what it feels like to be stuck at a boring job with co-workers who are all too weird.

While the U.K. version of the show largely laid the foundation for the series, the American adaptation would have fallen flat without a cast made up of talented actors. Most sitcoms would strive to land the biggest stars available, but in The Office's ase, lesser-known actors actually served to make the series that much more relatable. Unfortunately, not every character was as well cast as some of the series originals.

Let's take a closer look at 10 Casting Decisions That Hurt The Office (And 10 That Saved It).

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20 Hurt: Will Ferrell

Will Ferrell is a comedy powerhouse who could have no doubt filled the shoes of Michael Scott upon Steve Carrell’s departure from the show. Unfortunately, Ferrell only appeared in four episodes of The Office, which ultimately meant he only served as a distraction to Carrell’s exit rather than a cohesive plan for the future of the sitcom.

Deangelo Vickers made his debut in the season seven episode “Training Day”, where we learn that, much like Michael, he’s a bit of a lovable doofus. While it took a number of episodes for viewers to warm up to Michael, Deangelo has an opposing character arc where his amusing obsession with the Southwest and pride in overcoming obesity are quickly overshadowed by his sexist ways and domineering management style.

If Ferrell and the showrunners had actually planned to develop Deangelo over a number of seasons, this new character dynamic coupled with Ferrell’s comedy prowess could have made the last few seasons just as entertaining as the previous seven.

Sadly, Ferrell’s time on the show was never meant to last, and his character’s exit-by-comatose started The Office down a path of sitcom tropes and undeveloped character arcs which were all too present in the later seasons.

19 Saved: Rainn Wilson

If you’re a big fan of The Office, you’ve likely seen the original audition tapes of the actors who both did and didn’t end up making it onto the series. A number of well-known TV and movies actors ended up auditioning for the role of Dwight Schrute, including Seth Rogen, Patton Oswalt, and Judah Friedlander. While all of these comedians/ actors are talented in their own rights, they just didn’t seem to capture the assertive tone and matter-of-fact disposition that Rainn Wilson exuded during his audition.

It’s amazing how much Wilson had already perfected the character before he was even cast in the role.

While the character was based on Gareth Keenan from the U.K. version, Wilson not only succeeded in making Dwight Schrute his own but he also helped create one of the most distinct characters in sitcom history. Similar to Michael Richards' embodiment of Cosmo Kramer a decade before, Dwight became a walking idiosyncrasy -- whose body language, vocabulary, and overall appearance made the character an instant classic.

Despite the character being one of the show's most over-the-top, Dwight managed to never feel like a caricature or a parody of every office clown thanks to Wilson's meticulous performance.

18 Hurt: Idris Elba

Whether or not you enjoyed Idris Elba’s time on The Office may be largely contingent upon if you had previously watched The Wire. This HBO series, which is often deemed the greatest drama of all time, featured Elba playing Russell "Stringer" Bell, a kingpin who reigns over the city of Baltimore by straddling the line between consummate professional and illegal substance dealer.

While there were a number of years between Elba's performances on these two shows, The Wire was one of those series that was discovered by many years after it ended — making it even harder to bridge the gap between the character of Stringer Bell and Charles Miner. Although Charles was meant to be an intimidating character who is sent to Scranton to keep Michael Scott in check, it was still difficult for many to imagine Elba as the Vice President of a paper company.

Even in the years since, Elba has largely stuck to drama and action films, making his time on The Office seem all the more out of place. It also didn’t help that his seven episode arc on the show came during the Michael Scott Paper Company days, which audiences seem to have an overall mixed feeling about.

17 Saved: John Krasinski

While John Krasinski had been largely unknown before he landed the role of Jim Halpert, that actually ended up working out to the show’s advantage in the early days. Since many of the male characters are fairly over-the-top, Jim serves as the everyman who often seems just as uncomfortable and out of place as the audience.

This is something that few actors with any amount of star power are unable to achieve when attempting to play an Average Joe.

The fact that Krasinski hadn’t landed any big roles before The Office only helped to make the character more of a blank slate for the audience to project themselves on to.

This worked to even greater effect when Jim’s affection for Pam began to develop over the first few seasons. A seemingly ordinary relationship turned into one of the most romantic sitcom love stories thanks to how relatable both Krasinski and Jenna Fischer were on screen.

Another telltale sign of Krasinksi's talent is that he's been able to transcend playing such an iconic character for a diverse film career. He's starred in everything from broad comedies like Leatherheads to his latest horror movie, A Quiet Place, which he also co-wrote and directed.

16 Hurt: Kathy Bates

Photo from "Manager & Salesman"

Kathy Bates was yet another big star brought into The Office presumably to smooth the transition of Steve Carrell leaving the series.

Her eight-episode character arc was yet another short-lived distraction that added inconsistency to season seven of the show.

Here, Bates was cast to play Jo Bennett, the CEO of Sabre — a Florida-based printer company that buys out Dunder Mifflin in the middle of season six. She is a blunt, but hard-working manager who often clashes with Michael’s childish ways, though she does manage to win over plenty of the employees in Scranton simply because she saved their company from going under.

Like any easily recognizable star that pops up in an already-established show, it often feels like you’re watching a cameo rather than a real character. While this would work for any number of sitcoms that are more episodic or performed in front of a live studio audience, what made The Office so memorable in the first place was its relatability.

In that regard, Kathy Bates's Jo Bennett is both distracting and unrelatable. Her Southern accent and persona often teeter on the edge of caricature, not to mention that most of the Sabre-related storylines and characters were an unwelcome addition to the show.

15 Saved: Jenna Fischer

Similar to John Krasinski playing Jim Halpert, Jenna Fischer’s performance as Pam Beesly was only helped by the fact that she was largely unknown at the time the show debuted. In other words, we didn’t have to suspend any disbelief that Fischer was an unenthusiastic receptionist working at a failing paper company — we just accepted it as fact, and we ended up establishing a better connection to the character because of it.

Like many aspiring actors, Fischer struggled to make it big upon arriving in Hollywood. As a result, she ended up writing, directing, and starring in her own film LolliLove alongside her then-husband, director James Gunn, a year before The Office debuted. This 2004 film was actually a mockumentary shot in a similar fashion to the forthcoming sitcom, which no doubt helped Fischer when it came to auditioning for the role of Pam.

Fischer ended up receiving critical acclaim for her performance on The Office, which included a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Since the show began, Fischer has shown up in a number of hit films, including Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Hall Pass, and her new sitcom Spitting Up Together, which recently debuted on ABC.

14 Hurt: James Spader

James Spader is another well-known actor who’s addition to the series only helped pull viewers further out of the sitcom. While Spader has popped up in a number of semi-comedic movies and shows in the past, it always felt like Robert California was written to serve Spader’s tendency to play eccentric characters rather than to fit into the already-established universe of The Office.

After Will Ferrell’s short-lived tenure holding down the Scranton branch as Deangelo Vickers, James Spader regularly popped up in the eighth season as Robert California, the newly appointed Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin who eventually works his way up to CEO of Sabre using his unusual blend of persuasion, intimidation, and misdirection.

While the character’s eccentricities are entertaining at first, many of the jokes rely too much on Robert’s love life. This eventually pushed the show toward more adult humor, which was both inconsistent with the earlier seasons and a lot less clever than what audiences were accustomed to.

Episodes where Robert took center stage weren’t exactly the standouts of their respective seasons, either. For instance, in “Mrs. California”, Robert's conflicting signals to Andy about hiring his wife go on so long that it starts to feel like nothing but filler, while the episode where Robert invites everyone to his mansion for a pool party feels like another sitcom gimmick that doesn’t mesh with the rest of the series.

13 Saved: Ed Helms

Much like Steve Carrell, Ed Helms is a comedic actor whose sudden increase in popularity following his debut on the show no doubt helped bring in viewers.

Helms first showed up in the season three premiere of The Office where he played Andy Bernard, the annoying try-hard who works alongside Jim and Karen at the Stamford branch before he’s ultimately transferred to Scranton.

Before his debut on the show, Helms also worked as a correspondent at The Daily Show just as Carrell had, and after playing Andy for a number of seasons, Helms’s fame had a massive surge courtesy of a leading role in 2009’s The Hangover. Not only did this make Helms one of the many actors who became a star thanks to The Office, it also resulted in Andy transitioning from a strictly irksome presence to more of a lovable doofus as the show progressed.

Helms was even added to the show's opening credits during the later seasons, and his star power was enough to earn him the position of Regional Manager at the Scranton branch. However, the one downside of this success is that Helms had to take some time away from the show for his film career, which only contributed to the already-inconsistent quality of the later seasons.

12 Hurt: Zach Woods

Zach Woods being an interference to the quality of the show had less to do with the actor himself and more to do with how the character was written.

Gabe Lewis was simply annoying in all the wrong ways.

Though the earlier seasons of the show were steeped in cringe-comedy, the characters and awkward scenarios were relatable to real life. However, the uneasiness that Gabe inspired was just downright bizarre at times.

Gabe first popped up in season six of the show and made it halfway through the ninth and final season of the series. He was the Regions Coordinator of Sabre who worked under the ruthlessly demanding Jo Bennett, and many of the jokes surrounding Gabe rely on how spineless and uninteresting the character is. Gabe also played a part in one of the most uncomfortable and least satisfying love-triangles on the show, which began when he started dating Erin, Andy’s former girlfriend.

The one upside of Zach Woods making a name for himself on The Office is that he went on to nab a major role in the hilarious HBO sitcom Silicon Valley. Though the character of Jared Dunn still exudes his fair share of awkwardness, he's balanced by an endearing innocence that m akes for a much more enjoyable performance.

11 Saved: Rashida Jones

After two seasons of romantic tension between Jim and Pam, it was clear that audiences didn't want another season of “Will they/ Won’t they?” But instead of simply bringing the couple together, the writers decided to separate them even further by having Jim transfer to Stamford. Things were complicated even more when Jim returned to Scranton after firing up a relationship with Rashida Jones’s Karen Filippelli.

While it might have been easier to make Karen a totally unsympathetic character so the audience would overwhelmingly take Pam’s side, Jones and the writers succeeded in making Karen a fully fleshed-out addition to the series who was not only a suitable match for Jim but also a competent and career-driven sales rep.

Jones became a regular on season three of the show, which was amongst one of the highest-rated and most-watched runs of The Office.

While Pam ultimately won over Jim's heart, there were a surprising number of fans who were on Team Karen, which is really a testament to how likable Jones is as an actress.

This relatability and endearing smugness have found Jones popping up in a number of successful films and TV shows since, including her leading roles on Parks and Recreation and Angie Tribeca, and her supporting performances in films like I Love You, Man and The Social Network.

10 Hurt: Catherine Tate

The Office certainly featured its fair share of annoying characters, but were any more irksome than Catherine Tate’s portrayal of Nellie Bertram?

The character first popped up in the season seven finale of the series, where the employees of Dunder Mifflin are desperately searching for a new Regional Manager of Scranton following Micheal Scott’s departure. This hour-long episode was met with mixed reviews from both critics and audiences alike, as it featured one A-list cameo after the next that all seemingly went nowhere - aside from James Spader’s debut as Robert California.

However, while Robert ended up nabbing the role of manager, Catherine Tate was originally being considered to take over the role that Steve Carell had left vacant. We can’t help but think this would have marked major disaster for the series — not because Tate is an untalented actress, but because the character of Nellie Bertram is so grating and her British accent so over-the-top that it makes her scenes almost unwatchable.

While the show did go to great lengths to develop Nellie's sensitive side in the final season, it could never quite remove the bad taste that the character left in our mouths during her earlier episodes.

9 Saved: Creed Bratton

Plenty of the series regulars on The Office were played by largely unknown actors. In fact, many of these characters took their first names from the actors who portrayed them, making it impossible to imagine anybody else in the role of someone like Stanley Hudson, Angela Martin, or Phyllis Lapin. These characters looked and acted like real people who work in everyday offices, making the show that much more believable.

If we had to pick just one supporting character who stood out above the rest, it would have to be Creed Bratton.

Creed Bratton is played by none other than Creed Bratton — a former member of ‘60s rock band The Grassroots.

Here, Bratton contributed to a number of their chart-topping songs including “Midnight Confessions” and “Let’s Live for Today”.

Though Bratton has popped up in a number of movies and shows from the 1960s onward, most audience members didn’t know him until he landed his role on The Office, where he played a fictitious version of himself who also happened to be one of the weirder employees at Dunder Mifflin.

Though his performance was often limited to a few lines per episode, they often made for some of the funniest and most off-beat catchphrases of the series.

8 Hurt: Jake Lacy

Popular shows often make the mistake of believing that the audience needs to constantly be introduced to new characters seasons after seasons in order to stay interested. The reality is that people usually end up falling in love with the original cast, and that new characters are often best used when they serve as a catalyst for changing one of these original characters.

Unfortunately, The Office continued to introduce new series regulars right up until their final season, which included Jake Lacy in the role of Pete Miller - a customer service rep who first appears in the season nine opener “New Guys”.

Pete is quickly dubbed “New Jim” thanks to his appearance and starry-eyed aspirations to start his own business one day. Arguably, the most significant thing that Pete does for the plot of The Office is inspire Jim to split his time between Scranton and his friends’ start-up company in Philidelphia, which could have easily been prompted without bringing a whole new character into the mix.

In this instance, Jake Lacy’s lackluster addition to the show had nothing to do with the actor's performance, but more so with the fact that the sitcom was already juggling more than enough characters while heading into its final stretch of episodes.

7 Saved: Ellie Kemper

A number of characters who showed up in the later seasons of The Office often ended up landing on the wrong side of annoying. These included such cringe-inducing and irksome characters as Gabe Lewis and Nellie Bertram. And although Erin Hannon may have been more oblivious than any other character on The Office (which is really saying something), her childlike naïveté made her one of the few welcome late-addition regulars to the series.

Ellie Kemper landed a gig on The Office by actually auditioning for a role on Parks and Recreation — another show that was developed by Greg Daniels. She was eventually offered the part of Erin on the already-established sitcom, and the writers ended up tailoring the character to better fit Kemper's own plucky and innocent personality.

This addition of an exceedingly optimistic character was a welcome dynamic for a series where many of the regulars had become jaded to working at Dunder Mifflin.

When Pam returned to work at the company, Erin stayed on to become a series regular herself. Another testament to Kemper's brand of comedy is that the actress went on to play similar starry-eyed characters in both Bridesmaids and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the latter of which finds Kemper taking center stage for the critically acclaimed Netflix sitcom.

6 Hurt: Clark Duke

Much like Jake Lacy joining the cast in season nine of the show as Pete Miller, Clark Duke showing up as the newest Dunder Mifflin Customer Service Rep was another unnecessary addition to the show during its final season.

Duke first appeared as Clark Green in the season nine opener “New Guys”, where he is thought of as an updated version of Dwight. In fact, Dwight tries to form a father-son bond with Clark before the two ultimately become rivals while trying to discover who is the Dwight-iest Dwight.

Before appearing on The Office, Clark Duke had already proven himself as a more than capable comedic actor. He previously appeared in the unexpected hit Hot Tub Time Machine alongside other Office-regular Craig Robinson, along with 2010’s Kick-Ass. Therefore, Clark was able to hold his own alongside a number of the series pros, including Rainn Wilson.

However, that still wasn't enough to justify Duke's addition to the series, which was now juggling an overwhelming number of series regulars. The fact that the show also began parodying itself in these later episodes by introducing "younger" versions of Jim and Dwight also signified a decline in quality, which made the last season of the show the least-watched of the entire series.

5 Saved: Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson may have had one of the smaller acting resumes before he appeared on The Office, but his talents have turned him into one of the biggest stars to come out of the series.

Robinson was cast in the role of Darryl Philbin, the foreman of the Scranton warehouse who first appeared in the fourth episode of the first season of the series. While plenty of the characters working at Dunder Mifflin seemed uninterested in their jobs, Darryl took indifference to a whole new level when it came to being at work — at least whenever Michael was around. As the seasons progressed, Daryll slowly evolved into a much more compassionate worker, and eventually rose all the way to the position of Assistant Regional Manager at Scranton before leaving the company to work as the V.P. at Athleap.

Though he goes on to be a much more driven-individual, Robinson continued to play the character with the same dry and nonchalant disposition, which made him the perfect juxtaposition to characters like Michael and Dwight.

Throughout his time on the series, Robinson parlayed his TV work into a successful film career, where he popped up in everything from Pineapple Express to This is the End. He now stars in Ghosted.

4 Hurt: Chris Diamantopoulos

The final season of The Office was quite the mixed bag for viewers. They continued to introduce new (and largely inconsequential) characters, and they tied up the stories for many of the series regulars in unexpected fashion. On top of all this, they decided to finally make the documentary crew a part of the on-screen action.

The moment when Pam breaks down on the phone and the sound guy Brian intervenes was a bold moment for the series. Much like Brian putting aside everything to comfort Pam while her marriage is seemingly falling apart, the audience is forced to face the realities of a failing relationship in a way that seems all too real.

This scene alone could have been enough to drive home the idea that even the most seemingly perfect relationships aren't without breaking points. Chris Diamantopoulos continued to show up more and more as Brian the boom mic guy, and with every instance, the character became increasingly unlikeable and served to destroy one of the show's more poignant moments.

Arguably, Diamantopoulos' performance on the show would have been more effective if it was limited to this one scene.

Unfortunately, the character became nothing more than a plot device used to drive a wedge through the Pam-Jim relationship, which had been a highlight of the show since season one.

3 Saved: Mindy Kaling

While Mindy Kaling may have played the original airhead of The Office, she was far from a ditz when it came to her behind-the-scenes work on the show.

On top of acting, Kaling also worked as a writer, director, and producer throughout the majority of the series.

She was even credited by her fellow cast members as being one of the best writers on the show, as Kaling didn’t just use the characters as joke machines, but let the laughs stem out of each character’s eccentric personality. In total, she helped write over 20 episodes of the series, including Jim and Pam’s wedding episode “Niagara,” which earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series.

With this in mind, Kaling’s performance as Kelly Kapoor — the vapid office drama queen who never shuts up — seems that much more impressive. Throughout her nine seasons on the show, Kelly served as the Customer Service Rep at Dunder Mifflin who was often in an on-again/off-again relationship with Ryan Howard. While this was never played for romance, it did provide a steady stream of laughs throughout the series.

Before The Office wrapped up, Kaling used her talents to launch her own sitcom, The Mindy Project, which went on to have a respectable six-season run if its own.

2 Hurt: Ricky Gervais

We’re sure there was no meeting in which the producers of The Office sat around and contemplated who they should cast in the role of David Brent. But they did ultimately decide to include Ricky Gervais in the series, which may not have played out as well as they had hoped.

Of course, David Brent was the character on which Michael Scott was originally based upon, and the role that Gervais originally inhabited during the U.K. run of the series was nothing short of revolutionary. While most critics usually deem the U.K. version of the show as the superior incarnation, no one can deny that the American adaptation enjoyed more success. This is largely because the American Office was much more of a crowd-pleaser, which sprinkled in a fair share of straight-forward laughs along with the more cringe-inducing moments.

The two shows are very much two different worlds, and we would have been more than happy if they had just stayed that way.

While Gervais’s interaction with Michael Scott is amusing enough, it never feels like we're actually getting a performance by David Brent, but a compromised character who's been polished up for American audiences. When David shows up in a later episode via a video message, we do get the blunter version of the character that we're used to, but it's another cameo that simply goes nowhere.

1 Saved: Steve Carell

Steve Carell as Michael Scott in The Office

When The Office debuted back in 2005, Steve Carell wasn’t exactly a household name. Though the comedic actor had been working in Hollywood since the early ‘90s, most had only gotten a brief glimpse of him while he worked as a correspondent on The Daily Show or when he popped up in supporting roles in Bruce Almighty and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy in the two years before the sitcom aired.

But it was ultimately The Office that found Carell cast as a leading man. The result was a first season that lost over half of its viewers between the pilot episode and the finale — leaving the future of the American adaptation up in the air.

Then The 40-Year-Old Virgin hit theaters in the summer of 2005, and the smash hit solidified Carrel as leading man material. Sales of The Office’s first season skyrocketed online and the show became a ratings juggernaut in the years that followed.

Carrell also succeeded in making the character of Michael Scott his own, which previously seemed like an insurmountable task for those who were familiar with Ricky Gervais's portrayal of David Brent. Another telling sign that Carrell saved the show is that quality and ratings seemed to drop off upon his departure from the series.


Which casting decisions do you think saved or hurt The Office? Let us know!

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