With Steve Carell's imminent departure from The Office hanging over NBC, producers have already begun laying the groundwork for a seventh season that acts as a fitting farewell to the Michael Scott character and also secures the future of the show. Inevitably, this means bringing in some new blood and according to EW, the top two actors in consideration to join the Dunder-Miflin team are Danny McBride and Rhys Darby.
Both actors have been asked if they'd be interested in joining the show later in the upcoming season, but not necessarily as Carell's replacement.
Showrunner Paul Lieberstein insists they "haven't settled exactly who will take over" and discussions regarding the addition of a new salesman to the Scranton branch seem to indicate that's the role McBride or Darby would be filling, should one of them choose to sign on.
In an interview with HitFix last month, Lieberstein (who also plays Toby on the show) indicated that the real life search for Carell's replacement is something that would be mirrored on the show with the company's search for Michael Scott's replacement. As fans of The Office debate whether or not someone new should be brought onboard or an existing member of the ensemble get promoted, the same issues will be addressed within the show.
So don't expect a definitive statement on the matter for quite some time. I'm sure they're going to have a lot of fun letting us speculate about who's going to win the job and milk this moment for all its worth. It seems possible they could also use this approach to gauge the audience's approval and support of certain characters over others.
When our own Mike Eisenberg contemplated Michael Scott's best replacement, Darby was one of his top picks due to the actor's hilarious work on Flight of the Conchords. HBO's decision to cancel that show leaves the actor's schedule relatively open. McBride, on the other hand, is busy with the second season of Eastbound & Down and his spokesperson confirms he's "very happy" there.
I suppose we can expect the list of possible replacements to continue to expand rather than get narrowed down in the immediate future.
While we know Ricky Gervais will appear as his character from the original UK version of The Office on at least one episode of the upcoming season, and that his name has also come up as a possible replacement for Michael Scott, I'm just not sold on that idea. I love Gervais and I love the original Office (considerably more than the American version in fact) and it almost feels beneath him to come in as someone else's replacement. I'm not saying he couldn't do it, just that I think there are better strategies. Not to mention how many elements were borrowed from the original show, which would leave the inclusion of Gervais' David Brent character with something of a 'been there, done that,' feel.
In my opinion, the only way for The Office to avoid a jump the shark moment with Carell's departure is to embrace a branch manager with a completely different personality who has a totally different dynamic with the other characters. As a matter of fact, I'd sort of love to see Michael's reaction to the news that Toby is taking his job.
Of course, my real preference is that they end the show completely but with NBC's recent struggles there's no way they're going to drop one of their biggest shows if they don't have to. Still, for me the show peeked in its third season and it hasn't been as witty or charming since then. There's also the realization that even at its worst, The Office is probably still better than whatever NBC would replace it with.