With networks reviving shows left and right, the question networks seem to be asking if the brand is popular enough to warrant a revival. Few seem to be asking if the content is appropriate for the current climate. A case in point would be rumors of a The Office revival. NBC’s hit show has found long life on Netflix, and it holds up wonderfully well, but only because of a special kind of alchemy where the casting and the writing are just right. You need someone like Steve Carell, who conveys inherent goodness, in order to play a buffoon like Michael Scott and keep him likable.
Obviously, Carell wouldn’t be coming back for an Office revival, and when Esquire asked him about the possibility of a revival in general, Carell wisely pointed out that the show could no longer work:
“Because The Office is on Netflix and replaying, a lot more people have seen it recently,” he said. “And I think because of that there’s been a resurgence in interest in the show, and talk about bringing it back. But apart from the fact that I just don’t think that’s a good idea, it might be impossible to do that show today and have people accept it the way it was accepted ten years ago. The climate’s different. I mean, the whole idea of that character, Michael Scott, so much of it was predicated on inappropriate behavior. I mean, he’s certainly not a model boss. A lot of what is depicted on that show is completely wrong-minded. That’s the point, you know? But I just don’t know how that would fly now. There’s a very high awareness of offensive things today—which is good, for sure. But at the same time, when you take a character like that too literally, it doesn’t really work.”
And he’s right. Characters like Michael Scott or Homer Simpson or really any buffoon in a position of power, works better in times of normalcy where we see the character as an outlier rather than an exemplar. But these days, it’s really hard to write a character like Michael Scott and not have his offensiveness overshadow the rest of his personality. Carell is too humble to take credit for making the character work, but I can’t think of another actor who could pull it off. Carell’s performance lets the naivety, childishness, and utter lack of guile shine through with Michael. As offensive as that character can be, you always have Carell holding it together and holding your sympathy. You can’t simply draw up another offensive boss and expect it to work, especially when you’ve got offensive and idiotic people running the country, let alone a small paper company in Pennsylvania.