The New ‘Office’ Doesn’t Work, Yet

James Spader joined "The Office" on Thursday.

There are winners and there are losers. Thursday’s episode of “ The Office” was a loser.

The season eight opener of the once sharp NBC sitcom fell flat, but don’t blame Steve Carell‘s absence or James Spader‘s appearance. No one could have saved the lackluster storyline, in which Spader’s Robert California swoops in as the new CEO of Sabre-Dunder Mifflin, makes a list of the “winners” and “losers” of the Scranton office and takes the “winners” out to lunch while the “losers” swallow their fate with slices of wannabe margherita pizza.

With no Michael Scott to chirp “That’s what she said,” the writers floated another catch phrase — Stanley Hudson adding “in your butt” to the end of seemingly serious sentences, apropos of nothing. The Brad and Angelina of this cubicle city didn’t help matters. Pam cried about feeling fat, pregnant and a “loser,” Jim made a list of his own to show that she’s always a winner in his heart.

It’s natural for a show to falter when its founding star takes off (though “ Two and a Half Men” didn’t have that problem). Spader can make “The Office” work — he was the highlight of “Boston Legal” — if the writers ditch the half-baked jokes and saccharine sub plots.

Did you see Thursday’s season premiere of “The Office?” What did you think?

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