Although other components of NBC's Thursday comedy lineup have their admirers in the media, to me it remains "The Office" and everything else. So an advance peek at the Dec. 8 Christmas episode seemed like as good a time as any to revisit the show and take inventory, as it were, following the exit of star Steve Carell.
The series in part remains up to its old tricks -- literally, if you count the war of pranks between Dwight (Rainn Wilson) and Jim (John Krasinski) -- but there have also been some fundamental shifts. Having Ed Helms become the eager-to-please boss -- with the wonderfully bizarre James Spader as his hard-to-read CEO -- has altered the show's dynamics, not always in the best of ways.
The two were certainly put to fine use in the previous episode -- with Helms' Andy trying to read his boss' confusing cues regarding how to treat his wife (Maura Tierney) -- but have been featured unevenly throughout the season. Andy can be a little too annoying, and given the wild-card element he brings to the show, Spader hasn't been used enough.
Even so, thanks to the writing and wealth of characters, "The Office" remains an extremely solid comedy, and this latest episode is particularly good at mixing small slices of emotion and pain in with the humor, using the dynamic between Andy and Erin (Ellie Kemper) in part to pick up some of the slack created by having long since resolved the Jim-Pam relationship, which produced some of the show's most memorable highlights.
One of the truisms about workplace series is they have the latitude to survive cast changes. People change jobs, move, whatever.
By that measure, "The Office" appears to have weathered last season's personnel change -- or at least, come through it well enough to remain among the least of NBC's problems, and among the best of things on its schedule.