How To Launch a Spinoff?

Like most of you, I have no idea what the Office spinoff will be about. I do think, however, that no matter what the title turns out to be, many of us will continue referring to it as “The Office Spinoff.” I’m just so used to that title after NBC blaring it at us for months.

But a couple weeks ago, Kristin Veitch at E! reminded us that whatever the spinoff turns out to be, it may not be what it was originally supposed to be:

I also know the initial plan was to bring in a new person… to Dunder Mifflin Scranton and then spin off that person, but because of the strike it didn’t pan out.

That’s a popular way of launching a spinoff, though I hadn’t seen it done in a few years; the most recent one I’m aware of was on The Practice, where James Spader’s Alan Shore was added to the cast in the final season, and that final season became basically a year-long backdoor pilot (or as I prefer to call it, “stealth pilot”) for Boston Legal. It’s sort of a bigger, more elaborate variation on the single-episode stealth pilot, when someone we never heard of before is introduced and we’re asked to care about their wacky adventures; instead of doing that for one episode, you do it for a season, or part of a season, and get the audience to like this new character enough that we’ll follow him or her to the spinoff. This way you get all the advantages of a spinoff without the problems of taking an established character off the show.

But that doesn’t seem possible now for The Office, so we’ll have to wait and see who and what the spinoff is about. A previous rumour had Ed Helms’ Andy as the most likely star for a spinoff, which, given that he’s the character who out-Michaels Michael Scott and given that he suddenly became prominent (upstaging Jim and Pam) near the end of the season finale, seems plausible, but who knows?