Promising news for fans of NBC's The Office: It looks like Dunder Mifflin branch manager Andy Bernard and salesman Jim Halpert will be sticking around for at least part of another year. According to insiders, Ed Helms and John Krasinski are moving closer to signing new deals for next season. "Everyone's coming into the final yard line," says a show insider.
Next year would likely be the last season for both actors, as their film careers take off. A source close to Helms says the actor would like to return, at least for part of the year, and that he has submitted a counterproposal to the studio's initial offer.
But before Helms' and Krasinski's pacts are finalized, the show will have to figure out how to accommodate their busy movie schedules. Helms is expected take a break to shoot The Hangover 3 (a greenlight is likely), while Krasinski may have to miss some episodes to star opposite Matt Damon in Promised Land. Ideally, they wouldn't be gone at the same time.
The Office remains NBC's top-rated comedy and is a shoo-in for renewal once deals with the show's key actors are done. Next season would mark the ninth for The Office — but could it be the show's last? "It's likely to be written for some of the characters as a last year," says one insider. "But if a couple new characters are introduced or other story ideas emerge, you just never know." Adds another source: "They've had those discussions about what would happen if it were to be the last year."
NBC might be loath to give up its signature sitcom, but with so much big change afoot, producers may see next year as a natural ending point. Mindy Kaling's pilot at Fox is said to be an early favorite as a potential companion to New Girl; even if Fox doesn't pick up the comedy, her NBC deal is expiring and it's unclear if she would return. James Spader, who joined just this season, is also departing.
Then there's the potential spinoff featuring Rainn Wilson's Dwight Schrute, which NBC hasn't formally announced but is quietly confirming. An episode early next season is expected to double as a backdoor pilot for the Dwight-centric show, set at Schrute Farms. Such a project could keep The Office legacy alive in the same way that Frasier served as a post-series extension of Cheers.
Executive producer Paul Lieberstein, who plays Toby, is planning to focus his energy on the Dwight project, which is partly why Universal TV is looking for a new showrunner for The Office. Universal and executive producer Greg Daniels have met with potential candidates to take on oversight of the writers' room, but one of the leading contenders is a familiar face: B.J. Novak, who plays Ryan and is already an executive producer.
Whoever takes the reins faces several challenges including potentially having to craft proper send-offs for Jim, Andy and Dwight. The overall direction of the show may be in for an overhaul, as critics have been mixed on the show's first post-Steve Carell season. Michael Scott, it's been hard without you — and yes, that's what she said.
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