Cloning 'The Office' For Fun And Profit

by Paul William Tenny

the-office.jpgIt was odd when NBC started expanding The Office to a full hour (when's the last time you saw an hour-long comedy?) but I don't watch The Office so I never gave it much thought beyond some weird promotional gimmick. Turns out NBC wants to do it some more and people who watch the show are starting to complain, or at least some of them are anyway.

Michael Ausiello wrote a couple of days ago that NBC wants a spinoff of The Office to put into play and perhaps that'll be the unnatural culmination of the hour-long episodes, even if it wasn't planned, at least that'll mean it's going to come to an end. There are some great writers out there that have blogs and one of them happens to be Ken Levine (M*A*S*H, Wings, Cheers, Frasier) - I read this guy a lot even though I don't want to write comedy because great insight is still great insight, and even really dark drama can benefit from occasional light hearted moments and who better to learn about that from than someone with a resume like that?

Ken has been forced to write hour-long comedy episodes before and found it's generally a bad idea in all respects other than advertising.

And here’s what I’ve learned: They turn out to be 45 minutes worth of story and fifteen minutes of filler. The stories are generally too long to tell in a half hour, not long enough to sustain a full hour. The “Goodbye Radar” episode could have easily been a half hour. But CBS wanted to make a big “Sweeps” event out of it so we had to concoct this whole generator-going-out business, which did nothing to improve the show.

But at the end of the day, these are writing issues and if you expressed them to the network they would laugh. Longer episodes mean more commercial time to sell, something special to promote, and one less half hour of a show that isn’t as popular. And for your series finale they want two hours. They just never realize that by forcing you to do hours along the way they hasten that finale by two or three years.

I think that's really the key here with NBC, they are still struggling to move out of fourth place in the ratings despite making some progress with The Office and Heroes, and they'd rather try cloning what they've already got than keep failing through the same old system, but isn't that even worse? Private Practice may be getting numbers good enough to warrant a full season order, but it is not even close to where Grey's Anatomy is, and The Office isn't even really up where Private Practice is.

A spinoff at that level is only going to produce a clunker I'm afraid.
in Television


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