How does a dying television show, especially one whose real star power is leaving after seven seasons, recapture the zany momentum of its early episodes? Last night, as the cast and crew of The Office prepare for the imminent departure of Steve Carell, viewers were introduced to tentative new manager DeAngelo Vickers, played by a mostly straight-laced Will Ferrell.
It’s still unknown whether DeAngelo will remain a pivotal character in Season 8, but the introduction of this character and Ferrell’s interpretation of him point to some of the apparent strategies that are being used to keep The Office afloat (and presumably solvent):
- When in doubt, cast a star: Ferrell has been a household name since his stint on Saturday Night Live. He’s written and starred in a few modest hits (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, assorted phallocentric comedy that does boffo box office among the 18-34 demo). Loyal fans of The Office will undoubtedly tune in for Ferrell’s performance, but inconsistent viewers may also be swayed by the promise of some classic Ferrell humor. It’s unlikely that Ferrell’s four episode appearance will draw any new viewers, but at this point, surely The Office is more concerned with retention of an existing audience than the creation of a new one.
- Give him a silly name and some quirky hobbies: Here’s a snapshot of the Google image search page for the name “DeAngelo”:
HA HA. See it’s funny because “DeAngelo” is a black man’s name and Will Ferrell is white. So very, awkwardly white. Oh man, LOL guys, this is humor.
DeAngelo Vickers is also a huge fan of the American Southwest. I mean, that’s cool and all, but people don’t usually go around talking about their favorite regions as a get-to-know-you device. It’s funny because people don’t do this, but conceivably they could, and this character does. It’s like the ol’ girl farting gag–women don’t usually fart, but maybe they could in theory! So if we actually show a woman farting on television, it’s hilarious! Yet another excellent example of humor.
3. Add some physical humor: Begin with some standard slapstick from the ever eager to please Andy Bernard, and seal the deal with a strange back hug between Michael Scott and DeAngelo Vickers. Men laughing at other men? Too funny. But men hugging other men? This is the holy grail of sitcom humor. Any physical contact between two presumably straight men is always the second-most comedic thing on television.
The first is obviously when a dude gets slammed in the balls on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Duh.