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"Office" Politics: Amy Ryan and Paul Lieberstein Talk Season Five of "The Office"

I'll admit that I was far from thrilled with last season on NBC's The Office, which seemed to meander and consistently lose focus from its winning premise as the season wore on. But they managed to turn my doubts around with the brilliant season finale ("Goodbye, Toby"), which introduced new Dunder-Mifflin HR rep Holly Flax (The Wire's Amy Ryan).

I had the chance to catch up with Amy Ryan and Office executive producer/writer Paul Lieberstein (who, along with Jennifer Celotta, crafted the season finale) about what to expect for Holly, Toby, and the entire gang at Dunder-Mifflin Scranton.

First up, while I'm beyond tired of the Jim and Pam romance storyline, I know that many of you are still entranced by their courtship. Look for Pam to take that internship in New York when Season Five begins later this month and for Jim and Pam to try to make their long distance relationship work, though there will be a number of obstacles in the way. (Though one of those obstacles won't be Lieberstein's Toby. "Toby is less of a threat than the price of gas," joked Lieberstein.)

We can also expect a robbery in the office (I expect Dwight will be called in to head up the search for the culprit much like Gareth did with his "invetigation" on the original Office), some ethics training, and a Halloween episode directed by original series co-creator Steven Merchant. (Also look for Juno helmer Jason Reitman to direct an episode later this season and for Lieberstein to direct a few installments as well.)

As for whether we've seen the last of former temp turned executive Ryan, last seen getting arrested on fraud charges, don't count him out just yet. "He'll spring back up in a way that is typical for people who can spin anything," said Lieberstein, cryptically.

Meanwhile, erstwhile couple Angela and Andy WILL make it to the altar... sort of. "[They] will make it to an altar of sorts but probably not in the way you're thinking," said Lieberstein. "There's a lot of fun coming up in their relationship."

Toby will eventually return to the familiar confines of Dunder-Mifflin Scranton, according to Lieberstein, due to his "failure to escape," rather than due to Pam. He told a story about one of the Office writers who, years ago, saved enough money to "live poor in Hawaii" and surf... but came back two weeks later. (Ahem, I can see something similar happening to poor Toby.)

And Holly Flax will learn that Kevin isn't, um, mentally handicapped. "She finds out the hard way," joked Ryan.

Ryan, meanwhile, is only slated to appear in six episodes of The Office this season (she's since wrapped her episodes and returned to her home in New York) but she didn't rule out a return engagement. "Never say never," said Ryan.

As for where the character of Holly Flax came from, Lieberstein said that it was talked about among the writing staff, rather than pitched directly by him and Celotta, but that the character "crystalized on set" once the writers saw the "silly side that Amy brought to the character, the Michael Jr. in her."

Ryan says that it was "quite intimidating" coming into such an established cast as that of The Office, entering its fifth season, especially as she was such a fan of the series in the first place. She said that the cast, however, was an "extraordinary group" and was so "down to earth," which she has rarely seen on a series with the level of success that The Office has.

As for this Office fan, who has only just turned his opinion around thanks to the appearance of Ryan, I'm actually looking forward to see just what they do with Holly's character.

The Office kicks off Season Five with a one-hour episode on Thursday, September 25th at 9 pm ET/PT.


Anonymous said…
I had pretty much given up hope on The Office until I saw the season finale which was hilarious and showed that the creators and cast could still pull it off.

I think the introduction of Amy Ryan to the cast is excellent and I hope that she stays around for longer than six episodes!
Anonymous said…
I think the show is fine. I still enjoy it like I did in the beginnning. A lot of people like to take things they like and try to find things they don't like about them. Not me. Ignorance is bliss.
Anonymous said…
Mac, I couldn't disagree more. I used to LOVE this show and have seen every ep 9-10 times. EVen I was disappointed last season. The writers have definitely forgotten what made this show unique and different and have focused too much of their energy on Jim and Pam as a couple. Everyone I know feels the same way.
Anonymous said…
@Mac. You're talking about the difference between being a FAN of a show and being CRITICAL. You can still be critical of something you like or once liked and be open-minded. Slavish devotion to shows is the hallmark of fans.

I think Jace doesn't try to find things he doesn't like about things just to be negative. I've been reading this blog for over a year now and always find his thoughts insightful and informed.
Anonymous said…
I suspect that if you actually counted the screen time devoted to the Jim/Pam romance last season as opposed to the first three, you'd actually find that it got much less attention. What people consider too much focus is probably just a way of saying it's not as exciting now that they're together. I think that the show loses its way when it becomes too much about Michael being an idiot.
R.D. Riley said…
Has there ever, EVER been a longish running, outstanding show, especially a comedy, that hasn't had it's share of whiny fans who complain it's "not as good as it used to be?"

Thank God Arrested Development didn't make it to a fourth season, or people would have turned on it, too.

"Worst. Episode. Ever."

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