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Catherine Tate moves to the front of The Office candidate pool

We’re just hours away from The Office’s season finale, meaning there’s still time to cram in one last round of speculation over who will become Steve Carell’s permanent replacement—and according to The Hollywood Reporter, it’s now Catherine Tate’s job to lose. Looking back, the appearance of the British comedienne’s name in the list of tonight’s guest stars (including Jim Carrey, Ricky Gervais, Ray Romano, James Spader, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, and Warren Buffett) probably should have set off alarm bells considering the rest of them are mostly ringers, like stacking a police lineup with off-duty cops.

However, even though Tate is the producers’ top choice, she could still be forced to turn down the role to star in a UK production of Much Ado About Nothing opposite her former Doctor Who co-star David Tennant, meaning the position is, yes, still officially open. In that case, Spader is reportedly under consideration as a contingency plan—though there are concerns he’s not “sweet” enough—as are internal candidates Ed Helms, Craig Robinson, and Rainn Wilson, about whom one source said, “They are all movie stars, any one of them could do it.” And as for Will Arnett, well, he was in serious contention right up until his new NBC pilot got picked up to series. Anyway, consider tonight’s episode a test run for Catherine Tate taking over, and then we finally break for a long summer, when the speculatin’ is easy.

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