Today in potential omens of The Office's demise: Paul Lieberstein steps down as showrunner, Ed Helms joins Mindy Kaling's pilot
Although the official word from showrunner Paul Lieberstein has always been that The Office will likely continue for at least one more year, every passing day seems to bring news of another crucial member jumping ship—and today that member is none other than Lieberstein himself, as he’s decided to step down from his duties, taking on a reduced role in order to focus on that possible Dwight-centered spinoff, which is now titled The Farm. (Yes, really.) That news regarding Rainn Wilson’s impending exit was, of course, just the first indicator that, should it survive to see a ninth season, The Office could be increasingly stripped and sold for parts. Adding fuel to those flames was the subsequent news of Mindy Kaling landing a pilot at Fox, and James Spader's character exiting just as indifferently as he’d entered and existed.
Now Deadline somewhat redundantly notes that talks have also “stalled” with core cast members Ed Helms, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and B.J. Novak—whose contracts are all up this season—while Entertainment Weekly reports that Helms has just signed on for a role as a potential love interest in Kaling’s pilot, where he’ll also join Bill Hader (as her ex-boyfriend) and West Wing vet Richard Schiff (as Kaling’s fellow OB/GYN). And true, Bill Hader is not expected to leave Saturday Night Live, so it's possible that Helms' role on Kaling's show doesn't necessarily mean he'd have to choose between the two. And yes, there are definitely a lot of hypotheticals at play here, mostly hinging on whether Kaling’s series and The Farm (which, yes, is still called that) even get picked up. But with Lieberstein—ever the eternal optimist about the show’s future—now also looking to leave, this seems to be the strongest indicator yet that The Office is all but over. Even if no one at the show wants to join their increasingly vocal detractors in saying it.