Surprise! Gervais lands temp job at “The Office”

By Tom Comi

The worst-kept secret in Hollywood was confirmed late last week when Ricky Gervais admitted that he will not only be making a cameo appearance on The Office next week but he will be playing the character he created for the British show of the same name. 

The episode is scheduled to air January 27 and will feature Gervais playing paper salesman David Brent, whose counterpart in the U.S. version is Michael Scott (portrayed by funnyman Steve Carell). Gervais told Piers Morgan on CNN last week that he agreed to make the cameo as an homage to Carell, who announced that he is leaving the show after this season.

Gervais said he was surprised that somebody leaked the news, but it shouldn’t come as a shock after his much-publicized stint as host of the Golden Globes, where he essentially turned the evening into a Hollywood roast. Some people felt he went too far, others thought his sharp barbs were just the thing celebrities needed to bring them down to earth. Either way, it’s probably fair to say his star has never been brighter.

So what better time for somebody to leak the news that Gervais will be visiting the American version of the show he created? (It should be noted that NBC is still running ads teasing the “special appearance” of an unnamed celebrity. Really?) There’s no question the program will get a nice bump from his visit, but it still begs the question as to what the future of the show holds without Carell to guide the ship.

Need I remind older viewers what happened when Farrah Fawcett left Charlie’s Angels, when John Travolta said farewell to Welcome Back Kotter or when Suzanne Somers departed Three’s Company? The three shows remained on the air, but they all seemed to lose the buzz that initially made them popular.

The supporting cast on The Office is fantastic, but the peripheral parts are not enough to make this show work without a strong lead. NBC would be doing cartwheels if Gervais agreed to replace Carell, but nobody should hold their breath on that happening.

In the meantime, we will all be subjected to a bevy of celebrity names who will rumored to take the reins next fall.  Hopefully NBC finds the right person, because every actor currently associated with the show will be getting pink slips if they don’t.