The pencil-pushers at Dunder Mifflin are being outsourced.
NBC has announced that 10 mini-episodes of The Office will premiere this summer not on the mothership network but only on NBC.com.
With boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell) out of the office and unavailable to throw his hilariously self-absorbed weight around, the workaday lives of Dunder Mifflin paper company's accounting staff are taking center stage. The two-minute serialized Webisodes will feature Angela (Angela Kinsey), Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) and Oscar (Oscar Nunez) trying to track down $3,000 that has gone missing from their Scranton, Pennsylvania office. Several other series regulars will also appear, including Rainn Wilson (Dwight), Melora Hardin (Jan), Phyllis Smith (Phyllis), Kate Flannery (Meredith), Leslie David Baker (Stanley) and David Denman (Roy).
The Office has already made its presence known online since becoming one of 12 shows NBC made available in December for downloading via the iTunes Music Store. (Episodes are typically available for downloading the day after their air date.) As of January, the mockumentary had accounted for one-third of all downloads available from the NBC selections, according to Television Week.
NBC has already ordered a full 22-episode schedule for the 2006-07 season, partly due to the show's online reach.
The Office, based on the award-winning British original--has an "unbelievably loyal, young, upscale audience week in and week out this season," NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said in January. "That core audience, I think, has been key to making it dominate the Top 10 list on iTunes since its premiere in December."
The Valentine's Day episode of the program, featuring flowers, teddy bears and embarrassing outbursts of affection, became iTune's number-two download for the week.
Moving the fictional Office to Thursday nights to revive NBC's waning "Must-See TV" roster has proved to be a prudent maneuver for the network's home office. The show has averaged 8.7 million viewers this season, up from the 7.7 million it was attracting in its original Tuesday spot.
The same number of young adults checking in for My Name Is Earl's trailer trash antics are sticking around for The Office's water-cooler humor--on Thursdays the show has been retaining 100 percent of Earl's audience in the coveted 18-34 ratings demographic.
Although Carell and the gang are available 24/7 on iPods everywhere, The Office faithful should also be pleased to know that they can get their TV fix of the show for longer than expected.
NBC had previously said it would be cutting the show's second season short and scheduling the season finale for Mar. 30 to give Golden Globe-winning star Carell time off to shoot the big-screen comedy Evan Almighty. But due to some extra hustle and bustle by Carell and his fellow cast mates, they have squeezed out a full 22 episodes, with the season finale now set to air May 11, according to NBC spokeswoman Cathryn Boxberger.
Evan Almighty, in which Carell reprises his role as the pompous newscaster who incurred Jim Carrey's wrath in Bruce Almighty, is slated for a June 2007 release. The film also stars John Goodman and Lauren Graham.