NBC and the show still decided to air a modified version of the spinoff pilot, though, devoting about half of Thursday’s (March 14) “Office” to meeting Dwight’s brother Jeb (Thomas Middleditch) and sister Frannie (Majandra Delfino) back to the beet farm for their aunt’s funeral. Having seen the pared-down version, it looks like NBC made the right decision.
The biggest hurdle for the spinoff was always its central character. In the context of “The Office,” Dwight is a great character, but nine seasons of his oddball (at best) and antisocial (at worst) behavior make it really hard to envision a show built around him. It’s not that shows can’t be built around people who aren’t always likable — heck, it was the guiding principle of “The Office” under Michael Scott. Dwight, though, seems to revel in making people uncomfortable at times, and that’s probably not the best trait to have in the lead of a network comedy.
As for his family, Thursday’s show didn’t really do more than provide biographical sketches of Jeb and Frannie, although her talking head about writing poetry gave a pretty good hint as to why she feels stifled at the farm. It also introduced what we assume would be a love interest for Dwight — though really, it was just a relief to know that the five young women we saw in the back of a pickup at the funeral were that man’s daughters and not his wives.
NBC’s goal with its comedies for next season and beyond is to broaden its audience — and it should be, considering the meager ratings for its current half-hour shows. The weirdness of the Schrute family has worked well inside “The Office” in the past, and “The Farm” was not a bad way to spend half an episode.
But it also felt like a pretty small world, one that would not invite a lot of new viewers in. In that regard, it’s probably best that the trip to “The Farm” was just a one-time excursion.