"We've got something cooked up," executive producer Paul Lieberstein (who also plays HR rep Toby) tells Zap2it. "I don't want to say what it is, but we're planning on exploring how to fill Michael's role on the air. There will be a search committee, maybe."
There's a chance that the new boss at Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch will come from outside the show as it's currently constituted, but several current employees will be in the running as well. Below, we offer some early odds on who might be getting Michael's office by the end of the season -- mostly from inside the branch, but with a couple outside possibilities as well.
Dwight Schrute: Dwight (Rainn Wilson) has been angling for the branch manager job from the beginning, even going so far as to engineer a (failed) coup in Season 3. No one (except maybe Angela) really likes him, but he's also very good at manipulating people, so he's got to be among the favorites. Opening odds: 3 to 1.
Jim Halpert: You'll recall that Jim (John Krasinski) was promoted to co-manager last season, with less-than-optimal results; past times he's been left in charge have also underwhelmed, in addition to diluting his pranksterish charm. Still, he's been there before. Odds: 5 to 1.
Pam Beesly-Halpert: Has moved up the ranks from receptionist to salesperson, but it took her several years to make the change. Pam (Jenna Fischer) is also married to Jim, which means competition could cause some marital friction. Odds: 12 to 1.
Ryan Howard: Upside: Ryan (B.J. Novak) has already ascended the corporate ladder thanks to his Dunder Mifflin Infinity initiative. Downside: The spectacular failure of DMI, his arrest, his descent back to office temp, general vinegar-and-water-like behavior. Odds: 40 to 1.
Kelly Kapoor: We're not sure what Kelly (Mindy Kaling) does, exactly, but we are sure that if she were promoted, the Scranton branch would become a more musical place, in addition to a new dress code featuring a lot more sparkle. Odds: 25 to 1.
Darryl Philbin: Dunder Mifflin's warehouse manager (Craig Robinson) recently got an office upstairs thanks to the new management at Sabre. On pure competency, he'd be a fine candidate -- and we'd love to see Dwight fume at Darryl's promotion. Odds: 9 to 1.
Gabe Whatshisname: You know, the guy from Sabre (Zach Woods)? Who gets even less respect as a manager than Jim did? Odds: 50 to 1.
Lewis. Gabe Lewis -- that's his name. Andy Bernard: As he'll no doubt remind you, Andy (Ed Helms) is a Cornell graduate. Years of sucking up to bosses doesn't seem to have gotten him very far, though. Odds: 25 to 1.
David Brent: Brent (Ricky Gervais), the former manager of a Wernham Hogg branch outside London, is involved in other interests at the moment and unlikely to cross the pond. Odds: 100 to 1.
Leslie Knope: Unlikely to leave the Pawnee, Ind., parks department for the private sector. And besides, doesn't than Ann person (Rashida Jones) who's Leslie's (Amy Poehler) best friend look an awful lot like former Dunder Mifflin Scranton employee Karen Filippelli? Odds: 100 to 1.
"The Office" returns to NBC on Sept. 23.
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