NBC's executive session was so bizarre that I feel like I need to take some time and let it simmer in my head and make sure of what it was that I saw and heard. The session after it, though, was a lot of fun, as Greg Daniels, Mike Schur, Amy Poehler and company came out to talk about her upcoming, still-untitled comedy. And afterwards, I talked to Schur, Daniels and current "The Office" showrunner Paul Lieberstein about the possibility of an actual "Office" spin-off, the awesome casting of another "Wire" alum, and some other developments in the world of Dunder-Mifflin.
• First, while the Poehler show hasn't filmed yet, NBC gave us a look at the pilot script, a mockumentary in which Poehler and Aziz Ansari play a mid-level bureaucrats in a parks and recreation department in a small town in Indiana, and Rashida Jones plays a local woman pressing them to put together a new public works project in an open pit next to her apartment building. It's pretty funny on the page (which isn't as easy as you'd think), and though Poehler's character shares a few traits with Michael Scott -- an emotional neediness and lack of self-awareness -- she pointed out during the session that half the lead characters in comedies suffer from a severe case of obliviousness. When I asked how they'd be different, Daniels said, "It might be hard to tell right now, but she's a big reader, and Michael Scott's not much of a reader." To which Poehler replied, "There are going to be a lot of scenes where I just read."
• Daniels said he had no problem doing another mockumentary, and that the form was so useful for comedy that "I think half the comedies on TV should be mockumentaries." (Poehler: "And the other half should be nature documentaries.")
• Daniels and Schur were, in fact, originally working on an "Office" spin-off, but as they batted different ideas about involving current characters from the show, Poehler got involved and they decided to go in a different direction. But NBC still wants an actual spin-off, and Daniels said it will likely happen at some point -- albeit without him or Schur being heavily involved, because he just doesn't have the time. "I am talking to people at 'The Office' about another idea," he said. "Some combination of other 'Office' people could do that."
• In addition to being a longtime "Office" writer (and awesome sports blogger in retirement), Schur also plays the role of Mose Schrute. I asked if running the new show would prevent any return appearances by Mose, and Schur smiled and said yes, that he hates being on camera and is glad to never have to play the character again. I noted that Lieberstein, who plays Toby in addition to running the show, also hates acting but keeps doing it. "Paul has a contract!" Schur said. "I'm not under contract!" But when I asked Lieberstein about what Schur had said, he got an evil look on his face and started cackling demonically before explaining that Mose would absolutely be back on the show, and soon. "I love writing for Mose," he said. "If I have to be miserable, Mike has to be miserable."
• In the most exciting development of the day, "The Office" has cast Idris Elba -- aka Stringer Bell from "The Wire" -- as Michael's new rival from Dunder-Mifflin corporate. Elba's character will take the job previously held by Jan and Ryan, and Lieberstein -- like every other "Office" writer, a huge "Wire" geek -- seemed giddy to talk about him. "Like you might guess," he said, "he's a strong, intimidating force in the office, he's a different energy than we've had in there. It's something we found very exciting." I asked whether Elba might attempt to introduce Michael to the concept of elastic vs. inelastic products, or the undesirable properties of a 40-degree day (link NSFW), but Lieberstein said Elba didn't want to just do a rehash of Stringer. He also said that, between Elba and the fabulous Amy Ryan, this would be it for the show casting "Wire" alums, but as he said this, fellow showrunner Jen Celotta walked by and said, "Except for Bubbles. We love him."
• Speaking of Ryan, he hasn't been on the show lately because BJ Novak is filming a movie with Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino, but Lieberstein said he'd be back later this season, probably in late March or early April, depending on how the episodes are scheduled. I asked if the show has dealt with why David Wallace would allow Michael to re-hire a guy who had gotten the company into a big legal mess, and he said -- as is often the explanation for unanswered "Office" mysteries -- the scene that explained it (where Michael begged and begged until Wallace relented and said Ryan was Michael's responsibility) was shot and then cut. "We should probably go back and explain that at some point," he admitted.