With Steve Carell's departure from "The Office" earlier this month, a power vacuum has emerged at the Scranton, Penn. office of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company (not to mention NBC's Thursday night comedy lineup).
And so far, that vacuum has only been filled with one big question: Namely, who will step and fill the bumbling shoes of Michael Scott, regional manager?
Here's a half-baked prediction whose time has come: Andy Bernard, aka actor Ed Helms, who has been tapped by NBC to host "Saturday Night Live" this coming weekend.
Hear us out — Helms makes sense on a variety of levels.
Start with his character, who came aboard in season three of the series. From the beginning, Bernard was a virtual mini-doppelganger to Michael Scott: Externally polished, cocky, and given to cringe-inducing bouts of inappropriate behavior. Who could better maintain the dynamic between the "Office" characters in Carell's absence?
Helms' recent recent big-screen ascendancy could also tip the scales in his favor.
With the success of 2009's "The Hangover" — and the likely success of its sequel, out later this month — Helms is roughly at the same big-screen-career stage that Carell was at when he began his "Office" stint, having just come off of the success of "The 40 Year Old Virgin."
And though his "SNL" hosting gig is largely pegged on the impending release of "The Hangover Part II," the movie has two bigger stars who could just as easily have been tapped. (Although Zach Galifianakis has already hosted the late-night show once this season.)
What better way for NBC to boost the profile of its next star-in-the-making than to give him a 90-minute turn in the spotlight on one of its other offerings?
Numerous names have been bandied about as possible heirs apparent to Steve Carell.
Ricky Gervais, who created the original BBC version of "The Office," was an early contender, though he has steadfastly denied any interest in the gig.
Former "Saturday Night Live" funnyman Will Ferrell, who stepped in as Scott's replacement, Deangelo Vickers, has also been suggested, though his stint on the series has always been finite. And besides, with a still-hot movie career on his hands, Ferrell likely has little time for a weekly TV gig.
Ray Romano, perhaps? The former "Everybody Loves Raymond" star has signed on to appear on the series' May 19 season finale. However, Romano told TheWrap on Tuesday that a regular "Office" stint is "not doable" because "all his time and energy" is going into his own TNT series, "Men of a Certain Age."
Which pretty much leaves us with an internal hire. Jim Halpert? Naw, not dynamic enough — and his stint as co-manager with Scott was pretty much disastrous. Dwight Schrute? Too psychotic — and how could he shamelessly brown-nose and curry favor with authority if he's already at the top? Creed Bratton would be an intriguing choice, but really — with his ultra-shady past, does he stand a chance of clearing the corporate screening process?
Only time will tell, of course, if NBC makes what would seem to be the natural choice and picks Helms to lead the way as "The Office" enters its next phase. But they could certainly choose worse. They could choose Angela, and just bum everybody out.