When Will Ferrell (apparently) joked last month about permanently replacing Steve Carell on "The Office," fans of the show could have been forgiven for taking him seriously, if only for a moment.
There's a certain logic fueling the wishful thinking: Despite a successful movie career, Ferrell bounces around, turning up on the Internet (his Funny or Die website), TV (a recurring role on HBO's "Eastbound & Down") and even Broadway (his one-man show, “You're Welcome America. A Final Night With George W. Bush").
Ferrell certainly shares a comic sensibility with Carell, his co-star in "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy." Both are adept at playing the goofy, but somehow endearing man-child, even if Ferrell's characters often possess a more manic edge.
It's easy to envision Ferrell playing a larger-than-life clone of Carell's Michael Scott – and we’ll get to see his take beginning Thursday night for four episodes that will bridge Carell's departure from the show after seven seasons.
While the identity of the next permanent manager of Dunder Mifflin Sabre remains murky, it’s clear, though, that Ferrell is an “Office” temp – albeit one poised to make a memorable mark on the show.
Judging from the previews, Ferrell's would-be office manager DeAngelo Vickers is a character out of the Michael Scott book of clueless bumbling. He's a self-absorbed over-sharer ("I have a peanut allergy, it's something I live with, it's part of me. I've learned to cope with it," he tells the staff while introducing himself) and tends to follow his emotions (we can't get enough of the clip of Vickers' and Scott's reverse hug).
"It's basically one idiot training another," Ferrell notes in a video on "The Office" website.
The meeting of the idiots is a tribute of sorts to the character created by Carell – and a signal that while Michael Scott can be imitated, he can never be replicated. Ditto for the May 19, post-Carell, post-Ferrell season finale, which is set to feature Ray Romano, Will Arnett, James Spader, Catherine Tate and Ricky Gervais, who gave us an unforgettable character of his own in the original UK version of "The Office."
As we head into Carell’s final three episodes on the show, we’re anticipating a Ferrell performance that will shine while not overshadowing Michael Scott’s last stumble into the sunset. The new (interim) boss may seem the same as the old boss, but Michael Scott will never meet his match.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.