All About The Office - Hollywood: My Good Friend Who Is Also a Little Embarrassing - Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling (2011)

Hollywood: My Good Friend Who Is Also a Little Embarrassing

All About The Office

THE OFFICE is a big chapter in my life, so that is why it’s a big chapter in my book. It is what I’m best known for and what people ask me about the most. I’d like to be cool enough to say I’m sick of talking about it, the way Jennifer Lopez doesn’t want to talk about her butt anymore, but The Office is still a significant part of my life, and I think it is awesome. So, here we go.

People are always asking me what my castmates on The Office are really like: Is Steve Carell really as nice as he seems? Is John Krasinski as cool as Jim in real life? What about Rainn Wilson; is he as big an egomaniac as Dwight? The answers are: yes, yes, and much, much worse.

I love watching The Real Housewives of any city, so I have an appreciation for lunatic divas. So it is a little disappointing that there aren’t any on our show. Sure, there are occasional tantrums and arguments, and as I’ve said, Rainn is the absolute worst, but other than that, there’s not too much to tell. We don’t have any sensational meltdowns if, say, Catering accidentally puts chickpeas in a star’s salad. Actually, wait, maybe I’m that person. I will throw a salad across the room if there are chickpeas in it, I swear to God.

Because people on the set are so normal, I’m usually very happy to dish about them. But I walk away from these encounters slightly disturbed, because I realize: no one wonders what I’m like in real life, because they assume I am Kelly Kapoor.

Obviously, this confusion is not something I would mind if I were playing Lara Croft or a Supreme Court justice or Serena Williams or something, but when you’re playing a bit of a selfish, boy-crazy narcissist, it’s a concern. And even though I’m a writer and producer (and sometimes director, technically making me a quadruple threat, what of it?) of the series, people tend to forget this in the face of the fact that the character Kelly and I both love shopping. To clear things up, here is a list of some differences between us, as I see it.

Things Kelly Would Do That I Would Not

✵ Fake a pregnancy for attention

✵ Fake a rape for attention

✵ Text while showering

✵ Consider driving away from the site of a vehicular manslaughter

✵ Plant evidence of cheating in order to confront a boyfriend

✵ Cry about a celebrity breakup

✵ Write a letter of support to Jennifer Aniston

✵ Write a mean anonymous letter to Lance Armstrong re: Sheryl Crow

✵ Use a voodoo doll

✵ Create an online persona to cyberbully a girl into being anorexic

✵ Blackmail a boyfriend into taking her out to dinner

Things Kelly and I Would Both Do

✵ Choreograph and star in a music video

✵ Fake our own deaths to catch a serial killer

✵ Cry at work occasionally

✵ Memorize our credit card numbers to shop online with ease

✵ Drive with our parking brake on

✵ Go to goop.com every day

✵ Spend hours following a difficult recipe, hate the way it tastes, and throw it out to go to McDonald’s

✵ Get upset if we’re not invited to a party

✵ Go on trendy and slightly dangerous diets

✵ Hold a royal wedding viewing party

Some of the world’s best comedians successfully play versions of themselves, like Woody Allen, Tina Fey, Ray Romano, and Larry David, but I am not doing that with Kelly. You’ll all get to see me ingeniously playing a version of myself when I do my own show, Mindy Kaling: Escaped War Criminal Hunter. Flying to Bolivia to extradite or execute Nazis? That is so quintessentially me.

I have the opportunity to write for Kelly, but more often than not, I am not really able to. When you write an episode of The Office, you are required to be on set supervising the shooting of your episode. If I’m acting as Kelly, that means I can’t be supervising the set as a producer, because I’m too busy acting in a scene, and so I have less control over the overall quality of the episode. Believe me, I’d love for Kelly to be in the show more, slowly encroaching on the leads’ air time until the show is renamed My Name is Kelly or A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-KELLY! But given how many characters we have, the tertiary characters like Kelly tend to have one or two great lines per episode. Wait, what’s the thing that comes after tertiary? That’s Kelly.

LONG PAUSES WITH GREG DANIELS, GETTING HIRED, AND THE FIRST SEASON

People ask me all the time how I got hired onto The Office. Another common question is how do I manage to stay so down-to-earth in the face of such incredible success? This I can’t explain. It probably has something to do with innate goodness or something. A third frequently asked question is: “Girl, where you from? Trinidad? Guyana? Dominican Republic? You married? You got kids?” This is mostly asked by guys on the sidewalk selling I LOVE NEW YORK paraphernalia in New York City.

John Krasinski and I, professional actors, unable to complete a scene without laughing.

My career in Hollywood is owed to a man named Greg Daniels. He and his wife, Susanne, saw Matt & Ben, and soon after, I got a call from my agent, Marc, who told me that Greg wanted to meet me for a general.

General is short for “general meeting,” which is one of the most vague and dreaded Hollywood inventions. It essentially means “I am curious about you, but I don’t want to have a meal with you, and I want there to be little expectation of any tangible outcome from our meeting.” Most of the time with generals, neither person knows exactly why they are meeting the other person, and so you talk about L.A. traffic patterns and which celebrities are looking too thin these days. The meetings are fun if you like chatting, which I do, but frustrating if you like moving forward with your life, which I also do. But usually you get a free bottle of water.

I was incredibly nervous meeting Greg, because his reputation preceded him. Even my dad knew who he was, because of the opening credits in King of the Hill, one of the only animated shows he didn’t think was destroying the minds of American youth. Greg had been on the staff of The Harvard Lampoon, a writer for Saturday Night Live (where he was writing partners with Conan O’Brien), The Simpsons, and Seinfeld, and created King of the Hill. If he’d died after just doing that, people still would have been sad to read his obituary. When I met him, he had just turned forty.

I got to the meeting early. It was held at the King of the Hill offices in Century City. Century City is a commercial business area with lots of gleaming high-rises. To help you visualize it, this is the area where Alan Rickman held all those people hostage in Die Hard. A bored twentysomething guy greeted me at Reception. Actually, he did not greet me. It took him a full minute or so before he looked away from his computer game to acknowledge me standing nervously in front of his desk. When people show a lack of excitement to see me, I compensate by complimenting the hell out of them. It always exacerbates the problem, but I cannot stop. I focused on his tidy work area.

ME: What a clean desk. If it were mine it’d be a disaster, ha ha.

RECEPTIONIST GUY: This isn’t my desk. They moved me here when the season ended. I literally have nothing to do with this desk.

We stared at each other for a few moments, until he told me to sit down next to a full-size cutout of Peggy Hill.

Marc had warned me that Greg was “a little quiet and pensive,” but no one could have warned me just how quiet and pensive. Greg is the frequent perpetrator of crazy-long pauses in conversation. Like, minutes long. My meeting with him was about two and a half hours, but if you transcribed it, it would have had the content of a fifteen-minute conversation. Greg would reference all kinds of books and articles, and instead of paraphrasing them, like any normal lazy person, he’d insist on going online and finding the exact line or quote from the secondary source, adding another five-minute silent section to the meeting, during which he wordlessly surfed online. Later I would realize this is Greg’s signature style. He likes to take in people past the point where they can be putting on a show to impress him. Or, this is my interpretation. He might just have been zoning out and forgot I was there.

Greg’s a very low-key guy, with the bearing of a gentle, athletic scientist. We talked about New Hampshire, our dads, books, and elaborate Indian weddings. It was fun, and I unexpectedly learned a lot. I remember leaving the meeting with a few printouts; one was MapQuest directions to a diner Greg loved eating at, called John O’Groats, and the other was an article about the history of the architecturally interesting library where Greg went to high school.

Now, I should give some context of that year in television. NBC had high hopes for three comedies that year: Committed, a show about eccentric friends living together in New York City; an animated show, Father of the Pride;and Joey, the spin-off of Friends. I could not get meetings with any of these hot shows. Like, not even close. Marc hustled and got me a meeting with only one other show, Nevermind Nirvana, a pilot about an interracial married couple. I drove to Burbank to meet with the executives. While I was sitting in the waiting area, the producer got a call: the show had not gotten picked up. The receptionist informed me of the news, and immediately started packing her stuff up in a box. I validated my parking and left. I literally didn’t even make it into the room. So, technically, meeting Greg was my first and only staffing meeting in my career.

A week or so later, Marc called and told me Greg wanted to hire me as a staff writer for season one of The Office. Before I could get too excited, he let me know I had been hired for six episodes for a show that was premiering mid-season. This was the smallest amount of contracted work you could do and still qualify for Writers Guild membership. I didn’t care. I was a television writer! With health insurance!

Friendless, I celebrated the best way I could. I went straight to Canter’s Deli, sat in a booth, and ordered a huge frosty Coke and a sandwich called the Brooklyn Ave. (a less healthy version of a Reuben, if that is possible), and gabbed with my best friends and mom on the phone for two hours. An elderly man who was eating with his wife at a nearby table came over to my booth. “You’re being very loud and rude,” he said. “Your voice is so high-pitched and piercing.”

I started work in July. At that time, I lived alone in a small, damp apartment I found on Fairfax Avenue and Fountain Boulevard, which I did not know was the nexus of all of transvestite social life in West Hollywood. I did not even have the basic L.A. savvy to ask my landlord for a parking space, so I parked blocks away from my house and enjoyed late-night interactions with strangely tall, flat-chested women named Felice or Vivica, who always wanted rides to the Valley. If my life at the time had been a sitcom, an inebriated tranny gurgling “Heeeeey, giiiirrrrrll!” would have been my “Norm!”

A giant billboard for a gay sex chat line was twenty feet from my apartment door. You have to understand, this was before I became the international and fabulous gay icon that I am today, so it made me uncomfortable. (Now I’m basically Lady Gaga and Gavin Newsom times a million.) When my parents came to visit me, I would try to distract them from seeing it by pointing across the street to a Russian produce market, which I was 70 percent sure was a front for a crime consortium. “Isn’t that cool, Mom and Dad? I can get my produce locally.”

My parents visited a lot. It was a lonely time. I started to look forward to my encounters with Felice and Vivica. “Heeeyyy, Curry Spice! Heeey, Giiiirrrrll!”

But mostly, I just wanted to start work.

Being a staff writer was very stressful. I knew I was a funny person, but I was so inexperienced in this atmosphere. Joking around with Brenda and writing plays on the floor of our living room in Brooklyn was intimate and safe, and entwined in our friendship. But I wasn’t friends with these guys. I was the only staff writer on the show (the others outranked me) and had never been in a writers’ room. Most of the stress came, honestly, because the other writers were so experienced and funny and I was worried I couldn’t keep up. I was scared Greg would notice this inequity of talent and that he’d fire me in a two-hour, pause-laden meeting. I dreaded the pauses more than the firing.

The full-time writers for season one were Greg, Paul Lieberstein, Mike Schur, B. J. Novak, and me. Larry Wilmore and Lester Lewis were consultants, which meant they wrote three of the five days of the week. For some reason I thought Greg, B.J., and Mike were all best friends, because they had all gone to Harvard and been on The Harvard Lampoon (even though their times at Harvard didn’t even overlap). I’ll never forget one day at lunch, when Mike asked B.J. to go to a Red Sox-Dodgers game, while I stewed angrily on the other side of the room, feeling left out.

“I’ll get you, you clique-y sons of bitches,” I thought.

You know what? I never did get them. I’m just realizing now. I should totally still get them.

But as is the case with most people you are stuck with for many hours, they slowly became my good friends. The job of comedy writer is essentially to sit and have funny conversations about hypothetical situations, and you are rewarded for originality of detail. It is exhilarating, and I didn’t want it to stop. I soon started dreading the weekends, because weekends meant saying good-bye to this creative, cheerful atmosphere.

I will always remember Chappelle’s Show very fondly because besides being one of the funniest shows ever, it served as my good friend at the time. I’d watch every episode, and then watch them again later that day to hear the jokes again. Sometimes on a Saturday night I would fall asleep watching it on my sofa, like Dave Chappelle and I were best friends chatting until we fell asleep. I was twenty-four.

I did not know at the time that this year with Greg, Paul, B.J., and Mike would be where I essentially learned how to write comedy. This small group wrote the first six episodes of that first season of The Office. They were, and are, four of my favorite people in the world. They are also the four funniest people I know. I have fought bitterly with them, too—I mean real fights, knock-down-drag-outs—which I’ll rationalize to mean they are my true friends. I won’t say anymore about them, because none of them are lacking in confidence, and honestly, they’re like three compliments away from becoming monsters.

WRITER FIGHTS, OR DON’T FIGHT WITH GREG DANIELS!

Writer fights are always exciting and traumatic, and I get into them all the time. I am a confident writer, a hothead, and have a very thin skin for any criticism. This charming combination of personality traits makes me an argument machine on our staff. A halfway compliment my friend and The Office showrunner Paul Lieberstein once paid me was that “it’s a good thing you turn in good drafts, because you are impossible to rewrite.” Thanks Paul! All I heard was “Mindy, you’re the best writer we’ve ever had. I cherish you. We all do.”

This was taken between takes of “The Dundies,” the season two premiere, which I wrote. We shot from dawn until late at night in a former Chili’s restaurant in the deep San Fernando Valley. I am taking a ladylike nap on the floor while Paul Lieberstein writes notes on a script. (photo credit 14.2)

I tend to fight with Greg the most. My friend and fellow Office writer Steve Hely believes it is because I am emotional and intuitive and Greg is more cerebral and logical. Or, as I think of it, I am a sensitive poet and Greg is a mean robot. Our fighting is legendary. One time, late at night, our script coordinator, Sean, and our head writer, Danny, both brought in their dogs, and upon seeing each other, they got into a violent, barking fight. Paul Lieberstein glanced over and joked, “Oh, I thought that was Greg and Mindy.”

What do we fight about? I wish I could say they were big, smart, philosophical issues about writing or comedy, but sometimes they’re as small as “If we do that cold open where Kevin dumps a tureen of chili on himself, I will quit this show.” We did that cold open, by the way, and it was a hit, and I’m still working at the show. I can get a little theatrical. Which makes sense, because, after all, I came up through the theater (said in my snootiest Masterpiece Theatre voice).

I will tell you about the worst fight we ever had. In a particularly heated rewrite session for the season-three episode “Grief Counseling,” I was arguing with Greg so much, he finally said, in front of all twelve writers, “If you’re going to resist what I’m doing here, you can just go home, Mindy.”

Greg never sends anyone home, or even hints at it. Greg is the kind of guy who is so agreeable I frequently find him on our studio lot embroiled in some long conversation with a random person while his lunch is getting cold in his to-go container. And he’s the boss. I would never talk to anyone if I were boss. I would only talk to my attorney and my psychic. So, anyway, my very nice boss had just hugely reprimanded me. Greg suggesting I go home unless I adjusted my attitude was the harshest he’d ever been to anyone in the three years I’d been on the show. There was silence. No one looked at me. People pretended to be absorbed in their phones. One writer didn’t even have a phone, so he just pretended to be absorbed in his hand.

I was so embarrassed and angry I got up, stomped out the room, stole a twenty-four-pack of bottled water from the production office, kicked the bumper of Greg’s car, and left the studio.

This is what I get for trying to make the show better? I’m funnier and a better writer than every single one of those assholes, I thought, angrily. I pictured myself accepting the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center, and all those other writers watching from home, with the hope that I might acknowledge them, and I pointedly wouldn’t. Instead, I’d thank Thalia, the Greek muse of comedy. I’d freaking thank Thalia over those guys. I drove to a nail salon in a mini-mall a mile away and angrily sat down for a manicure.

“Señora has the day off?” the woman soaking my nails asked me, congenially.

“Nope! I got kicked out of work!” I replied. She stopped what she was doing.

“Oh, you fired?” she asked, concerned.

Hearing her say “fired” sent a spiky shudder down my spine. I looked at my soaking cuticles. I saw the soft hands of a babied comedy writer who had never known a hard day’s work. Did I really want to be unemployed? Did I want to jeopardize this amazing job I had dreamed about having since I was thirteen? Did I really want to be a receptionist at my mother’s ob/gyn office, where I would need to learn Spanish?

I immediately stood up, dried my hands, handed some cash to the puzzled woman, and raced back to work. I quietly entered the writers’ room and sat down.

My friend and fellow writer Lee Eisenberg looked at me quizzically and texted: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

I texted back: THE BATHROOM.

Greg did not acknowledge my absence, or find out that I’d kicked his car, and it blew over. The bottles of water remained mine, bwah ha ha! That evening, when I had my nightly chat with my mother on the way home from work, I made the mistake of telling her about what had happened. I was hoping to get consoled for a bad day at work. Instead she yelled at me. “Are you crazy? You owe everything to Greg Daniels!” Mom always says “Greg Daniels,” as though there were a few people at work with the first name Greg and I might not know who she was talking about. (There aren’t.) “Greg Daniels took a chance on you and changed your life! Don’t fight with Greg Daniels!” Dad got on the phone from the upstairs line, as he always does. He agreed with Mom. “I know you get upset, Min. But you have to be professional.” I am still trying to follow this terrific advice, only somewhat successfully, five years later.

The season six writers and editors.

STEVE CARELL IS NICE BUT IT IS SCARY

It has been said many times, but it is true: Steve Carell is a very nice guy. His niceness manifests itself mostly in the fact that he never complains. You could screw up a handful of takes outside in 104-degree smog-choked Panorama City heat, and Steve Carell’s final words before collapsing of heat stroke would be a friendly and hopeful “Hey, you think you have that shot yet?”

I’ve always found Steve gentlemanly and private, like a Jane Austen character. The one notable thing about Steve’s niceness is that he is also very smart, and that kind of niceness has always made me nervous. When smart people are nice, it’s always terrifying, because I know they’re taking in everything and thinking all kinds of smart and potentially judgmental things. Steve could never be as funny as he is, or as darkly observational an actor, without having an extremely acute sense of human flaws. As a result, I’m always trying to impress him, in the hope that he’ll go home and tell his wife, Nancy, “Mindy was so funny and cool on set today. She just gets it.”

Getting Steve to talk shit was one of the most difficult seven-year challenges, but I was determined to do it. A circle of actors could be in a fun, excoriating conversation about, say, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and you’d shoot Steve an encouraging look that said, “Hey, come over here; we’ve made a space for you! We’re trashing Dominique Strauss-Kahn to build cast rapport!” and the best he might offer is “Wow. If all they say about him is true, that is nuts,” and then politely excuse himself to go to his trailer. That’s it. That’s all you’d get. Can you believe that? He just would not engage. That is some willpower there. I, on the other hand, hear someone briefly mentioning Rainn, and I’ll immediately launch into “Oh my god, Rainn’s so horrible.” But Carell is just one of those infuriating, classy Jane Austen guys.

Later I would privately theorize that he never involved himself in gossip because—and I am 99 percent sure of this—he is secretly Perez Hilton.

WHERE I WORK

Many people assume The Office is shot in Scranton, Pennsylvania, because we take pains to shoot on locations that are green and East Coast-looking. Other people think we shoot on a picturesque studio lot like you see on the tour of Universal Studios, where Jaws is swimming happily near the Desperate Housewives cul-de-sac and down the block from an immolating car from the Backdraft set. Not so.

Anyone who comes to visit the set of The Office always says the same thing when they leave: “Holy crap, that was scary!” This is because we shoot at the end of a dead-end street on an industrial block of Panorama City, in the San Fernando Valley, which sounds great—who doesn’t love panoramas? But don’t be fooled! The name is a trick. At one point Panorama City was part of Van Nuys, but Van Nuys did whatever the opposite of secede is to it. Expelled it? I’ll put it this way. Van Nuys took one look at Panorama City and was like, “Uh, get your own name. We don’t want to have anything to do with you.”

Rainn Wilson, violent ogre.

We’re at the end of a block with a gun parts warehouse, a neon sign store, and a junkyard. Our street is also a favored drag-racing strip for competitive, bored Mexican teenagers. We’re always having to stop filming and wait for the noise to die down from junkyard dogs barking and gun parts being drilled. Come to think of it, there might actually be an immolating car around here once in a while. Take that, Universal Studios!

I love our set because we are isolated from other shows. Isolation is good, because there are no distractions to the work, and believe me, I get distracted easily. There is no cool shopping or dining or anything near us whatsoever, so we can only focus on working on the show. It makes us feel sequestered and secluded, which I think is good for creativity. Also, I can run out at any time and buy my gun parts.

KELLY KAPOOR GETS GIFT BAGS

When I started attending events associated with The Office, I started to receive gift bags. I’d recall breathless accounts from magazines of gifts like sapphire earrings, lifetime memberships to fancy gyms, gift certificates for total facial reconstruction plastic surgery, week-long stays at wildlife reserves where you get to touch the lions, and $500 jars of miracle face cream made from human placenta. It seemed like the greatest racket ever, and in 2006, I started to participate in it.

The way it works is you go to an awards show for which you’ve spent a crazy amount of money getting dressed up. After you win or lose in your categories, there is a nontelevised portion of the evening where you and every other person at the event gets herded into a giant windowless room and fed a hot buffet of food on par with a medium-fancy bar mitzvah. The thing is the food tastes insanely good because you’ve not eaten anything all day. After mingling for a little while, and mentally ranking the gowns of the other actresses so you can call your mom and give her the scoop, you trade in a parking ticket-like stub to some stressed-out looking woman at the exit and she gives you a black canvas bag packed with goodies. You get really excited. And then you open it up.

What I Have Gotten in My Gift Bags Over the Years

✵ protein bars

✵ a personal hygiene spray that I can only describe as a butt freshener

✵ socks with individual toes

✵ a travel-size tube of toothpaste for “women’s teeth”

✵ a SpongeBob SquarePants keychain

✵ a mechanical pencil (kinda cool, but it was instantly stolen when I took it to work)

✵ weird coffee pods that work only if you buy the coffee machine that the pods are made for

✵ tan silicone cutlets you glue to your real breasts

✵ a crotchless girdle meant to hold your back fat in

✵ a children’s book written by a lead in the original Beverly Hills 90210

✵ a diabetes cookbook (I actually love this)

The gift bags are junk bags. I’m not telling you this to complain, but rather to relieve you of any romantic notions you might have of them. Use those romantic notions for something else, like thinking about the significance and grandeur of our National Mint. Not only would you never purchase any of the stuff in these gift bags, but you would not even give it to a relative you have a chilly relationship with. There is, however, one excellent perk we get on our show: I’ve enjoyed an endless supply of free paper, paperclips, envelopes, and office supplies since joining The Office, because I steal props on a regular basis.

BECOMING A LITTLE BIT FAMOUS

When you have it as good as I know I do, work-wise, you rarely have time to enjoy your fabulous good fortune, because you’re too busy worrying about when it will run out. After the first season of The Office, I remember Jenna Fischer, Angela Kinsey, and I got turned away from a party thrown by a famous magazine at a fancy hotel on Sunset Boulevard. The party coordinators didn’t think being on The Office warranted our getting in. We stood and watched the One Tree Hill cast waltz in with no problem. The PR people at the party regarded us with the disdain normally reserved for on-set tutors for child actors. (For the record, there is usually no one weirder on a set than the tutor for child actors. They tend to be aging hippie ladies with inappropriately long hair tied coquettishly in a messy gray braid, and an all-denim outfit that would put Jay Leno to shame.)

Luckily, I was not in the aging child-tutor stage for long, though. Midway through season two, we were finally getting recognition due to our track record of a dozen great episodes, and people were into us. It was glorious. The highlight was one Saturday, when I was vacuuming my car at a gas station on Santa Monica Boulevard during the Gay Pride parade and a group of gay veterans in uniform shrieked, “Oh my God, it’s Kelly Kapoor!” The guys at the gas station thought I was hot shit.

This is a photo of when I directed “Michael’s Last Dundies,” which I also wrote. In this moment I am explaining what comedy is to Will Ferrell. (photo credit 14.5)

Being the “It” show in season two presented its own challenges, though. A common refrain we heard was “I disliked your first season, but by the second season you really came into your own.” I think people thought their compliment meant more if they tempered it with something insulting first. As if I were to say, “I initially thought you were ugly, but then you walked closer to me and I realized you were pretty.” I love our first season. I think it is a little dark and really funny. I found the phrase “came into your own” especially weird, as though The Office finally developed breasts or something.

WHAT WE HAVE TO BE SCARED ABOUT

What’s coming up next is a perennial fear in the television world. Some people who work in the industry confidently ignore all new good shows, saying, “There’s room for lots of good television. That won’t affect us,” but that’s simply not true. There’s room for a little good scripted television and many, many reality TV shows about monitored weight loss. If the science were there to genetically clone Jillian Michaels, our network would just be different filmed iterations of obese people losing weight, all day long. My friend Charlie Grandy once joked that it is only a matter of time before there is a category at the Emmys for “Best Extreme Weight Loss Program.”

In the spring, when the networks trot out their lineup of new shows, you may idly think, Meh, maybe I’ll try this one or DVR that one, but I get a little paranoid trying to figure out whether any newcomer is going to beat us into a painful death by primetime scheduling. I’ve made a list of potential shows that I believe would kill The Office in the ratings:

I Want to Be Able to Walk for My Wedding!: Jillian Michaels helps a morbidly obese couple confined to their sofa lose weight for their nuptials.

I Want to Be Able to Walk When I Officiate a Wedding!: Jillian Michaels helps an obese priest, confined to his parish, officiate a wedding.

Obese Priest: A priest who eats too much dessert helps a group of at-risk, but hilarious teens.

Sing-Sing-Sings!: A singing competition in Sing Sing prison.

The Weekly Hangover: A reality show where three friends are chloroformed and put in a random dangerous situation, like in the movie The Hangover, and have to piece back what happened to their lives.

Interspecies Friendships: Have you ever seen that YouTube video where the elephant is friends with the collie? Or the one where the turtle and the hippopotamus are best friends? I could watch those for hours. These are the buddy comedies people crave.

I actually think I might create Interspecies Friendships. A smart, small observational show about two animals who are friends against all odds. It’ll be a tough sell at first, but by season two it’ll really come into its own. But it’ll never be as good as the original British version, Interspecies Chums.