A famous guest star showing up on a sitcom and completely throwing off the vibe of the whole thing is nothing new. Fred Armisen stars as the ambassador of a Venezuelan Parks Department in a Season 2 episode of Parks & Rec and for twenty minutes, it feels like an entirely different show. Billy Crystal and Robin Williams make appearances in an episode of Friends and the main cast just kinda sits around and watches them do coffee shop improv. Martin Short seems to have been hurled from an alternate dimension when it's his time to join Arrested Development.
But no guest star, at least in modern sitcom history, has felt as unnatural as Will Ferrell's role of "Deangelo Jeremetrius Vickers" in The Office.
Don't get me wrong - Will Farrell is funny. He can a play a good, consistent character on a sitcom that he might not seem to belong in. He stars as Ashley Schaeffer, a cartoonish BMW dealership owner, on Eastbound & Down, and his garishness fits right into Danny McBride's beautiful redneck Odyssey. But the people behind The Office never seemed to get to that second part. They had Will Ferrell, who is funny. Step 2 was apparently out of the question.
I rewatched the four episodes that he's in to make sure that my disappointment in the role wasn't just due to Steve Carell leaving. Michael Scott is a powerhouse character, an inescapable vortex of his own inadequacies. They could've announced that he was being replaced by a reincarnated Richard Pryor and I'd still be a little bummed out. But no. Deangelo Vickers is just a really bad character, one whose motivation and personality seem to change, not just from episode to episode, but from scene to scene.
When he first shows up, he's a confident foil to Michael, a more straight-laced guy that still has his own quirks like being petrified by his food allergies (which aren't mentioned again after this initial episode.) And as the first episode goes on, he starts to become a jerk to various characters. But who knows - maybe this is just his arc. Boss that seems nice and comfortable but actually relishes belittling people is kind of interesting. Then, in his second episode, he has to co-host The Dundies awards show and it's revealed that he has terrible stage fright, and that he's so incompetent that he reads both the script and the directions on cue cards. And he's also not a jerk anymore. Okay. That was ... a phase?
Then, in the third episode, it turns out that he's actually not a good salesman and is openly deranged when doing business. Also, he admits to being overweight as a child, which leaves him with a bad relationship with food. This is kind of hinted at in his first episode when he talks about having a low caloric intake with his employees, but his breakdown over eating cake still comes out of nowhere at the end. Is he having some sort of breakdown? No. Because the next episode ignores this entirely.
In his last appearance, he's back to being a talented boss, calling his role a "joke" and even Jim admits that Deangelo is good at his job. But how did he get the job? Well, he admits that he got it just because he saved the Sabre CEO's dog. Then he does an extended ball-less juggling routine to Evanescence's "Bring Me To Life," a sequence that seems like it should've been stabbed to death before it left the script's first draft. He's also a great basketball player, too, though he immediately gets injured while trying to dunk and writes himself out of the show.
So what is his personality? Well, he's not a businessman, but he's very good at business, while also being very bad at it. He's confident, but not when it comes to most things, and he's good-natured except when he isn't. He's adept at sports and hobbies, but hurts himself both socially and physically when attempting them. In short, he is nothing except whatever jokes the writers could make for him in the scene that he's currently in. And oh man, that is not how you wanna build a character.
Daniel Dockery is a writer for the internet. You can follow him on Twitter!
Top Image: NBC