Dwight Schrute (played by Rainn Wilson) remains one of the most popular characters on The Office, despite his brutality and complete lack of social awareness. Some of the show’s most touching scenes involve Dwight showing his soft spot. Like the time he comforted Pam when she was crying after advising Jim on his relationship with Karen.
So it’s unsurprising that NBC was considering a Dwight Schrute spinoff called The Farm. Ultimately, the network decided against it and the concept popped up as an episode in the ninth season, also called The Farm.
The episode follows Dwight as he attends his Aunt Shirley’s funeral at Schrute Farms, along with his fellow Schrutes. It didn’t get great reviews from critics.
Writing the final season of ‘The Office’ around Dwight’s potential absence
When executive producer Greg Daniels began writing the final season of The Office, he was writing with the understanding that Wilson would be leaving part-way through to begin filming The Farm (this was before NBC had passed on the pilot). Thankfully, Daniels says he hadn’t written too much of the season without Dwight before NBC gave their final decision concerning the spinoff.
“They were aware of the show’s needs, so they made that decision early enough so that we could roll with it. It’s not like we entered the season with everything written,” Daniels said in an interview with Fast Company in 2013.
Apparently, the plan was for Catherine Tate (as Nellie) to fill the comedic void of Dwight’s absence. Daniels, at the time of the interview, said it was a shame he and The Office team didn’t get to use Tate as much as they were originally going to had Dwight not been involved in the whole season.
“The thing that I think was the toughest part was for Catherine Tate. There was going to be this zone where Rainn had left and Ed Helms was doing The Hangover and we had talked to Catherine about the character of Nellie kind of filling the gap and being the driver of comedy A-stories in that period. Then when The Farm didn’t go, Rainn kind of came back and filled that role. So I think we kind of wasted a brilliant comedian this year a little bit with Catherine Tate,” he said.
Why Greg Daniels thinks NBC didn’t pick up ‘The Farm’
As for why Daniels thought NBC passed on The Farm?
“Well, I think that they were… let’s see. What’s the right word? I think that when The Voice was behind some of their new shows, it made the new shows look a lot stronger than perhaps they were when The Voice was not there. So I don’t know if they felt the need for it as much as they perhaps should have. I thought it came out very well,” he said.