Andy Bernard joined the cast of The Office during its third season. Despite joining the series late, he quickly made an impression and became a regular, holding his own alongside Michael, Jim, Dwight, Pam, and the others. Unfortunately, his journey through Dunder Mifflin would be a rocky one. The writers struggled to develop his character in a meaningful way. Join us as we take a deep dive into the evolution of the Nard Dog and explore how they ruined this character.
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The name Dwight will forever be synonymous with The Office. It’s a fairly uncommon name, and Rain Wilson’s portrayal of the overzealous, assistant to the regional manager with a love for mustard-colored attire is so iconic, that any mention of the name will immediately conjure images of bears, beets, and Battlestar Galactica. The Office had a way of crafting characters that left an impression; characters that audiences could not only laugh at but connect with.
Michael Scott will forever be remembered for his lovable incompetence. He has a huge heart and a total lack of self-awareness. Through that combination, he creates an awkward and cringe-inducing storm that consumes nearly every interaction he’s involved in. Jim and Pam are the epitomai of the American Sitcom sweethearts. Their love captivated audiences for nine seasons and assisted with mending the wounds left behind when Steve Carrell exited the series in its seventh season.
Nearly every character within The Office stands out. And while each of them changed and evolved over the years, one character, in particular, went through a major transformation. A transformation that was so abrupt and intense that it essentially ruined the character. I’m of course talking about the Nard Dog himself… Andy Bernard.
Ed Helms, who played Andy on the show, wasn’t a household name when he joined the cast. His breakout hit The Hangover wouldn’t be released in theaters for another few years. But Helms had more than one connection to The Office. Not only had he worked with Steve Carrell on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, but he’d also auditioned for the role of Jim Halpert a couple years prior. Obviously, he didn’t land that role, but he was approached by Greg Daniels a few years later with an idea for a new temporary character… That’s right. Andy was never intended to become a series regular. In fact, he was originally only hired for eight episodes.
The conclusion of Season 2 found Jim confessing his feelings of love to Pam Beesley. It was a major moment in the series because up until this point their relationship had been nothing more than a friendship; an undeniably flirtatious one with an obvious romantic chemistry, but a friendship nonetheless. Pam’s engagement to warehouse worker Roy had hindered and prevented the relationship from growing beyond anything more than that. Jim is heartbroken when his romantic advances are rebuffed. Rather than continue to sit at his desk and watch as the woman he loves marries another man, Jim makes the decision to leave and transfers from the Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch, to the Dunder Mifflin Stamford branch. This is where we first meet Andy.
Andy is a salesman at the Stamford branch. A cocky graduate of Cornell University, with a love for acapella, whose obnoxious and pushy demeanor worked as a counter to Jim’s laid-back and quiet personality. Although he’s there to fill the role of Dwight, his personality, in the beginning, is closer to a mash-up of Dwight and Michael with bits of anger and conceit sprinkled in to form something new. His annoying and over-the-top behavior makes him a perfect target for Jim’s office pranks. He, along with Karen Filippelli, are the only two co-workers from the Stamford branch who share much screen time with Jim during his time there. And when the branches merge in Season 3, Episode 8, both Andy and Karen join the main cast back in Scranton.
Karen’s presence serves a legitimate purpose to the plot. Her new and evolving romantic relationship with Jim helps to continue the “will they won’t they” plotline between Jim and Pam. It’s a popular television trope that has been utilized in series like Cheers with Sam and Diane. Friends with Rachel and Ross. Even The Muppet Show with Kermit and Miss Piggy. Season 3 of The Office continued this sitcom cliche but reversed the roles. This time around Jim is in a relationship while Pam is single after calling off her wedding to Roy. But as important to the storyline as Karen is… Andy’s presence serves no significant purpose, and as a result, the writers don’t seem to know what to do with him. Remember, Ed Helms was originally only hired for eight episodes and the merger happens on episode 8. The original plan for the character did not include him joining the Scranton Branch. But the writers loved the character and enjoyed having Ed Helms on set. During a 2007 interview with EW, Greg Daniels said “He’s so funny and a great improver.”
Andy joins the Scranton team with a three-part plan to become the office’s “Number 2 Guy.” Name Repetition. Personality Mirroring. And never breaking off a handshake. And while that works in the beginning, his unwavering, smothering attempts to befriend his boss eventually push Michael away.
In the same episode, we see Jim prank Andy by hiding his cell phone in the ceiling and then calling it repeatedly. The interactions are funny and well played, but audiences have come to know and expect Dwight to be the victim of Jim’s pranks. Dwight is the brown-nosing salesman desperate for Michael’s friendship and approval. At this point, the roles of Andy and Dwight are too closely related. If Andy was meant to fill the role of Dwight at Stamford, what would his role be at Scranton where Dwight already works? That’s the wall that writers ran into.
While most fans of the series can agree that Andy was at his worst in the series final season after returning from a prolonged boat trip, his downward spiral actually began much earlier and can be traced back to this moment.
Andy is sent to Management training… Anger management. He returns with a new, calm demeanor and a new name, requesting to now be called “Drew.” Jim refuses to call him that because, well, he’s smudge and arrogant. It makes no difference though because, despite the change in character, the name change doesn’t last. While the trip to anger management sparks the shift in Andy’s character, it was his relationship with Angela that pushed it into fast forward.
Angela is the office snob. Judgemental. Spiteful. At times, downright nasty. Which makes her an odd choice as the romantic interest of Andy, whose newer personality is cheerful and naive. Her overbearing and dominant nature forced Andy into a passive, submissive partner who desperately fawned over a partner who had no obvious interest in him. It was a completely different version of the character than we’d seen introduced at Stamford. But with Dwight killing his relationship with Angela by killing her cat Sprinkles, Andy was used as a plot device once again. Nobody thinks Andy and Angela will end up together in the end. Nobody thinks they’re good together. But by allowing them to date, and eventually even become engaged, the writers are able to explore new aspects and storylines between Dwight and Angela.
This is the problem with Andy… He’s repeatedly used as a tool to further other characters’ plot lines, rather than being given his own. It’s not until the final two seasons that writers try to bring Andy to the front of the main cast. Following Steve Carrell’s departure, a new lead was needed to fill the role of regional manager. At this time, Ed Helms’ stardom was on the rise. The Hangover had made household names out of its cast and showrunners sought to use that stardom to the show’s advantage by promoting Andy to Michael’s position. The promotion made no sense. According to the series, Andy was the worst salesperson in the office.
And when Jim and Pam put an end to the “will they won’t they” storyline by marrying and starting a family, Andy was used to reignite the television trope through his awkward and quirky relationship with the office’s new secretary, Erin. It was a failed attempt to generate the same investment that audiences had in Jim and Pam.
Fast forward to season 9 and things really go off the deep end for the character. With filming for the film The Hangover Part 3 conflicting with filming of The Office’s final season, writers had to find creative ways to write the character off of the show, while still keeping the door open for his return. And for some reason, they went with the infamous boat trip. The bottom of the barrel for a character who had been on a downward spiral for seasons. Andy’s departure on a spur-of-the-moment boat trip was not only an irresponsible decision but one that was insensitive and cruel to his girlfriend Erin. When he returned, after being gone for three months, he was insufferable. He was obnoxious. He was… ruined.
Andy was introduced on the show as a temporary stand-in. Meant to give Jim somebody to prank and roll his eyes at during his short stint at Stamford. And while the decision to bring him on as a full-time character was done with good intentions, it was fumbled and mishandled. Andy was the only member of the Stamford team to survive the merger. One by one the others were fired or quit until only he remained. His journey through the show is one that had its ups and downs. But he made some important contributions to the series. Like giving Jim his infamous nickname “Big Tuna.” He made us laugh. Tap our toes. Cringe. And every now and then even inspired us with words of wisdom.
How do you think they handled the character of Andy Bernard? Do you think they ruined him? Who’s your favorite character from The Office? Let us know. Don’t forget to like, subscribe and hit the notification bell. I’ll see ya next time.