March 22, 2012 12:25am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'The Office' Shakeup Continues as Search for New Showrunner Begins
Talk about office politics.
NBC is searching for a new showrunner to replace Paul Lieberstein on its top-rated comedy The Office, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.
Lieberstein -- who heads the writing staff, produces and co-stars as Toby -- is looking to shift his focus from the network's Thursday staple to The Farm, the rumored Dwight Schrute spinoff the network is developing.
The potential spinoff would take Office star Rainn Wilson out of Scranton and onto the Schrute family farm with Lieberstein attached as a co-creator. The comedy concept is expected to get a test later this season on an episode of The Office. Should the farm-focused project move forward, Lieberstein would serve as showrunner while still participating on The Office in a reduced behind-the-scenes capacity, with Wilson departing the flagship series.
The shakeup for NBC's No. 1-rated comedy comes two months after Fox picked up a comedy pilot from Office co-star Mindy Kaling, who plays Kelly Kapoor. If ordered to series, Kaling -- whose Universal Television deal expires in June -- would vacate The Office and focus on the Fox gig instead.
In addition, Office head writer Daniel Chun inked an overall deal with rival ABC Studios in late February and also is considering his future with the series.
For their part, Office stars Ed Helms, John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer are in talks to return for a ninth season, sources told The Hollywood Reporter late last month, though none has a deal in place. Helms, meanwhile, has booked a guest turn in Kaling's untitled Fox pilot.
"Well, I think obviously Steve [Carell] left last year and it just opened up all kinds of possibilities and opportunities not just for myself but the whole cast," Helms told THR this month. "I think anytime the boat is rocked, it's a good thing and an exciting thing and an opportunity."
The NBC staple underwent dramatic changes in the wake of Carell's departure after Season 7, returning in September with new hire James Spader, who said in February that he would not return to The Office for a potential ninth season.