'The Office': Babies, spinoffs and the increasingly complicated world of Dwight Schrute

office-dwight-baby.jpgThursday's (Feb. 3) episode of "The Office" demonstrated why Dwight Schrute can be such a great character within the world of the show -- and why, to our minds, separating him from that world could be a problem.

A big chunk of "Jury Duty" centers on the birth of Angela's ( Angela Kinsey) baby. We had suspected from the start of the season that something was fishy with her pregnancy -- but not that the baby was Dwight's (or that Angela's husband the state senator would be so willingly obtuse about the "premature" child's size).

The weird, compulsive Dwight-Angela relationship has been a reliable source of material for "The Office" over the years, and their argument over the baby's paternity here fit right into that line. Dwight triumphantly leaving the maternity ward and telling the nurse to cancel the circumcision was one of the better moments Rainn Wilson has had to play this season.

Any baby drama between the two in the coming weeks, however, will have to be done long-distance, because the show is sending Dwight and a few other Dunder Mifflin employees to Sabre HQ in Tallahassee starting next week. They'll be part of a special-projects team that also involves Catherine Tate's character, who makes her first appearance Feb. 16.

While it will be interesting to see Dwight and the other people in a different corporate environment, it will still be "The Office," and it will still be in large part Dwight interacting with people he's known for a long time. (Although probably not Jim; we're guessing Dwight's nemesis stays in Scranton.)

As we said when news of a Dwight-based "Office" spinoff first broke, though, we're not sure how we feel about Dwight leaving the confines of Dunder Mifflin. Spinoffs like that have obviously worked in the past, but Dwight Schrute is not Frasier Crane: Frasier was snobby and pompous, yes, but he was a pretty big softie at heart. Part of what makes Dwight a good character is his genuine lack of softness -- which is not really a trait you find in lead characters of broadcast-network comedies.

The glow of (presumed) fatherhood made Dwight much more magnanimous than usual at the end of Thursday's episode, but we doubt that's a permanent change. "The Office" writers have pulled off some great stuff in the past, so we're not ready to write off the spinoff idea just yet. But the bar for success seems rather high.

What did you think of the baby story in "Jury Duty," and do you think Dwight could be the center of a show?
Photo/Video credit: NBC