Long before The Weather Channel started its downward spiral towards infotainment and cheap reality shows, the network and its meteorologists held a fair amount of stature in the public eye. Aside from Jim Cantore, one of the most popular 1990s-era TWC personalities was Dave Schwartz. TWC fired Dave in 2008, and after more than five years, he made his television re-debut on the network yesterday afternoon.

Dave's fresh start with TWC gave me a feeling of déjà vu that bugged me until it clicked — his return is reminiscent of a storyline used in the hit show The Office during the series' fifth season.

First, a little background.

Dave Schwartz's career with TWC started in the 1980s as a behind-the-scenes meteorologist. He graduated to the position of on-air meteorologist in 1991, where he remained one of the network's most popular faces for 17 years until executives decided to let him go in 2008 as part of a larger network shakeup.

Dave's calm, friendly demeanor and silky smooth presentation style was comforting regardless of the weather, and his infectious personality made viewers feel more like a friend than just another set of eyes and a notch in the ratings.

His untimely departure from the Atlanta-based weather behemoth stirred up anger among Dave's strongest fans. A self-proclaimed grassroots website called "BringBackDaveSchwartz.com" popped up, imploring visitors to contact Weather Channel and NBC executives to bring back one of America's friendliest weathermen.

Dave made various appearances in the years after his departure from TWC, but starting about a year ago, an organization called "Network Weather Channel" popped up on Facebook. The newly-formed weather company promised to shake up the television weather industry, and one of its first actions was to hire Dave Schwartz as its lead forecaster and most prominent on-air personality.

The company made several announcements about its debut later this year, and then without warning, Network Weather Channel went dark. Almost all traces of the company disappeared from the internet like it never even happened. Soon thereafter, TWC made the surprise announcement that Dave Schwartz would return to the network as an on-air personality, and he did just that beginning yesterday. Network Weather Channel's page is back online — with all videos and references to Dave Schwartz still intact — and continues to say that its launch date is October 1 of this year.

Network Weather Channel's last Facebook activity was on March 12, and The Weather Channel made the announcement on March 14.

Now let's go back to The Office. During season five, the manager of Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch Michael Scott (played by Steve Carrell) quits his job because he can't stand his new boss. Michael recruits two other people from the office — Pam and Ryan — to quit with him and start a new paper company, the aptly-named Michael Scott Paper Company.

Through some clever maneuvering and some luck, Michael and his team manage to poach enough of Dunder Mifflin's clients that he scares them into buying out his new company and rehiring all three employees to their previous positions in the office.

Back to the TWC situation. Let's recap — Dave Schwartz gets fired from The Weather Channel, he signs on with a start-up television weather company that seems to have enough financing to start broadcasts this October, the company disappears, and Dave Schwartz is rehired by The Weather Channel a few weeks later.

It may be nothing but a conspiracy theory on my part, but it seems like Dave likely used Network Weather Channel as a bargaining chip to get his job back at The Weather Channel. If that is indeed what happened, it was an incredibly clever way to bring back a familiar, comforting face to a network that recently announced it would start to refocus its efforts on what it should have stuck to all along — the weather.

Either way, it's good to see Dave on the air again. Welcome back, friend.

[Images: YouTube / BringBackDaveSchwartz.com / Dunderpedia]