America said a tearful goodbye last Thursday to one of its most beloved television characters of all time: Michael Scott, regional manager of Dunder-Mifflin Scranton and lead of “The Office.”
For seven years, Steve Carell has been the emotional and comedic heart of “The Office,” successfully living up to and distancing the show from Ricky Gervais’s British original. As the years went on and “The Office” became one of NBC’s biggest hits, its world expanded with new settings and characters.
Through it all, Carell’s attention-seeking, obnoxious and somehow lovable Michael Scott grounded the show and linked the broadening ensemble together through his painfully embarrassing and ill-conceived attempts at making his the greatest and most tight-knit office in the world.
Memorable Michael Scott moments include his ultra-awkward job hosting the “Dundie” awards (complete with an “8 Mile” rap parody) way back in season two, and when he was the only office member to show up at timid little Pam’s art show, a rare moment of unselfish sweetness from Michael.
For Carell, it seems Hollywood has come calling. Increasing offers to do blockbuster film projects and the fading quality that comes with any long-lived show seem to have taken their toll. Last summer, Carell announced that this season of “The Office” would be his last.
Here’s where NBC made their big mistake. Rather than end the show as they should have with the bittersweet tearjerker of an episode “Goodbye Michael,” in which Michael Scott flies off to Colorado to marry the love of his life, NBC has decided the show must go on without Carell.
Financially, the decision makes sense. “The Office” is still one of NBC’s biggest hits well into its seventh season and it seems the network wants to pump the show for all it’s worth. From a storytelling perspective, it’s difficult to see how “The Office” will survive without Carell.
In terms of comedic value, “The Office” has been able to pull out a relatively funny seventh season. The storytelling has endured the inevitable for long-running shows: weak attempts at injecting excitement with new characters and increasingly ridiculous hijinks from week to week. The spark that once made the show a genius, runaway hit is slowly dying.
It almost seems rude to continue the show without Carell. It was his fantastic portrayal of the deeply flawed but beloved regional manager that made the US version of “The Office” so outstanding in the first place. To continue the show after his graceful departure does a disservice to Carell and to the show itself.
The remaining three episodes of the seventh season will ostensibly follow the search for Michael Scott’s replacement at Dunder-Mifflin, and NBC has pulled out all the stops in terms of end-of-season guest stars in addition to Will Ferrell, who has already been appearing as Michael’s temporary replacement.
The season finale will feature appearances from Ray Romano, Will Arnett, James Spader, Catherine Tate, Jim Carrey and Ricky Gervais, all apparently vying to be Scott’s replacement. Despite NBC’s assurances that “The Office” will continue to entertain without Carell, the addition of so many guest stars seems a desperate gesture by NBC, begging viewers to stick with “The Office” despite Carell’s imminent absence.
Even members of the show’s writing staff seem to be restless to leave “The Office.” In an interview with New York Magazine, Mindy Kaling, who writes much of the show and plays the office ditz Kelly Kapoor, hinted that she might be moving on to new projects at the end of the season. It seems even some of the show’s creators have begun to acknowledge “The Office” has begun to outstay its welcome.
As Michael Scott said goodbye to each of his employees, he gave to the portly Kevin a grotesque, pig-like caricature, trying in typical Michael Scott style to teach Kevin a lesson: “Don’t become a caricature.” The gesture seemed uncannily fitting. Michael might as well have been giving this warning to the show itself, which is in danger of becoming a parody of its former self.