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October 4, 2015

Could 'The Office' Survive Without Steve Carell?

by Joel Keller, posted Apr 28th 2010 3:27PM
Steve Carell in 'The Office' - 'Manager and Salesman'Leave it to the Brits to ask the questions we here in the States just won't ask. Despite all the interviews Steve Carell and Tina Fey did before the premiere of the movie 'Date Night,' not one interviewer that I saw here in the US thought to ask Carell how much longer he was going to play Michael Scott on 'The Office.'

However, OfficeTally.com says that someone from the BBC thought enough to ask, and got a surprising response: Carell said he thinks he's done with the show after his contract is up at the end of the seventh season. It could be a negotiating ploy, but it might be a sincere wish on Carell's part to do something else.

Could 'The Office' go on without Carell? Maybe. Though I'm not sure I'd want it to.

Yes, 'The Office' is very much an ensemble show. But as we all know, certain members of that ensemble are more important than others -- you don't see Rainn Wilson doing promotion for the 'Office' board game. Carell's at the top of that heap; more often than not, the bumbling, needy, childlike personality of Michael Scott is what drives the story. Everyone else in the ensemble is too soberly normal -- Pam, Jim, Oscar, Stanley -- or over-the-top cartoonish -- Dwight, Andy, Angela, Kelly, Ryan -- to carry a show on his or her own.

Yes, I included Pam and Jim on that list, even though the Dunder Mifflin supercouple would be the first choice anyone would make to center the show around if Carell left. Here's the problem, though: despite the many comedic talents of John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer, Pam and Jim as married parents have proven to be pretty dull so far.

Most of the plots PB&J have been given since they got married have consisted of incidents that would even make viewers of 'Accidentally On Purpose' cringe: Jim accidentally walks in on the headmaster of their top private preschool while he's in the bathroom, Pam groggily breastfeeds the wrong baby while in the hospital. While plots like this might ring true to new parents everywhere, they don't exactly match the tone of 'scathing comedy about the mundane cubicle world' that we've been used to for six seasons.

The comedy is another reason why Carell's departure should spell the end of the series. When the American version of 'The Office' debuted in 2005, not many people gave it a chance to get a second season, much less last this long. And it's fantastic that a show that was based on Ricky Gervais' original twelve-episode vision has lasted for six years.

But the strain is starting to show; this has been the program's most inconsistent season, with comedic highs like 'Niagara' followed up with clunkers like 'Mafia.' Even the writers don't quite know what to do with the dynamic at DM anymore; Andy and Erin feel like 'Pam and Jim II: The Sequel,' Pam and Jim are too busy being parents to care about what's going on at work, Ryan's evil is contained to making Kelly miserable, and the new overlords at Sabre are so far keeping their hands off.

It feels like the show is running out of things to say. So if Carell decided to leave at the end of next season, it might be one of the best things to ever happen to the show. Wouldn't you rather see them go out while still relatively on top, or after they've become a shell of their former selves?

[Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.]

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Yep, wrap it up. Let the show go out while it's still good. Same for 30 Rock, which has been pretty hit-and-miss this season. Look at Seinfeld and The Simpsons, two shows that stayed (and are staying) way past their prime.

April 29 2010 at 3:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What I don't get is that there are a million sitcoms about families but if you want to see a comedy in an office setting all you have is The Office, the movie Office Space and Dilbert comic strips. There's a deep reserve of comedy there just waiting to be mined.

April 29 2010 at 9:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So hire Ricky Gervase. He's funny. He was a funny boss in Night at the Museum.

April 28 2010 at 10:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Wendy's comment
Joel Keller

Wendy, I really, really hope you're joking there.

April 28 2010 at 11:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I definitely don't think The Office could survive without Michael. He really is the heart of the show. It's his inane, ridiculous ideas and everyone's reactions that give the show its hilarity. As much as I love Pam & Jim, Michael can't be replaced with another character. It wouldn't work.

And just to chime in, Pam & Jim are NOT getting boring now. They're in a new chapter of their lives. Parenthood is all consuming. And the fact that they're parents does not control the show at all. It's just one aspect of it.

April 28 2010 at 8:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love this show, but Carell's making the right choice and I think it's time for the show to be wrapping things up.

Interestingly, I've also heard next season will be Alec Baldwin's last on 30 Rock.

So two good (formerly amazing) shows will be suffering huge losses. It's best to let both these shows head off into the sunset.

April 28 2010 at 6:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What if Gervais replaced Carell? Would that be entertaining?

April 28 2010 at 6:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't want The Office to end! I agree with RC the show could go on if they brought someone new to replace Carrell. EW did a an article a while back when there were rumors of an Office spin off with their ideas for a cast and placed Rachel Harris as the corky manager, who's single and a little neurotic and clumsy. However, I think if Pam and Jim left, which would be consistent with their characters who never planned on being there long, they could bring in new interesting characters cause yes their story lines are getting lame, if I wanted to watch a show about parenthood I would watch "Parenthood".

April 28 2010 at 6:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Nope. Originally I thought it could work if they found another good character but I think you're right in that it's Michael's specific personality which is the heart of this show.

To replace him, they'd either need to get another actor to play a Michael-type, which would just no doubt pale in comparison to Carrell, or they'd have to go a whole different direction with a new character and at that point, they'd just be changing the show.

Without Michael, all the characters are lacking the spark that comes from the interaction with him.

April 28 2010 at 6:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i could see it working. the last episode had very little Michael in it, even though he delivered the most important part of the story, and it was a decent episode.

April 28 2010 at 4:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I say at the end of the 7th season, they should let the show fade into the sunset. The show is already getting a little long in the tooth.

April 28 2010 at 4:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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