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'The Office' should punch out with Carell

Courtesy of NBC

By Kelly Etz, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 5, 2011

I love the awkward pauses, the co-workers ranging from uncomfortable to obstinate to just plain awful and the constant true-to-life tediousness. I love “The Office.” But it should have ended last season. It’s had an outstanding seven-season run, receiving multiple award nominations and earning several wins. It’s one of the signature comedy shows of our time.

But there is a point when a series should naturally come to an end. Steve Carell’s decision to leave should have been the logical conclusion of the show. After seven seasons with Michael Scott in the boss’s seat, the series can’t expect to be the same without him.

I’ve got nothing against James Spader (“Boston Legal”), and I expect he’ll do an adequate job as Robert California, the newest cast member. But he’ll never come close to Michael Scott, that’s a given. Michael was the heart of the show, the blundering patriarch of the Scranton branch family. Though “The Office” can boast an exceptional ensemble cast, it was Michael Scott’s endearing foolishness that made the series so successful in the first place.

Granted, there have been a number of lows in the series's history, even with Carell on board. The series’s success lies in its ability to brilliantly express the monotony of daily life in an office — the trick is keeping the audience interested while continually creating new wit and humor. Season five fell into a bit of a slump. Unfortunately, season six proved more of the same, ultimately coming off flat. It seemed “The Office” was on a permanent downward slope.

Season seven was a revelation, especially for longtime “Office” fans. The send-off for Michael spawned some of the best episodes yet (we’ll forget about Will Ferrell’s completely lackluster guest appearance). It seems knowing it was the last season of Michael Scott shook up the office and breathed new life into the show.

Yet there’s simply a point where it starts to get old. The ultimate success of season seven arose from the uncertain future — Michael leaving gave the show a renewed focus. I miss the freshness of previous seasons, especially the second and third. Jim’s (John Krasinski) pranks on Dwight (Rainn Wilson), crazy Jan Levenson (Melora Hardin), Michael’s utter lack of tact.

The original British version avoided the slump by only airing 14 episodes. It’s one of the reasons the original was so brilliant, exposing the tedium while still bringing something new to the table with each episode. The American adaptation just hasn’t been able to remain as innovative as it once was. True, the more recent seasons have their high points, but it’s just not the same. I’d hate to watch the series I’ve grown to love end up stuck in a rut for its duration.

Though Carell’s motivations for leaving are questionable (considering the success of “The Office” launched him into A-list territory in the first place), his departure still leaves the series without its front-runner. And while the remaining cast members are talented and capable of continuing without Michael Scott, it doesn’t mean they should. The series could have taken the opportunity to bow out on a triumphant note, yet it seems determined to forge ahead without Carell.

And I’ll be the first to admit, I’m probably still going to watch season eight. The Michael Scott-less finale of season seven was admittedly entertaining, though it relied too heavily on the multitude of guest stars. It’s a toss up whether season eight can maintain the quality that I’ve come to expect from “The Office.” Suffice it to say, even if it succeeds, it won’t ever be the same.


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