For those casual viewers who love “The Office” but haven’t followed it religiously in years, the time has come to tune back in. In its seventh season, NBC’s comedy staple promises to send off Michael Scott (Steve Carell) in style.
Season 7 Midseason
Thursdays at 9 p.m.
Much dread and consternation have surrounded Carell’s last season, with the main concern of viewers being how Dunder Mifflin will possibly survive without the World’s Best Boss. Though that may still be undetermined, the secondary characters have always been known to steal scenes when given the chance; their prominence will be a welcome addition to new seasons.
Stars are emerging among the supporting cast, most recently Ellie Kemper as Erin, the new receptionist and season six’s best addition to the show. She’s as oblivious as her boss, but in an entirely new way, managing to command her own special brand of vapidity in scenes with every character from her blundering boyfriend Gabe (Zach Woods, “The Other Guys”) to Michael himself.
The truth is that season seven is one extravagant 24-episode party for the castmembers as they and their audience get ready for “The Office” to change forever. There are guest appearances from old favorites like Jan (Melora Hardin, “17 Again”), Todd Packer (David Koechner, “Get Smart”) and even Pam’s mother and Michael’s ex, Helene (Linda Purl, “Mighty Joe Young”). Fans who sniggered years ago about the employees’ read-through of Michael’s screenplay for “Threat Level: Midnight,” which follows the adventure of special agent Michael Scarn, will readily laugh out loud as the script comes to fruition. It’s as if the writers of “The Office” spent summer 2010 documenting their best hits and decided to cram them all into one season — and it’s working.
One of the most hyped aspects of Michael’s last season was the return of his one true love, Holly Flax (Amy Ryan, “Gone Baby Gone”). Michael and Holly’s romance returns with the same surprising ease it had in season five, when the two first met. As hilarious as it is to see a woman fall in love with Michael, it’s more heartwarming than anything else. Good for her, good for him! Even his employees find it hard to deter Michael from screaming his joy from the mountains.
And the party doesn’t stop there. Creator Ricky Gervais made a cameo in a January episode, “The Seminar,” as David Brent, his character on the original U.K. series. It was one of the most memorable cold opens since everyone in the office vomited from Pam’s (Jenna Fischer) morning sickness in 2009’s “Niagara.” Hopefully Gervais will make another appearance — until then, promised guest stars like Will Ferrell (“Megamind”) will have to prove worthy of this show.
The two-part finale “Goodbye, Michael” airs in April, which means we’re down to Carell’s last four episodes (the show returns March 24) — four more episodes of “The Office” as we know it. But this doesn’t mean we should stop watching. With such a strong supporting cast, the foundation is in place for excellent future seasons. The show’s long-term future may be uncertain, but it’s still not too late to join the party.