Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Posted by dkuehn at 9:05 AM
Most fans of The Office know that Steve Carell, who plays Michael Scott, the regional manager of Dunder Mifflin, Scranton, is going to be leaving the show after next season. Today The Atlantic aggregates various perspectives on what NBC should do next. Opinions range from celebration - his exit will save the show - to shutting it down while they're ahead.
The Office is tied with Fringe as my favorite show right now, and The Office provides the comedy, so this is serious business. I'm really getting into The Good Guys, with Colin Hanks and Bradley Whitford, so I may have an out - but it's still not quite up to The Office's level.
OK, so my take is that I kind of agree that the show could be better without Michael. Michael Scott is great, but his appeal is based on the comedy of oblivious offensiveness. Whenever offensiveness is the basis of laughs, you have to one up yourself (or at least get more creative about it) every season. For satirical shows, like South Park, you can get quite a bit of mileage out of that because there are always new inputs. But there's not really a new input for The Office because it's sit-com humor, not topical humor. So Michael gets more and more outrageous and forced over the years. They've done a fine job with it - I'm not complaining. I liked the sixth season a lot, unlike many critics. They've managed Michael well, but at the same time I think his character type is inevitably going to peak before others on the show.
Because of his character type, Michael also overshadows a lot of the other funny characters. That's largely the point. The guy is like a five year old - he has to be the center of attention. But Dwight is easily as funny as Michael, and in a more sustainable way. Some of the funniest moments on the show are one-liners from Creed, Ryan, Jim, Kelly, or Oscar. Some of the best story-lines are (obviously) Jim/Pam, but also Dwight/Andy, Dwight/Jim, or Dwight/Angela. What ongoing storyline was Michael essential to? Pam's mom was pretty funny. But Jan? Holly? Who really cared about that? So there's a ton of great material that would go on fine without Michael. The show has also been very successful at incorporating solid new characters like Jo Bennett (or for that matter Andy, who's stayed for four seasons now!).
So although I don't want to see it die a slow, agonizing death, I'm definitely in the "keep the show" camp. The trick is extracting Michael successfully. The Office is founded on relationships between co-workers. That's what makes it tick. So the writers need to pull Michael back a little in his final season, let viewers get used to less Michael, and develop story lines without him. If they can do that, the cast and the plot can definitely handle it (and I'm sure he'd come back for guest appearances). The Office is good at prolonged absences - Pam in art school, Jim and Pam on the honeymoon, Phyllis on her honeymoon, Andy in anger management, etc. They can figure out a way to ease Michael out.
So I have hope - we shall see.
Oh, and for idiots out there like Evan, the British Office doesn't hold a candle to The Office. You can tell because everyone calls it "the British Office", and not "The Office". Deal with it.