Farewell, Michael Scott

By Chris Shores


How can we possibly say goodbye to Michael Scott?

For seven seasons, the star of NBC’s “The Office” has been both the world’s worst and best boss. Scott (Steve Carell) has become the king of the phrase “That’s What She Said.” He’s taken audiences through some of the most awkward television moments in the history of primetime comedy. And in two episodes – a week from today – he will walk away from Dunder Mifflin Paper Company and “The Office.”

Scott is going to Colorado to live with his fiancée Holly Flax (Amy Ryan). Like his character, Carell is leaving the show on his own terms.

Last June, he told Entertainment Television, “I just think it’s time … When I first signed on I had a contract for seven seasons, and this coming year is my seventh. I just thought it was time for my character to go.”

While Carell has been in his fair share of movies – including “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Evan Almighty,” “Get Smart,” “Date Night” and “Dinner For Schmucks,” to name a few – it is still hard to imagine him excelling in any one role to the degree that he did on “The Office.” It’s as equally difficult to fathom watching the show without him.

During the past seven seasons of “The Office” we have seen the highs and lows of Carell’s character. The current season has been a good one for the man, as the writers and producers prepared for his departure by setting up a reunion – and then engagement – with nerdy but lovable human resources representative, Flax. Dunder Mifflin is doing better too, escaping its financial crisis ever since Sabre Corporation purchased it last season.

But the show also showcased Scott as man who desperately wanted a family but could never stay with a steady girlfriend. Scott had several tumultuous relationships during “The Office,” including an affair with his boss Jan Levinson (Melora Hardin) who moved in with Scott and was subsequently arrested for domestic violence. There was also the time when Scott angered his girlfriend Carol Stills (Steve’s real-life wife Nancy Carell) by photoshopping himself into a Christmas card picture of Carol and her children on a ski trip.

Then there was the day Scott drove his rental car into a lake because he misunderstood the GPS’ directions. Or the time when he traveled to New York City, convinced he would receive a corporate position when he unknowingly had no honest shot.

For many a moment, Michael Scott was the most pathetic character on television. But more often than not, he was the most endearing. What other boss throws a birthday party for every single employee or kicks off a company-wide weight loss campaign by dressing up as his offensively obese character “Michael Klump?” Who could forget the time when Scott posed as “Prison Mike” to teach his employees about life inside prison?  Or the time when he introduced a merging branch to Scranton with the “Lazy Scranton” orientation video, a parody of an SNL Digital Short.

As last season drew to a close and rumors of Carell’s departure began to swirl around the Internet, “The Office” seemed on its deathbed. Ratings were down for the show, as the sixth season finale attracted nearly 1.5 million viewers less than the finale two years prior (6.6 million and 8.07 million, respectively). But the show has returned to form this season and last week’s episode had 7.871 million views, according to the website “TV by the Numbers.” However, what will happen after Scott leaves is impossible to predict.

“The Office” brought in Will Ferrell to play new manager Deangelo Vickers, who premiered on the show last week and will continue during the next two goodbye episodes to Scott. But Ferrell won’t be taking over the position permanently as he is only in a four-episode arc playing the character.

So who will take over for Michael Scott? While the show centers on the workplace interactions of an ensemble, no one on the cast shines brighter than Carell. A majority of the funny, awkward plots and memorable lines come from him. It remains to be seen if a new manager – or if an increased role of a current character – will be able to capture the attention of the general television audience in the way Scott did.

Scott’s goodbye has already begun as he came to terms with his departure in the most recent episode. In tonight’s episode, “Michael’s Last Dundies,” he will train Vickers on how to run the Dundie award show, one of his many company creations. A week from today, there will be a special 50-minute episode to say goodbye to Scott. Then the cast will have to make do without him for the final three episodes of the season.

Whatever the fate of “The Office” is without its star, it has been an incredible run for Scott – and for Carell. He was cast into the show as an actor known for his skits on comedy shows and the start of a budding movie career – and exits as one of the most notable comedic actors in America.

Michael Scott will be missed, but the employees of Dunder Mifflin, the cast of “The Office” and fans of the show must surely all agree on one thing: he is welcome to come again anytime he wants.

That’s what she said.

Chris Shores can be reached at [email protected]