Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Always leave'm wanting more (unless, of course, you're NBC in which case you bleed a good idea dry until even your most loyal fans have turned on you)
NBC just recently officially responded to Steve Carell's announcement to leave "The Office". I'm sure that the time in between their announcement and Carell's was spent by NBC trying to figure out how they could coax him to stay (even if it meant screwing over a buncha other employees of theirs). I, for one applaud, Carell's steadfastness in his decision to leave saying it's not a matter of money. Cynics may argue his leaving actually is about money since he can make more off the movies than television (especially at this point in his career where he's proven he can bring in the dollars as a movie's leading man), but whether or not that's true, I believe it's true that "The Office" has had a good run and now is as good a time as any for them to take a bow. Michael Scott's gone about as far as he can go without becoming tiresome. Quit while you're ahead.
Of course, NBC (in their infinite ignorance) will never realize that. In response to Carell's departure, they have assured us the show will go on without him. Fatal mistake. Don't get me started on NBC's neolithic incompetence during the whole Jay vs. Conan/Tonight Show fiasco, but it's the perfect indicator of their wishy-washy complete lack of judgment. They seem to be incapable of putting a good thing to rest and would rather drive something into the ground until it's humiliatingly dried up and thus ending what could have been a great legacy as an embarrassment.
True, "The Office" has a great ensemble cast, but Michael Scott is the irremovable core that the whole show revolves around. He has such a unique relationship with every single person in the office that it would be tragic to do away with each of those relationships and ridiculous to try to re-create them with a new character. I don't believe the show could go on without him without seeming severely diluted. First of all, how do you write him out? One of the best things about the character is the idea that he will work there forever - not just out of sheer incompetence and an inability to do better, but through an ironically admirable sense of loyalty. To have him quit would be unrealistic, to fire him would be heartbreaking, to promote him would be a cop-out, and you certainly can't kill him. So, what're we left with?
Another problem is, if Michael left, the logical alternative would be to promote from within. Now, if Jim took his position as office manager... Well, the office would run smoothly and efficiently and who would want to watch that? And you can't promote Dwight because he has had such a lustful yearning to be in charge of the office that to give it to him would be like Lucy letting Charlie Brown kick the football. Also, since having either of them in charge would be too much for the other to take, they kinda cancel each other out. Furthermore, nobody else in the cast is as prominent a character as the two of them, so that's about it as far as currently existing employees taking the reins.
So, that leads us to bringing in someone new to take over the office. The only existing guest character on the show I can think of who could potentially compensate for the hole Michael Scott would leave is Todd Packer. I think that would grow tiresome, though, because while he's just as uncouth and insensitive as Michael, he's not as clueless or well-meaning (which are Michael's saving graces). Packer's treatment of the employees, while very funny at first, would become increasingly uncomfortable to watch over time because his comments and behavior are closer to abusive and degrading than inappropriate and incompetent. Plus, he's just not likable.
What are we left with, then? Fresh talent? A whole new actor in a whole new role? Pretty risky. And frankly, I don't think it can be done. Remember how weird the office felt when Charles Miner was put in charge? I'm sure that awkwardness was deliberate, but still it was indicative of how necessary Michael is to "The Office" to make it work. And by "work", I mean live, breathe and laugh, not sell paper. So, "The Office" should do the classy and respectable thing and that is: end. I have the perfect scenario to end it with, too, if you're willing to indulge me:
At least 2 or 3 offices I've worked at in the past have, for fun, occasionally had everybody chip in to buy an "office lottery ticket" when the PowerBall would get up to an obscene jackpot. The idea being everybody chips in a buck and picks a few numbers and, if by some miracle the ticket wins the pot, the employees (who chipped in) split it. This always seemed to be good for morale because everybody - even those very happy with their job - would discuss fantasies about what they would do if (no, when!) they won.
What if Dunder-Mifflin's Scranton branch did exactly that, but actually won? An idyllic way to end the series, I think. Here's the best part, though: Everybody would chip in for the lottery ticket ahead of time except for Michael (who beforehand would superciliously chide them all for wasting their time and money and taunt them about how they'd never win by belittling their fantasies). This would lead to an endless slew of hilarious consequences to choose from. Not only would we get to see the employees' reactions to having their hypothetical fantasies realized, but how would Michael try to con his way into retroactively getting a piece of the action? First, he'd probably act as if he was just kidding and meant to put in his dollar and they should honor his intentions. Or he'd lie that he actually did put in a dollar and they deliberately excluded him. Or maybe somebody in the office owed him a dollar from way back when and he'd claim the dollar they put in was rightfully his. Maybe all of the above. And more.
Of course, when none of these methods would work, he'd resort to other desperate measures. Maybe he'd talk about re-opening the Michael Scott Paper Company and try to get any winner he could to "invest"? Maybe he'd ask Jim and Pam if they could buy a mansion big enough for him to have a room in? Maybe he'd actually try being nice to Toby for once (to no avail)? Unfortunately, that's for writers more talented than me to figure out, but I have as much fun contemplating the options as people-who-have-not-yet-won-the-lottery have contemplating their fortune.
One by one, the employees would quit, say goodbye and walk out the door for the last time leaving Michael to sulk. How does it end, though? On a melancholy note with Michael picking up the phone or going online to seek new employees? A hopeful note with Michael resigning as well so he could go on an adventure of his own? How 'bout this: Holly Flax shows up again and confesses she still loves Michael and wants to be with him forever. Michael confesses the same thing. Then Holly, much to Michael's surprise, reveals that she has recently inherited a huge estate from deceased relatives and they can run off together and retire. Michael at first thinks maybe this is a joke his until-very-recent employees put Holly up to. When he realizes it's not, they embrace teary-eyed. Michael then says something cheesy and Holly laughs instead of rolling her eyes (like anyone else would) to illustrate just how perfect for each other they are. They go to leave the office and Michael stops as Holly exits. He turns around to take one last long panoramic look at the office and blows a kiss. He turns off the lights, shuts the door behind him and we are left in the dark of the empty office. Reception's phone rings, but nobody's there to answer. Fade to black.
Yeah, I like that ending. I think I'll just picture that in my head instead of watch what's sure to be an inferior eighth season. However, if NBC is reading this, you have my unbridled permission to use any and all of the aforementioned ideas to end "The Office" next year. I won't ask for anything in return because allowing the show to end on a high note is compensation enough.