When it was announced last year that Steve Carell would be leaving The Office at the end of its seventh season, fans of the series began preparing themselves for the departure of Michael Scott.
Unfortunately, series show-runner Paul Lieberstein (Toby) revealed today that Carell’s final episode would not, in fact, be the season finale as everyone expected, but one month before, in April.
While this news will certainly shock fans that were relishing every last moment of Dunder Mifflin’s (now Sabre, Scranton) Regional Manager, Lieberstein, while speaking with Vulture, explained the decision behind Michael Scott's early departure and what they're looking to accomplish with this season’s final four Michael-less episodes:
"Steve will have a number of episodes that dramatize and lead up to Steve leaving. Then we'll continue on for about four more episodes, and the spring will prove to be not about an actor leaving, but what happens in an office when a manager leaves and the chaos ensues and people vie for the job and are uncertain about their future."
Of course, with Michael Scott gone, a managerial position opens up and viewers have been speculating who would be filling the shoes of the “World’s Greatest Boss.” While Lieberstein hinted that they’re “talking about guest stars" who could come in and apply for the position, the job will ultimately go to one of the series' current characters. Currently, Darryl (Craig Robinson), Dwight (Rain Wilson), Andy (Ed Helms) and Kelly (Mindy Kaling) are all in the running.
Previously, we reported that Darryl was hinted at being the most likely candidate, but today Kaling gave an interesting pitch on why it might be good for her character to take over:
"People who aren't necessarily qualified to be the boss are sometimes put in positions that management hopes they grow into. And the boss [doesn't have] to be the starring role. Most shows are about all the underlings. I could see a world where Kelly becomes the boss, and it's not a show about Kelly."
Even though hell might freeze over before Kelly is given the position of Regional Manager, Kaling’s statement touches upon an interesting topic. With Carell gone, The Office has to, on some level, reinvent itself. With one cornerstone character gone, the writers will have to find other avenues to sustain the series’ comedic stylings. Fortunately, it looks like they might just be doing it.
“This time last year there was probably a lot of dread, but right now there's a lot of excitement. We're having the kinds of conversations we had in seasons one and two about, 'What is the show?' It feels like we ... can really influence the show in a way we couldn't last year. It feels really cool."
Despite Lieberstein’s acknowledgment of the writers’ eagerness to persevere, viewers won’t know exactly what potential the series has without Carell until we see the story unfold for ourselves. While many might have their doubts about The Office, we shouldn't count the series out – the perfectly executed transition from the first to second season most certainly proved that.
The Office airs Thursdays @8pm, on NBC