I used to not “get” NBC’s U.S. adaptation of “The Office.” I didn’t find the jokes amusing, couldn’t connect with the pencil-pushing characters and was creeped out by the eerie, glaring absence of a laugh track for its mockumentary filming style. Above all this, though, I used to hate Michael Scott (Steve Carell, “Dinner for Schmucks”).
The man was the pinnacle of unprofessionalism in my mind, clearly unable in all accounts to run his branch of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company with any degree of efficiency. Infuriated, I envisioned my future self as a Pam (Jenna Fischer, “Hall Pass”) or Angela (Angela Kinsey, “Furry Vengeance”) working beneath him, and swore I would never put up with such a terrible leader in the workplace.
But then I realized, as friends wiser and less masochistic than myself intervened to point out, “The Office” is just a show — and a hilarious one at that. Thus my appreciation, and even endearment, for Carell’s Michael began to grow. I only wish I could have somehow come to this conclusion sooner, because as soon as Season 7 winds down for the summer, he’ll be gone.
Although NBC has signed on for an eighth go-around, “The Office” will be Carell-less for all intents and purposes. Ever since it was announced in September that he’d be leaving the show, viewers have been wondering how exactly he’d make his exit — myself included.
I feel that Greg Daniels, the developer for the U.S. version of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s BBC show, has done a graceful and believable job with the storyline leading up to the departure of Dunder Mifflin’s No. 1 beloved oddball. This is no easy task, as it is nearly impossible to not seem contrived when the audience is completely aware the screenplay is under the constraints of an actor’s personal agenda. Plus, with a light comedy like “The Office,” they could hardly just kill him off without appearing unnecessarily morbid.
If you haven’t been keeping up to date with the goings on at your favorite paper supply company, here’s a quick rundown. Holly (Amy Ryan, “Green Zone”) came back to Dunder Mifflin and is still living with her boyfriend A.J., but they break up after a few episodes. Michael and Holly start dating and are engaged soon after. However, Holly wants to move to Colorado to be closer to her aging parents — and asks Michael to come with her.
Now, Michael needs to find an heir to his throne at Dunder Mifflin — and therein lies Steve Carell’s escape route from the show. Who would have guessed he would find a replacement in “Anchorman” star and SNL legend Will Ferrell? Ferrell plays the “new Michael Scott,” embodied in working man Deangelo Vickers.
For those of you who have become accustomed to, or even grown to expect, a “spoiler alert” before a paragraph of this nature, suck it. Maybe you shouldn’t have been neglecting the funniest show on television the past six months.
Ferrell’s performance on the show, in last week’s episode, was promising. At first it was pretty weird, as anyone replacing the character would be. Picture Paul Giamatti (“Duplicity,” “Lady in the Water”) playing Michael Scott — totally unnerving, right? Yet he was the show’s original pick to head up the Scranton branch.
Ferrell had a constant stream of genuinely funny jokes, which is to be expected from the co-star of “Step Brothers.” There was an immediate conflict with the jealousy-prone Michael, who is still around to make sure his replacement gets properly settled, but the tone is still very comedic. It is apparent that screenwriters are trying to assert a sterner second nature in his character, which comes out a few times in the episode, “Training Day.” But, it works.
Thankfully, Daniels had sense enough to make up an entirely new character instead of trying to find someone that looks like Carell to inconspicuously take his place, though Ben Stiller may have been almost convincing — call me crazy, but I have been known to confuse the two. Admittedly, that tactic worked in the “Harry Potter” series with Dumbledore, but has been far less successful when used on any character without a four-foot-long white beard.
Another good move on producers’ part was casting an actor fairly similar to Carell. The two comedians have picked similar projects in recent years — easily comparable roles are Ferrell’s lead in “Megamind” and Carell’s soft-hearted villain in “Despicable Me,” a project he worked on with one of the producer/directors of “The Office,” Mindy Kaling, who also plays Kelly on the show.
Ferrell’s entrance to the plot of “The Office” was not exactly achieved through deus ex machina, but it is clear that the developer’s hand was carefully calculating this maneuver every step of the way. We’ll have to keep watching to see how smoothly the transition goes in full.