April 29, 2010

End of "The Office"

I've posted about the deteriorating quality of "The Office" before but it might be getting a lot worse in the near future: Steve Carell is only signed for one more season and doesn't plan on coming back.   When asked in a BBC Radio interview if he planned to re-up for more seasons, Carell responded "I don't think so.  I think season seven will probably be my last year."   This makes perfect sense for Carell, who has a thriving movie career and is handcuffed, in terms of what film projects he wants to pursue because of the gruelling shooting schedule for the television show, and the timing seems right in terms of moving on.  The issue here is that it seems very unlikely that NBC is ready to move on.   "The Office" is the networks highest rated scripted series by a comfortable margin and that means that you could see some re-casting going on and a new boss taking over at Dunder-Mifflin.

NBC could make a desperation move and pony up a boat-load of cash to try and keep Carell on the show, but I don't see him inking a new deal.   He doesn't need the money, has plenty of other options but above all, this season - by far - has been the worst of the series and the show is clearly running out of steam.  I think Carell is speaking the truth: next season will be his last.   But NBC, despite having a solid lineup of comedy shows ("Community," "Parks and Recreation" and "30 Rock) none of them draw big enough numbers to be the lynch pin for the networks Thursday night comedy block.  That simple fact means they can't afford to shutter "The Office." Instead, Carell's Michael Scott will likely leave and be replaced by a new boss, and that will no doubt be a recipe for disaster.   With the exception of "Cheers" - which amazingly did it twice successfully - there really isn't a long track record for successfully transplanting stars in television series.  In the case of this show, the Michael Scott character is the show.  Even when the stories aren't directly about Michael, he's providing the conflict or the comedy (and often both.)  The shoes would be massive to fill which likely mean NBC trying to bring in a "name" comedy actor for the role.  (Like Jon Lovitz joining "News Radio" following the murder of star Phil Hartman)  Anything short of Ricky Gervais reprising his David Brent character - which would never happen - will be a mess in my opinon and this show should be sent out to pasture if and when Carrel leaves.

The other major concern for '"The Office" is Ed Helms.  After The Hangover blew up, Helms suddenly became a hot commodity for feature films.  The deal he just signed for The Hangover 2 gives him $5 million in salary for reprising the role of Stu, plus 4 percent of the films total gross.  Considering the first movie made a staggering $467 million, you can see how the follow up might completely alter the course of Helms' career. If the sequel were to match the box office total of the original, Helms' cut would be a whopping $17.9 million.  Plus, of course, his $5 million stipend.  That kind of money is a game changer and could very well shuffled the deck in terms of priorities for Helms.  A successful sequel for The Hangover would also push Helms into an even higher asking price for future gigs; and that's a nice prospect when you're already in the five million club. All of these factors could mean Helms' interest in a television gig might quickly dwindle.   If he's not signed beyond next season, he'll likely defect too.   And what does that leave you with?  Well, it leaves you with a whole lot of Dwight Shrute.... and I'm not sure that's how I want to spend a half an hour each Thursday night.

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