A review of last night's "The Office" - and this week's bit of potentially huge "Office" news - coming up just as soon as I reanimate a bull...
The internet briefly freaked out earlier this week when a radio clip turned up of Steve Carell saying he intends to leave "The Office" when his contract ends. Everyone calmed down quickly once they realized two things: Carell's contract runs through next season, so we still have a while to go; and chances are high that over the next year, NBC will find a way to keep Carell around, whether that requires more money, a more flexible schedule that would have Michael largely absent from some episodes, or what have you.
Now, I think most of us are in agreement that this hasn't been a particularly strong season for "The Office," and that's led many of you to declare that the show needs to end soon. Even with the Carell situation, that ain't happening. "The Office" is one of NBC's few success stories, and its only real comedy hit (the other three Thursday sitcoms are largely being buoyed by its wake), and while a network's fortunes can change in a year, I have to believe the show is too valuable to let go. And I do think, as I've said before, that whatever problems there have been this year, the show can rebound, because I've seen it happen to great sitcoms that have had off years.
And in watching an underwhelming, Michael Scott-centric episode like "Body Language," I almost wonder if an arrangement where Carell isn't around as much might be beneficial.
Look, I love Steve Carell. Funny man, talented man, kind man, and the show would not exist without him. He's been at the center of most of the funniest moments and episodes of this show's history, as you'd expect from the leading man. But despite being at the center of the show, Michael has always been the character the writers have had the most trouble getting a handle on. Some weeks, he's the 8-year-old who never grew up. Some, he's got Asperger's. Some, he's just a normal guy who isn't as funny as he thinks he is.
The inconsistency, and the writers' tendency to fall into the trap of highlighting Michael's worst qualities (writers on "The Simpsons" fall prey to the same thing with Homer), can make me really dread Michael-centric episodes sometimes. "Body Language" wasn't nearly as bad as this season's "Mafia" - nor was Michael as idiotic in this one as he was there - but it was still a fairly uncomfortable, airless outing, one where nearly all the laughs could be found in the Dwight/Daryl/Kelly subplot.
Given the choice between more episodes like this or occasional episodes where Michael's on the road and Dunder-Mifflin has to get by without him, I think I might take the latter. That way, perhaps the Michael-heavy episodes might be more focused.
I know there can be a danger in trying to elevate supporting characters above the lead, but "The Office" has always been structured in an odd way, where Michael is the main character in terms of screen time and his importance to the plot, but where he's otherwise written like a supporting character while Jim and/or Pam are written as more traditional leads. So I think an "Office" with Carell's reduced participation might actually work, and perhaps work better than what we've gotten this season.
But again, that's a year away, at a minimum, and hopefully the series can rediscover some of its juice before then.
What did everybody else think?