By now you’ve probably heard the news; Steve Carell is checking out of The Office next year. This doesn’t come out of nowhere, and while I’ll be the first to admit that the show is starting to lose some of its edge, I see no reason why the Dunder Mifflin (Sabre) gang can’t go on for another year or two without Michael Scott at the helm. While Carell is one of the main reasons why the show first took off (with PB&J right behind him), the show has morphed into an ensemble piece in the Cheers tradition (in the later years of that series I was always far more interested in Frasier, Rebecca, and Woody than Sam (no offense, Ted Danson!). Some of my favorite Office moments are Jim’s pranks, The Finer Things Club, and (most recently) Andy and Erin. These can go on without Michael. It won’t be the same show, but neither was M*A*S*H once Henry, Trapper, and Frank were gone. And in a lot of ways, the later years were some of that show’s best.
Now I’m not saying that it won’t take some work to keep the ship afloat. The cast is strong, but more air time for the likes of Creed, Meredith, and Stanley could do wonders. These are characters we already know and, in some cases, like, but the writers could go deeper. Just off the top of my head, Creed could carpool with Pam, Jim, and the baby (it practically writes itself!). As far who takes the reins, they could go the Jim or Andy route. Newcomer Gabe is also an intriguing possibility. Then again, maybe some new blood is the best bet. But a Michael clone won’t work. Let’s go back to M*A*S*H for a second. The introduction of characters like Potter and Charles rejuvenated the show because they weren’t carbon copies of their predecessors but fully realized characters in their own right who connected with the existing players in different ways. Michael Scott truly loves his place of work and blindly believes that he and his co-workers are a family. What if a misanthrope was at the helm, someone with a mind for business but a total lack of affection for the desk jockeys? It could be man or a woman, but since this is The Office, hidden dimensions would gradually come to the forefront, and the character would grow into his or her role as caretaker to Scranton’s assorted misfits. There’s a couple of seasons of story right there.
If nothing else, Michael’s departure, combined with the final moment’s of this past season’s finale, likely means the ultimate reunion of Michael and Holly. And who isn’t on board for that?