Because I review a whole tv series rather than individual episodes, there is a chance of spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the whole series yet, stop reading now!
I don’t know many television shows that have successfully survived when their lead actor/character decides to leave. The only shows that I can think of that have tried to continue once their lead has decided to move on to other things are X-Files (David Duchovney), Scrubs (Zach Braff), and Two and Half Men (Charlie Sheen). I’m sure there are many more and each of these had various degrees of success. Unless you want to do something major, like change actors but keep the same character, like Doctor Who do very successfully, it’s usually a recipe for disaster.
What it can give you, if its planned in advance, is a great “final” season where they can deliver an almost “greatest hits” for the main character, showing off what he can do before he leaves “forever.” There are a couple of times when The Office decided to do this with Steve Carell’s Michael Scott.
They seem to know that a show that has been running for seven seasons is going to have a loyal fan-base and they do a great job of treating them. There is a fantastic episode which revisits each of Michael’s past girlfriends, building-up to the reason he leaves very effectively. There is also, probably one the most emotional episodes of the season, where Michael experiences his last Dundees. The episode is great from start to finish and does a great job of setting up Michael’s last appearance.
In fact, they couldn’t have managed to do a better job of seeing the brilliant character off. The final episode doesn’t have a “whistle and bells” feel and although it is a big “event” for the series as a whole, it does a brilliant job of keeping the episode very grounded, very much in the style of the UK original that inspired the show in the first place. The ultimate in heartbreak, when Steve Carell’s absence hits you most, is him and Jim’s final scene. This alone makes you realise that the show is losing a huge part of its success and you have to wonder if it can carry on without it’s “star.”
It was a refreshing move for the makers of The Office to not end the season with Steve Carell’s last show. Instead, the season continues with three more episodes which attempt to look for a replacement. Though these episodes are filled with guest stars, it still gives a good impression of what the show can be without Steve Carell and I was still very impressed.
The strength of the show has always been the ensemble cast and how they have managed to grow that cast over seven seasons. Taking out (arguably) the biggest character in the show will always hurt the series but I doubt, with a cast this strong and this funny, that it will kill the show. Instead, we see the rest of the actors step-up and fill the void.
Rainn Wilson’s Dwight Schrute comes into his own in the final few episodes and gets a great episode where he runs the office. It is a great way of showing that the series has life in it yet and with new stories beginning to develop as the series ends, I still want to see season eight and I’m intrigued to how it will continue.
The one criticism, beyond The Office’s control, is that their initial replacement for Michael, in the form of Will Ferrell, is fantastic. It gave a small glimpse of what this show could be like and the direction it could go in but understandably, that wasn’t going to remain the case. The same could be said for the bigger guest star of Jim Carrey, who was a fantastic surprise but his one scene was a bit disappointing when he could have been left to do so much more.
Overall, the show will miss Steve Carell in a huge way. He created a character that was at the heart of the show and was the reason for watching in the first place. Luckily, over seven years, the show has developed its other characters extremely well and set itself up for an interesting final two seasons.
Best Episode – Goodbye, Michael. Although it wasn’t necessarily the funniest episode, it did show how much of an asset Steve Carell is to the show.
Best performance – Steve Carell as Michael Scott
Should there have been another season? – Definitely, but whether it still works without Steve Carell is yet to be seen.
Season Rating – 4.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)