Diane Haithman is a contributor to Deadline.
SPOILER ALERT! UPDATE: Steve Carell reprised his role as former Dunder Mifflin manager Michael Scott after all — appearing about 45 minutes into The Office finale to be Dwight’s “bestest mensch” (read: best man) at his wedding to Angela. After Michael unexpectedly appears, Dwight (Rainn Wilson) says: “Michael, I can’t believe you came.” His former boss replies: “That’s what she said.” Later in the episode, he tells the documentary crew: “I feel like my kids all grew up and married each other — it’s every parent’s dream.” Carell earned six Emmy noms for the role but never won. He left the series after its seventh season.
PREVIOUSLY: No, Michael Scott is not going to turn up at Dunder Mifflin on Thursday. Really. Ken Kwapis swears to Deadline [and lied to us, the asswipe – NF] that longtime star Steve Carell does not appear in this week’s series finale of The Office. “I sure wish Steve had done a cameo. It would’ve been a wonderful touch,” said Kwapis, who also directed the pilot episode of the midseason-replacement comedy that aired in March 2005. “Sadly, he didn’t.” So why did NBC choose to sneak a peek of Carell into its finale promo after last week’s episode? A spokeswoman said the network would maintain its “no comment” stance but noted the footage of the erstwhile Office manager could be a clip from an old episode.An additional 15 minutes have been tacked on to the previously announced hourlong sendoff, meaning it will air from 9-10:15 PM. That takes a bite out of Hannibal, which will follow with a 45-minute episode. A one-hour Office retrospective will air before the finale. The final episode the sitcom’s 9-season run will guest-star former writers/cast members Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak; Mike Schur, who plays recurring Office character Mose Schrute and co-created NBC’s Parks and Recreation with Office showrunner Greg Daniels; along with Rachael Harris, Dakota Johnson, Joan Cusack, Ed Begley Jr., Malcolm Barrett, Matt Jones, Andy Buckley and Bobby Ray Shafer. Daniels said the finale is “conceived to be kind of a stand-alone, as if there was an Office movie. We did that. It exists a little past the show.”
Other storyline info per an NBC release: “Months after the airing of the documentary, the workers of Dunder Mifflin, past and present, gather for a wedding and a final round of interviews. Mysteries are solved, hatchets are buried, pranks are prunked.” Following the dancing in last week’s episode, a photo from the NBC website also suggests a group dance number in the parking lot — or maybe it’s martial arts?
With and without Carell, The Office broke new sitcom ground and influenced a generation of new comedies with its mockumentary format, deadpan style and conspicuously absent laugh track and background music. Said director Kwapis: “It introduced the word ‘cringeworthy’ to popular culture. At the beginning, much of the humor just made you embarrassed.” Daniels said The Office, based on the BBC series created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, thumbed its nose at convention by letting awkward silences, blank stares and random roaming of the documentary cameras dictate the action and pace. He added that the mockumentary came along at the right time as people were becoming used to cell phones recording their every move.
Daniels took full advantage of the humor in ordinary, unglamorous characters breaking the rigid rules of the workplace. “The workplace is almost like a church,” he said. “It is possible that there had to be All In The Family first to make everyone aware of what is appropriate and inappropriate.” That is, All In the Family with a little help from NBC. “If you have been in the workplace, you have to go through harassment training,” Daniels said. “For most of the show’s run, NBC was owned by GE, which had the most rigorous harassment training and integrity training you can imagine.” Instead of taking GE’s advice to heart, he said, the writing staff would think: “Excellent. There’s an episode there.”
The Office was filmed in a modest warehouse district in Panorama City. Kwapis and Daniels said the remote location added to cast camaraderie. Cast and crew had lunch together each day because there was nowhere else to go. “That was one of Greg’s great decisions, to have the show based not on a studio lot but in a scrubby part of the Valley,” Kwapis said.
There’s no denying the show’s influence. Steven Levitan, co-creator of ABC’s Modern Family, said The Officepaved the way for his three-time Emmy-winning sitcom. “When he office came on the air I think the whole mockumentary and single camera style of comedy was a little bit shocking to some people”, Levitan said. “By the time we came on the air, people were very used to it.” And Robert Carlock, exec producer/co-showrunner of NBC’s 30 Rock — another three-time Emmy winner, which also ended its long run this season — said The Office “certainly set a standard, especially for an ensemble comedy. I know a lot of people look at 30 Rock as ‘meta’ or inside, but we thought of it as a workplace comedy and took a lot of inspiration from that show.”
The Office has been nominated for the outstanding comedy series Emmy six times and won in 2006. Does the end of the show’s long run raise its chances for another win in 2013? Said Daniels: “I don’t know. You could do research on that. My impression of running the show this year is that endings definitely give you a lot of dramatic story and not having to save anything for next year. You can definitely throw some big moves in. So that’s fun.”