Michael Scott’s Long Goodbye: How Steve Carell Left ‘The Office’

Steve Carell as Michael Scott in The Office (NBC)

Steve Carell as Michael Scott in The Office (NBC)

Michael Scott said goodbye and “The Office” lost its best cast member, Steve Carell.

Carell’s exit Thursday night in a special 50-minute episode of the NBC sitcom helped bring into sharp focus the challenges this show now faces without him. Simply put, his scenes were the best ones, and the ones without him (particularly Will Ferrell’s) felt a bit like filler.

Even one of Carell’s scenes felt over-long – the scene down in the warehouse in which Michael kept trying to sink a basket with his back to the hoop. His many misses played like they were outtakes, which they probably were. The scene was one of several – such as the apparently improvised scene featuring Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) and Deangelo Vickers (Ferrell) play-acting with a small dog in an animal shelter – that kind of made you wish they had produced a regular half-hour episode that was more tightly focused on Michael and his attempts to say good-bye to each of his “Office”-mates before leaving at 4 p.m.

Watch Michael’s Goodbye:

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That was the ostensible plotline of the episode: The staff – led (hilariously) by the party-planning committee of Angela (Angela Kinsey), Pam (Jenna Fischer), Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) and Meredith (Kate Flannery) – planned a going-away party for the following day, while Michael secretly plotted to leave for Colorado on the day before because a farewell party would be more than he could handle emotionally.

In fact, watching Carell manage Michael’s conflicting emotions – deep sadness at the prospect of leaving his “Office” family and the excitement of leaving to start a new life with Holly (Amy Ryan) – was this episode’s principal pleasure. “I can’t do this!” he exclaimed tearfully at one point, singling out a reason why he should stay in Scranton: “All the channels are going to be different! I’m not going to be able to find my shows!”

“Sometimes good-byes are a bitch,” said Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) when it came time for him to say good-bye to his often vexing boss, who Halpert nevertheless called the best boss he ever had.

Carell was at his best in the show’s final scene, in which he was last seen walking down an airport concourse where he was suddenly waylaid by Pam, who had missed his exit from the office (because she snuck away to catch a matinee of “The King’s Speech”).

Just before that final embrace, Michael went through security and then addressed the show’s unseen camera crew. Remember them? The scene drove home the gimmick underlying the entire series – that someone had come to this regional office of a paper company, Dunder Mifflin, in Scranton, Pa., to film a documentary.

Turning to the camera, Michael said, “Hey, will you guys let me know if this ever airs?” – a priceless moment. He then relinquished the clip-on microphone that he has presumably had clipped to his shirt for seven seasons. “This is gonna feel so good getting this off my chest,” he said. And then he added a four-word phrase you couldn’t hear because he had no mic, although you could pick up what he said if you could read his lips. What were Michael Scott’s last words? Of course, they had to be: “That’s what she said.”

Then he trotted away and we were left to wonder: What on Earth will we do now? Well, until we hear who it’s going to be, we can try and guess who the producers will pick to replace Carell and hope the replacement does as good a job as Carell did.

In Thursday night’s episode, it became increasingly clear that Ferrell won’t likely be sticking around for long as “Office” manager because his character, Deangelo, is becoming increasingly unglued. Ferrell’s final episode (his fourth) is next Thursday and the description of the episode provided by NBC says only this: “Deangelo’s true management style is finally revealed.” Our prediction: Whatever that “style” turns out to be, it will likely doom Deangelo as a Dunder Mifflin executive and he’ll leave (either voluntarily or by force).

But the void left by the departure of Michael Scott will remain, at least for a little while.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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