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'The Office' closes down — a bit too late, perhaps

Published May 14, 2013 8:54 am

Television • It's easy to argue the show never recovered creatively from loss of Steve Carell.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"The Office" closes on Thursday after 200 episodes — which is about 199 more episodes than some cast members anticipated.

Jenna Fischer, who plays Pam, recalled meeting with Ricky Gervais, the creator and star of the British version.

"We had lunch and got to ask him any questions we wanted," she said. "And I remember going home and thinking, 'Oh, my gosh. If nothing else happens except that I got to have lunch with Ricky Gervais, this is amazing.' And now — look. It's 10 years later and we made, like, a whole show."

A whole show that adapted a very dark British sitcom about an inept, clueless boss and a staff caught in dead-end, unfulfilling jobs.

Gervais' version ran for just two six-episode seasons and a two-part special. American TV considers anything less than 100 episodes a failure.

And NBC's "The Office" did not get off to a rousing start. Greg Daniels readily admits the six-episode first season was not particularly good because he was trying too hard to mimic the British version by making his clueless boss, Michael Scott (Steve Carell), too unsympathetic.

"We kind of made him more threeâ€'dimensional after Season 1 and put him into more of a tradition of American character comedy where you are rooting for him as opposed to judging him," Daniels said.

But this was no cookie-cutter American sitcom. Never expecting success, Daniels and his team made the show they wanted to see.

"We didn't really have any expectation of going nine years, and so it was all about kind of pleasing ourselves and coming up with some weird stuff," Daniels said.

"The Office" has become a pop-culture icon of sorts, but it has never been a mainstream success. In its first eight seasons, the show ranked 102nd, 67th, 68th, 77th, 52nd, 52nd, 53rd and 87th overall, averaging about 6.7 million viewers.

But "The Office" had its devoted fans, many of whom were among the advertiser-friendly 18-49 demographic. And it had the good fortune of being on NBC, which struggled mightily in the ratings over the past nine years.

"The Office" was, for a time, NBC's highest-rated scripted series.

There is an argument to be made, however, that 200 episodes was 52 episodes too many. "The Office" should have shut down when Steve Carell left in Season 7 and took Michael with him.

There's plenty of evidence to support that. Most of the publicity surrounding "The Office" finale has been a series of conflicting reports as to whether Carell will appear.

(NBC is refusing to confirm and Daniels has denied — with varying degrees of certainty — Carell will show up. If he does, it's likely to be a brief, cameo appearance.)

But a 200-episode run for a show that is still decent at the end is a huge achievement. And, yes, unexpected.

Rainn Wilson (Dwight) recalled another lunch with Carell, John Krasinski (Jim) and Fischer while shooting the pilot. They were talking "intensely" about how "cool" it would be if the show got picked up. And if it ran for one season. If "we actually did a full run of this show."

"And we were all, like, 'You know, it would change our lives,' " Wilson said. " 'And it would be incredible. And these would be the roles that we would be known for for the rest of our lives.' "

Exactly.

spierce@sltrib.com

'The Office' finale

NBC will air an hourlong retrospective of the sitcom on Thursday, May 16, at 7 p.m. on Channel 5. The super-sized final episode follows from 8-9:15 p.m. —

Make your own Dwight

Fans of "The Office" can download these print-at-home paper figures to celebrate the season finale on Thursday, May 16, courtesy of The York Record.