The Office: Season 7 created by Greg Daniels, Ricky Gervais, and Stephen Merchant (Reveille Productions, NBC Universal Telecom, and Deedle-Dee Productions)
Starring Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and Steve Carell.
Jumping the Shark
When Fonzie literally jumped over a shark on water skis in the premier of Happy Days: Season 5, a new idiom was born. Signifying the moment when a television show moves beyond the signature characteristics that made it a hit, jumping the shark occurs in every television series if the station allows the show to air long enough.
While some shows choose to end early in order to maintain creative integrity, other shows increase a character’s unique traits in order to capture the laughter of a receding audience. As these characters interact in larger and more absurd ways, the subtle traits that produced a compelling character transform into gross caricatures.
Although the employees of Dunder Mifflin have long since bloated into caricatures of their former selves (Dwight Schrute [Rainn Wilson] has always been an odd ball, but further accenting his beet farming tendencies over the years offers but one example of my point), the enduring leadership of Michael Scott (Steve Carell) kept this franchise afloat.
Thus, I must admit, hearing the news of Steve Carell’s impending exit from the show before the season started left me in a sour mood. Yet, writing Michael Scott’s departure into season 7 provided viewers with the opportunity to see the writers round back into form.
During this season, most episodes felt genuine and purposeful. The humor surrounding Michael’s storyline supplied bountiful awkward situations and the final destination gave viewers a chance to celebrate a character they loved to hate and hated to love.
In the end, Michael Scott’s last episode provided the perfect bookend to The Office. In fact, I try to reason in my mind that his final lines as he hands over the microphone to the camera crew acted as the end of The Office as we know it. Had “Goodbye, Michael” been the series finale, it would have rated highly amongst the all-time great finales.
Sadly, season 7 was more than Michael’s departure. With NBC’s struggles evident to all men, women, children, and pets, it is clear that an executive somewhere found pulling the plug on one of NBC’s few successful shows to be a hazardous option.
And so season 7 paves the way for a post-Michael Dunder Mifflin. Despite the chemistry that remains between characters, a Steve-Carell-less Office is no longer The Office. The few episodes that ran after “Goodbye, Michael” contained some laughs but lacked the endearing qualities Michael Scott provides.
7 seasons of any show is an accomplishment. An 8th season without the core character seems like a mountain in need of hurdling. Can the writers do it? Perhaps. But it seems best for me to consider The Office ending with the departure of Steve Carell. Everything after jumped the shark.