While promoting the release of "Date Night" earlier this month, Steve Carell mentioned that his contract for NBC's "The Office" ends after next season and that he didn't expect to continue after that point.
 
The "Evan Almighty" and "Get Smart" star later clarified that his comments weren't merely a negotiating ploy. 
 
Speaking with reporters about the network's scheduling plans for the 2010-2011 season and beyond, NBC brass acknowledged the very real potential of Carell's departure from the network's top-rated comedy series.
 
"'The Office' is a great ensemble, and the producers of the show are preparing in the event he chooses to go on," said NBC Universal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin.
 
Gaspin was following up on NBC Primetime Entertainment President Angela Bromstad's comment, "Steve is incredibly important to the show and we hope we can keep him for a long time. Whether or not he stays with 'The Office,' it's a big priority for us to develop a new hit."
 
In this case, that meant moving the Emmy-winning comedy "30 Rock" out from its long-term position at 9:30 on Thursday nights into the less cushy confines of 8:30 p.m. and giving the post-"Office" slot to the new comedy "Outsourced." Gaspin acknowledged the possibility that "Parks and Recreation" might also conceivably land that slot come midseason, but didn't come close to committing to the idea.
 
One way in which NBC won't be keeping Carell around is as the producer of the attempted update of "The Rockford Files," or at least not currently. 
 
The David Shore-scripted root of the gumshoe classic, featuring Dermot Mulroney in the James Garner role, wasn't included in NBC's fall or midseason schedule, though Bromstad said that the property might still be redeveloped in the future, saying that the pilot was an A-/B+ effort, when NBC is only picking up A+ pilots.
 
Would you watch a Carell-free version of "The Office"?