'The Office': Saying goodbye to Michael Scott
At the end of last week's "The Office," the next-to-last episode featuring Steve Carell as Michael Scott, the office staff came together to serenade Michael with their own version of "Seasons of Love" from "Rent," lovingly listing all the minutes he worked at Dunder-Mifflin, and then all the minutes they in turn spent in his pointless meetings, listening to his corny jokes, reading his e-mail forwards, etc.
It was an extraordinary moment in the life of the series. It was sweet and clever and incredibly touching (Carell was so obviously choked up that you could easily take his reaction as that of the actor or character). It was also the exact perfect gift the staff could give Michael, who had spent the better part of seasons trying to drag his employees kicking and screaming into his fantasies of the office as both a surrogate family and a place where he could sing, dance, tell jokes, do characters and generally have his genius for performing acknowledged.
And that was the most extraordinary thing at all. Because if you go back to the early days of "The Office," it is hard to imagine a circumstance under which Jim, Pam, Oscar, Ryan and the rest of the gang would have not only done this, but done this out of genuine affection for Michael and sadness that he was leaving them.
At the beginning of "The Office," Michael was so scorned by the staff - and rightly so, given his insensitivity, his offensive sense of humor and his completely tone-deafness of most social situations - that he had to buy himself a "World's Best Boss" mug to celebrate what he wanted his standing to be. He leaves (Carell's extra-long final episode airs on NBC tomorrow night at 9) with something far better than that mug: with the knowledge that these people really do like him, and they get him, and they can play his reindeer games from time to time because of how much they matter to him.
It's kind of incredible to think on that transformation, and how gradually and mostly naturally the show pulled it off.
The beginning was very bumpy, as the series' pilot was a pretty strict copy of the first episode of the original British series. What had been funny and ultimately harmless coming out of the mouth of Ricky Gervais' David Brent suddenly seemed cruel from Carell. I remember chatting with the show's executive producer, Greg Daniels, at an NBC press tour event the winter before the debut, and when I said Carell came off as really menacing in the scene where Michael pretends to fire Pam as a practical joke, he literally took a step back from me and said, "Well, that's not good!"
But Daniels and company stopped using the British scripts after that. More importantly, they started tailoring the character specifically for Carell. (Daniels has said that it helped the writers enormously to see their star in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" in the summer between the first two seasons, as it helped them figure out how to put a Carell character in awkward situations without making the tension unbearable.) Michael and David Brent still shared a love of performing, and a deluded belief in their own gifts in that area (Gervais had a priceless cameo as Brent earlier this season, where he and Michael bonded over their shared love of ethnic caricature), but he became his own man. Where David was predatory (or tried to be), Michael was an overgrown child, still trapped as the lonely 11-year-old boy who watched too much TV and dreamed of one day having lots of children, because they would have no choice but to be his friend.
And bit by bit, Daniels and the other writers began taking Michael on the long, winding, hilarious road from barely-tolerated nuisance to the kind of guy whom everyone in that office will speak of fondly for years to come as they recall all the good, bad and ridiculous things he did.
And I have a run-down of the crucial Michael evolutionary episodes in gallery form. Enjoy.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
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