Greg Daniels was the man who started the American version of "The Office," adapting Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's work for NBC. And now Daniels is the man who is ending "The Office," as he announced today that the upcoming season (debuting Sept. 20) will be the final one.
In a conference call with reporters, Daniels said that after several years of being relatively hands-off with the series, he came back to take the reins and recognized that the show would be best-served with a strong finish.
"The reason that I’ve come back to the show is that we have thought about what the future of the show should be, and have always held the value that we should feel like a family," Daniels said. "This year feels like the last chance to really go out together and make an artistic ending of the show.”
"The Office" did not adjust particularly well creatively to the exit of Steve Carell. Ed Helms' Andy was promoted as the new branch manager, and whether the decision was made because it was easier to recycle familiar Michael Scott beats with that character, or because Helms is the biggest current star of the show thanks to "The Hangover" movies, moving Andy center-stage didn't work. Nor did the arrival of James Spader (since departed) as creepy new CEO Robert California, nor British comedienne Catherine Tate (who is staying) as scheming Nellie Bertram. So it's easy to suggest that the show should have already ended.
But a lot of that stuff was done under the watch of showrunner Paul Lieberstein, who has moved on to work on a Dwight spin-off that will tentatively be part of NBC's mid-season plans. The full-time return of Daniels, one of the best comedy minds in the business — he wrote for "The Simpsons" during its best period, co-created "King of the Hill" and "Parks and Recreation" in addition to his work on the classic early "Office" seasons — gives me hope that the show can go out with a bit more dignity, in the same way that both "Cheers" and "Frasier" rebounded from fairly weak late-period seasons with final years that were among their best overall.
"The Office" almost certainly would have been better off ending with that shot of Michael Scott walking through the airport, but if any man has a chance to set things right at this late date, it's Daniels.
UPDATE: NBC has finally put out a statement from network entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt about the decision: "'The Office' is a classic, award-winning television comedy and all of us at NBC couldn’t be prouder to have produced and telecast the series as it heads into its ninth season. Greg Daniels, the cast, and crew have some terrific storylines planned for the final season. Fans are in for a treat. It’s always difficult to see these kinds of shows come to an end, but we are honoring the cast’s and producers’ desire to make this the final season."