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Posted at 11:10 AM ET, 06/29/2010

Can 'The Office' go on without Steve Carell?

Steve Carell has previously implied that he plans to depart "The Office" at the end of next season. Now the man who plays America's most lovable donkey of a boss has confirmed that he will indeed leave Michael Scott behind in 2011.

And that means no more of this:

Or this:

Or this:

Can " The Office " continue without the nimrod who stands at its dysfunctional paper company center? According to The Wrap , NBC has a plan in place in the event of Carell's departure, a plan that, of course, they have not shared. (Sounds a little Michael Scott-esque, doesn't it?) Reps also note that "The Office" is an ensemble show so the loss of a single character, albeit a significant one, isn't necessarily a death knell.

Ensemble though it may be, one assumes that with no Michael, another character might step up and play a more central role. Who might that be?

Pam and Jim The Pam/Jim unit has always been one of the most central "Office" storylines. And with the two married and with child, there's plenty of work/life balance issues that could provide fodder for comedy. Plus, having served as co-manager, I can see Jim taking over fully as the head of Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch, a move that would send Dwight Schrute into seizures.

Dwight Schrute : Speaking of that freaky beet farmer, could he be the next Michael? As funny as he often is, I'm going to say no. Dwight is crucial to "The Office," but he's too oddball to be the leading man. He needs someone to suck up to, which is why I think option No. 3 might be more on-target.

Gabe Lewis : The lackey to Sabre CEO Jo Bennett (Kathy Bates), he and Michael both reek of desperation and a need to be beloved by their colleagues. Zach Woods , the very funny actor who plays Gabe, also recently signed on to "The Office" as a series regular, which suggests that maybe he's a crucial part of that vague NBC plan.

Which "Office" character would you like to see gain some more screen time as a result of Carell's departure? And do you think the show, which admittedly wasn't consistently hilarious during season six, can move on successfully without a weekly dose of "That's what she said"?

Update: Vote in our "Office" poll:

By  |  11:10 AM ET, 06/29/2010

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