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'The Office' without Steve Carell as Michael Scott won't be business as usual

For six seasons on NBC's hit "The Office," he has stood in, symbolically, for everyone's stupid manager/team leader/division head -- even in an economy where millions of people ceased having a boss at all. At least they still had Michael.

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By Jen Chaney and Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Michael Scott, the imaginary manager who is in charge of Dunder Mifflin Inc.'s Scranton, Pa., branch, is a boss so inept he once burned his foot on a George Foreman grill. His incompetence -- a never-ending HR nightmare of unwise words and actionable actions -- is now part of an epic American story of bad bosses.

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For six seasons on NBC's hit "The Office," he has stood in, symbolically, for everyone's stupid manager/team leader/division head -- even in an economy where millions of people ceased having a boss at all. At least they still had Michael.

Now imagine a version of "The Office" without him.

Wow, that would be really hard. Michael Scott is what keeps me coming.

That's what she said! (It never gets old.)

And that's what some fans of "The Office" are saying in the wake of confirmation that Steve Carell -- the actor who brings Michael's tone-deaf social tendencies to life each week -- will, in fact, depart the NBC docu-comedy at the end of the upcoming season. After hinting as much during a BBC interview last month, Carell confirmed earlier this week that he plans to say farewell in 2011 at the end of the seventh season.

"I just think it's time," Carell told an E! reporter. "When I first signed on, I had a contract for seven seasons, and this coming year is my seventh. I just thought it was time for my character to go."

Reps at NBC are neither confirming nor denying: "We don't have a comment at this time," a network spokeswoman said Tuesday. But with the story winding its way around the Internet and thrusting ("That's what she said!") the term "Steve Carell" into the trending topicsphere, loyal "Office" watchers are trying to imagine the Scranton branch minus the doofus who keeps the dysfunctionality on its proper, productivity-altering course.

NBC executives have previously indicated that they plan to keep "The Office" alive even if Carell does leave. During a conference call with reporters in May, Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, said that the show "is a great ensemble and we are certainly preparing -- the producers of the show are preparing in the event that [Carell] chooses to move on."

* * *

Yes, the ensemble cast is strong. But Carell is, arguably, the pole that holds up the comedy tent. (That's what she . . . all right, stop.)

There are certainly ways to go from here, to drag it out a season or two AM (After Michael). Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) now has some management experience, and putting him in charge could pay off by sending Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson), who spent years sycophantically aiding and abetting Michael, into a permanent state of conniption.


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