Exactly 15 years ago yesterday, the American version of the TV sitcom “The Office” debuted on TV screens. And while it wasn’t a massive hit (not nearly) when it debuted, the series persisted and collected 9 seasons before leaving the airwaves back in 2013. But over the past few years, “The Office” has become bigger than it ever was before thanks to Netflix. So, pretty regularly, you can hear people discussing the series, sharing memes, wearing Dunder Mifflin t-shirts, and generally adoring the long-running sitcom. And one way to really strike up a debate is to ask people whether or not “The Office stayed good after the departure of leading man, Steve Carell.
Departing after seven seasons, Carell’s exit is a topic that is highly contentious amongst “The Office” faithful. There are some that think the series continued to be great thanks to the inclusion of characters such as Robert California (James Spader), while other fans think the show became a shell of itself after Michael Scott left Dunder Mifflin. Regardless, many people would agree that it would have been better if Carell stuck around for the final two seasons.
And according to a new book about the series, titled “The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s,” as told by the cast and crew of the series, apparently, Steve Carell wasn’t originally planning on leaving the series early and would have stuck around longer if NBC asked him to.
In an excerpt from the book (via Collider), boom operator/sound mixer Brian Wittle described conversations he had with Carell about the apparent misunderstanding that led to his departure:
“I sat with him one time and he told me the story. He was doing a radio interview and he haphazardly mentioned, almost unconsciously, that it might be his last season. He didn’t plan on saying it out loud and he hadn’t decided anything. He was kind of thinking out loud, but he did it in an interview in public and it created news. Then what he said was the people connected to the show had no reaction to it. They didn’t call and say, ‘What? You wanna leave?’ He said he didn’t get any kind of response from them. When he realized he didn’t get any kind of response from them, he thought, ‘Oh, maybe they don’t really care if I leave. Maybe I should go do other things.’ So I think that made it easier, because when the news broke that he was considering it, the people that are in charge of keeping him there didn’t make a big effort to do so until afterward.”
Hairstylist Kim Ferry also remembers the situation as Wittle described it. She reiterated that Carell didn’t want to leave the series, but began to feel like NBC also didn’t care if he stuck around or not. She even went so far as to say that Carell informed her that he told the network he’d like to return for a season or two. But NBC never talked to him about it officially.
She said, “[Carell] was like, ‘Look, I told them I want to do it. I don’t want to leave. I don’t understand.’ It just is mind-boggling how that happened. And I feel bad because I think a lot of people think he did leave the show on his own merit and it’s absolutely not true. I’m telling you. I was there. I was there. He really wanted to stay. And it devastated all of us because he was the heart of our show.”
The final person to speak about the issue is the casting director Allison Jones, who said the decision to not renew Carell’s contract came down to financial issues, which she described as “asinine.”
Obviously, without confirmation from Carell, it’s hard to know the full, detailed story, but it appears that the end of the Michael Scott reign at Dunder Mifflin could have been avoided. And the fate of “The Office” could have been much different.