Michael Scott: So Long, Loser (We'll Really Miss You)

Originally published on April 28, 2011 5:20 pm

It takes a lot of smarts and talent to play the perfect doofus — which means Steve Carell just might be the most intelligent guy in Hollywood. Because his character Michael Scott is without a doubt the finest doofus currently appearing on network television.

But today's his last day of work. Michael Scott has insulted enough employees, embarrassed enough girlfriends and pulled his last inappropriate practical joke at the Dunder Mifflin paper company. Tonight, after a supersized 50-minute episode of The Office on NBC, he's going to clean out his desk and walk out the door.

Give Carell some credit. He's anchored NBC's hottest Thursday comedy far longer than any other star with a bankable movie career would have bothered. Along the way, Carell lent a sympathetic tone to the worst middle manager on network television. Sure, he'd aggressively and awkwardly force a colleague into a hug (and a kiss), but he was genuinely trying to show the guy he was welcome in the office. He just wanted to be friendly to a Seeing Eye dog; can he help it that he ended up insulting the blind woman holding the harness?

Of course, NBC's Office is a translation of an English TV hit, and Ricky Gervais' hapless David Brent was harsher in the original, a selfish bully who thinks he's more impressive than he is. Carell deliberately softened his character; Michael Scott is a goof with mostly good intentions who causes havoc almost by accident. The change gave the stateside Office a beating heart, making viewers root for its thickheaded hero.

Now, without Carell, fourth-place NBC faces a serious challenge. Who will be the next Office boss? This season will finish in a blaze of big-name glory, with cameo appearances from Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Ray Romano, Will Arnett and Gervais himself over the next few weeks. But somebody's got to take the job as Dunder Mifflin's lead doofus. And whether it's a big-name import like Carrey or an in-house promotion like Rainn Wilson's twisted salesman Dwight Schrute, the new guy — or gal — will forever change the direction of TV's smartest dumb comedy.

For now, it's time to bid farewell to Carell and Michael Scott, who is moving to Colorado to join his equally goofy fiancee. His anxiety, predictably, is making itself apparent in an odd way: He's been seriously considering keeping some salami in his pocket to feed all the bears who live in the Rockies. ("Especially if you think that life would be better without legs," counsels Schrute.)

Something tells me we'll all end up like his snickering subordinates — unable to appreciate what a beautiful loser we've lost until he's finally out the door.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Today is the last day at work for Michael Scott. He's insulted enough employees, embarrassed enough girlfriends and pulled his last inappropriate practical joke at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. He's been played by Steve Carell on NBC's "The Office" since 2005. And tonight, after a supersized, 50-minute episode, Michael Scott is going to clean out his desk and walk out the door.

TV critic Eric Deggans has this last performance evaluation.

Mr. ERIC DEGGANS (TV Critic): It takes a lot of smarts and talent to play the perfect doofus, which means Steve Carell just might be the most intelligent guy in Hollywood, because his character Michael Scott is without doubt the finest doofus currently appearing on network television. And now it's time to say goodbye.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DEGGANS: Give Carell some credit. He's anchored NBC's hottest Thursday comedy far longer than any other star with a bankable movie career would have bothered. Along the way, Carell lent a sympathetic tone to the worst middle manager on network television.

(Soundbite of TV series, "The Office")

Mr. STEVE CARELL (Actor): (as Michael Scott) Cri-Man-Squa, FNC, double-time.

Mr. RAINN WILSON (Actor): (as Dwight Schrute) Cri-Man-Squa?

Mr. CARELL: (as Michael Scott) Crisis Management Squad.

Mr. B.J. NOVAK (Actor): (as Ryan Howard) FNC, double-time?

Mr. CARELL: (as Michael Scott) Front and center. Twice as fast as you would normally go. Any other questions?

Mr. JOHN KRASINSKI (Actor): (as Jim Halpert) One more. Why are you talking like that?

Mr. CARELL: (as Michael Scott) To save time, Jim.

Mr. DEGGANS: Of course, NBC's "Office" is a translation of the British TV hit starring Ricky Gervais. His hapless office boss, David Brent, was harsher, a selfish bully who thinks he's more impressive than he is.

(Soundbite of TV series, "The Office")

Mr. RICKY GERVAIS (Actor): (as David Brent) David Brent, assertiveness and guidance training in business. If it's in you, I'll find it. If I waste, you know, good time and money looking for it and I can see it's definitely not in you, I don't want to be sued because you haven't got it.

Mr. DEGGANS: But Carell deliberately softened his character. Michael Scott is a goof with mostly good intentions who causes havoc almost by accident.

(Soundbite of TV series, "The Office")

Mr. CARELL: (as Michael Scott) We need to do stuff together outside of work.

Mr. DEGGANS: The change gave the stateside "Office" a beating heart, making viewers root for Scott's thickheaded antics.

(Soundbite of TV series, "The Office")

Mr. CARELL: (as Michael Scott) Let's go help Africa.

Mr. LESLIE DAVID BAKER (Actor): (as Stanley Hudson) We could feed the hungry: Us.

Mr. OSCAR NUNEZ (Actor): (as Oscar Martinez) Why do we have to do something together? I volunteer at a clinic on my own time.

Mr. CARELL: (as Michael Scott) Yeah, well, that's just a pickup scene.

Mr. DEGGANS: Now, without Carell, fourth-place NBC faces a serious challenge: Who will be their next "Office" boss? This season will finish in a blaze of glory, with cameo appearances from Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Ray Romano, Will Arnett and Gervais himself over the next few weeks.

But somebody's got to take the job as Dunder Mifflin's lead doofus. And whether it's a big-name import like Jim Carrey or an in-house promotion like Rainn Wilson's twisted salesman Dwight Schrute, the new guy - or gal - will forever change the direction of TV's smartest dumb comedy.

For now, however, it's time to bid farewell to Steve Carell and Michael Scott, who's moving to Colorado to join his equally goofy fiance. And, of course, his anxiety is coming out in an odd way. Here, he's fretting with Schrute about his new home state.

(Soundbite of TV series, "The Office")

Mr. CARELL: (as Michael Scott) I am told that there are bears in the Rockies.

Mr. WILSON: (as Dwight Schrute) Where did you hear that? Obvious XM Radio?

Mr. CARELL: (as Michael Scott) Well, I was just thinking that maybe I should keep a salami in my pocket...

Mr. WILSON: (as Dwight Schrute) Great idea.

Mr. CARELL: (as Michael Scott) ...in order to feed the bears...

Mr. WILSON: (as Dwight Schrute) Especially if you think that life would be better without legs.

Mr. DEGGANS: Something tells me we'll all end up like his snickering subordinates - unable to appreciate what a beautiful loser we've lost until he's finally out the door.

BLOCK: That's TV critic Eric Deggans marking Steve Carell's final episode on NBC's "The Office."

(Soundbite of music) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.