Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want a major plot point from one of tv’s top sitcoms revealed to you nine months early, now’s probably a good time to turn off the internet and go watch your DVR’d Jersey Shore.
Still here? Snooki must’ve passed out early this week.
Steve Carell is leaving The Office. Seven seasons and 126 episodes in to a show whose source material was only 18 episodes, total, I think he’s totally within his moral (and contractual) obligations to the cast, crew, and fans to leave after playing the same character for the better part of a decade. In fact, it’d be pretty easy to make a case that the show should’ve ended a year or three ago — it feels like it’s been running on fumes since the Jim/Pam storyline reconciled itself. In a world run by sane and considerate people, the exit of a lead character that is inarguably the foundation of an entire show and the plotlines therein would trigger a natural and graceful end to a sitcom whose run has been a successful, fun, mostly-funny romp that lasted much longer than 99% of television programming. Unfortunately we don’t live in that world, we live in Hollywood. Which means that rather than end the show with some modicum of dignity and be grateful for the seven seasons of killer ratings and massive ad revenue they got, then invest in developing a new behemoth of humor; the suits who run things have decided to remove the foundational Jenga block that is Steve Carell and then pretend that things haven’t come crashing down around them until it’s time to pick up the pieces.
Sidebar: If you aren’t 100% convinced that The Office sans Steve is going to be a disaster of titanic proportions, let me point out the following…
1) Given the nature of the show, Steve’s character will HAVE to be replaced. Even if they do some sort of weird merger or co-manager situation (and I don’t think they will because of how poorly it went over last time), the nature of any office or any business is that it will need a boss. From a story/production standpoint, a show based on the wackiness of a boss and his interactions with his employees means they’ll need to replace him in order to continue having shows/wackiness.
2) Replacements don’t work well. Just ask the actor who played the second Darren on Bewitched. Or, since none of you get that reference, ask Ellen DeGeneres or Kara Dioguardi what it was like to try and replace the practically-talentless Paula Abdul on American Idol (hint: neither of them have jobs on that show anymore). How much harder will it be to try and find an actor to replace comedic lynchpin Steve Carell?
3) The Office was already losing comedic momentum. Maybe you liked the Michael Scott Paper Company storyline, maybe you even liked the tacky Kathy Bates cameos, but there’s no denying that the show has lost a step the past couple seasons. And though it remains funnier than most of what passes for a sitcom these days (I’m looking at you, Big Bang Theory and House of Payne), it still just doesn’t feel quite as sharp as it once did. Add to that the departure of SC and you’ve got yourself 22 minutes of television that is going to be butter-knife dull except for some Rainn Wilson sight gags and maybe a snappy Jim one-liner every so often. Good luck making an episode out of that, let alone an entire season.
4) Storyline-wise, there are three most-likely outcomes set to occur (all based on my opinion/educated guesses, I have almost no insider info): A) Either Jim or Dwight will replace Michael and this will be a disaster (as we’ve already seen, Jim in manager mode = snoozefest and Dwight with authority really doesn’t have much more than a single episode’s worth of staying power). B) They will bring back Holly to replace Michael and this will be a disaster (all of her character’s charm is based on being Michael-esque and compatible with his character…PS the actress who plays Holly has already signed on to return to the show this season, no word on how, when, or why). C) They will bring in an outside hire and this will be a disaster (probably a name actor down on his luck enough to do a sitcom…I’m thinking a Freddie Prinze Jr. type or something along those lines since FPJ already has a new sitcom slated for fall 2010 release…but since it will inevitably be cancelled by October he’ll have plenty of free time come next year when Steve has moved on). D) They will bring in Ricky Gervais to play David Brent, the character Michael is based upon from the original UK Office. Truthfully, this is NBC’s best move out of all their foreseeable options because of Ricky’s sheer hilarity factor (and the fact that it’d be a huge ratings gimmick for diehard fans of either series), but is also the least likely to happen since RG has a decent amount of momentum behind his film career at the moment, and also has too much taste, class, and self-respect to jump the shark that blatantly (or so it would seem given his numerous refusals to make a cameo as David Brent prior to this).
5) John Krasinski has been rumored to be looking for a way off the show for a while now to focus on his film career, which was recently boosted by his marriage to Emily Blunt…but maybe his exit will leave way for the Pam/Stanley/Kevin love triangle we’ve all been waiting for.
There are other reasons that failure is imminent, but that’s a good start.
So what does this mean for you and I? Well probably nothing for you, since you’re the same brainless masses that got Two and a Half Men picked up for another season, but for me it’s produced a reaction much bigger than I could’ve anticipated: I’m retiring “That’s what she said.”
I’ll give you a second to catch your breath, as you’re no doubt stunned, shocked, and saddened, simultaneously.
…Better? Yes, you read that right, as of this moment, I am retiring “That’s what she said” (hereafter referred to as TWSS) from my lexicon of lazy and unoriginal joke-making. And I’ll tell you why.
TWSS has been around long before — and will continue to be around long after — Steve Carell and his version of The Office, but there’s no denying that his portrayal and that show’s writer’s incorporation of TWSS into their dialogue launched it to an entirely different level of fame. If you are in your 20s or 30s, odds are you don’t go a day without hearing it at least once from any combination of your friends, family, coworkers, etc., and like all good jokes, as soon as it permeates the general public it gets trampled to death like the slow parents in line for Justin Bieber tickets. I, of course — given my naturally lazy and perpetually inappropriate joking habits — am guiltier of this than most, and that’s why it’s so important for me, personally to do away with this phrase. There are better, just-as-inappropriate ways to be funny, and someone (no matter how insignificant the person may be) needs to take a stand against the lowest-common-denominator brand of comedy that the networks are always peddling (no matter how insignificant the stand may be). Steve has made huge contributions to modern day comedy (any single-camera sitcom produced stateside in recent years is essentially a byproduct of The Office’s popularity), and what better way to respect a man making the honorable decision to step down in spite of money, network pressure, and temptation to be lazy with his career; than to retire his “number” (i.e. the phrase most commonly associated with his character). I’ve already been doing some TWSS-free test runs on the down low for the past couple weeks, and I must say that I don’t miss it. Sure, I still find myself in a decent number of TWSS moments, and I like to think that my usage of that phrase was slightly above average in its creativity, but at the end of the day it has just become a fad for the lemmings of the world and a crutch for the unoriginal who are too desperate for a laugh.
It will be hard. It will be long. It will even be painful at times. And the whole thing might even blow up in my face. But it will not be “what she said.” (You see what I did there?)
Feel free to join me in my commitment to support Steve and his move to keep comedy fresh, or at minimum, don’t watch Jay Leno. I know that’s a non-sequitur, but seriously, Jay’s show and material is just awful. The absolute worst.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find a new pop-culture catchphrase that I can overuse at work while I’m “makin’ copies.” Any suggestions?
P.S. Because I know the level of douche I’ve established amongst my friends, I want to note that this is not a solemn vow to never, ever utter the phrase “That’s what she said” ever again in my life. It’s just my semi-legit commitment to let it go as an homage to the way Steve is letting his show go…since both are on the verge of being played out to the point of not being funny anymore. I may or may not pull a Favre and un-retire it at some point, or maybe drop a good one for special occasions, so don’t waste your time trying to call me out if you hear me use that sentence, just try and enjoy it and feel honored if you’re lucky enough to be around when/if I do drop a stellar TWSS on you in the future.