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Life Without Michael: Reflections on
“The Office” in Transition

by Chloe Lizotte


“This is going to feel so good, getting this thing off my chest.” He hands his microphone pack over to the film crew, cutting off all audio. He spreads his arms and delivers a soundless final remark: That’s what she said.

Along with 8.4 million other viewers 1, I couldn’t help but crack a smile at Steve Carell’s fitting final line as Michael Scott on “The Office.” Despite the season-long buildup to Carell’s departure, it was still incredibly difficult to accept that Michael Scott would never again return to the offices of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch. Even as I type this, I still feel an overwhelming sense of denial that Carell has actually left. I still cling to a completely irrational shred of hope that I will turn on NBC next Thursday at 9 PM and see Michael Scott up to his usual hijinks. That completely oblivious and proud smirk of Michael’s was the perfect capper to my Thursday night.

Throughout my formative years, “The Office” has been one of the main constants in my life. I still fondly look back on that fateful summer night when, aged 11, I was first introduced to the show. As I watched Michael Scott and his co-workers play a cringe-worthy game of basketball against the Dunder Mifflin warehouse staff, I could not contain myself, choking on gasps of laughter. Every half-second sequence was just as insane as the last, from Michael’s sidekick Dwight Schrute dribbling water into a protective face mask to out-of-shape Kevin sinking every shot he took from halfway down the court. What was this madness? At the center of the chaos was the one and only Michael Scott, humming Harlem Globetrotters-esque jazz music and spinning around on one knee while dribbling the basketball. He clearly existed in his own selective version of reality. As an impressionable preteen, I was excited by the off-color nature of Carell’s comedy. I was just old enough to appreciate the uncomfortable, politically incorrect asides that were intrinsic to Michael Scott. “The Office” felt fresh, unique, and certainly more mature than any of the other shows I watched. It aired at 9:30 PM – that’s practically midnight when you’re in grade school.

Although only six years have passed, it feels like an entire lifetime since I first met the crew at Dunder Mifflin. I have actually evolved into a somewhat mature human being since then – I am gearing up to apply to colleges, I know that I prefer MSNBC to Fox News, and I can operate a motor vehicle. If I were to take a trip back in time to see my 11-year-old self, we would have little in common – I didn’t even have an iPod yet – but if we were to sit down and watch an episode of “The Office,” we would understand how we could possibly share the same genetic coding.

Sure, I’ve changed my hairstyle and explored new interests, but I have never lost interest in “The Office.” A new episode was something to look forward to, something dependable. “The Office” was the unofficial beginning of the weekend, consistent hilarity guaranteed. While the show did develop over the years, it never lost its heart: a dysfunctional group of office workers that functioned as one large family. And the boss of the unit, Michael Scott, was always the leader of this mad troupe. Despite his immaturity and ignorant remarks, it seemed impossible not to sympathize with Michael. At the root of his over-the-top improv stunts, Michael was a character desperate to be appreciated by others, buying himself a Spencer Gifts mug sporting the phrase “World’s Best Boss” and attempting to embody it through his bizarre yet sincere behavior.  Ensemble piece or not, Michael has been the most important cog in the Dunder Mifflin machine, leading the weekly action and representing the Scranton branch.

Now, though, Michael has moved on. He has left Dunder Mifflin to start a new life with fiancée Holly Flax. Although this is a fitting send-off to Michael’s character – he finally got his happy ending – I, along with several million other viewers, realized the bittersweet importance of this episode. Suddenly, “The Office” is changing. Completely. Though it is true that “The Office” has found its strength as an ensemble piece, Michael Scott’s character is irreplaceable. Who else could accidentally burn their foot on a George Foreman grill? Who else would create an Oscar-like awards ceremony to celebrate his co-workers, handing out awards such as “Whitest Sneakers” and “Bushiest Beaver”? Who else would arrange for the entire staff to drive up to Niagara Falls to attend token “Office” couple Jim and Pam’s wedding ceremony? A “changing of the guard,” in this case, cannot capture the true essence of Michael’s character. Unlike the paper he sells, Michael’s character cannot be Xeroxed.

At the same time, it’s essential that the loyal fanbase keep in mind that “forever changed” does not necessarily mean “forever unwatchable.” Other TV shows have found success in replacing cast members without a decline in quality. “Saturday Night Live,” for example, has survived for more than forty years on the basis of a rotating cast. English national treasure “Doctor Who” has cycled through eleven different actors in the all-important lead role over its 48 year run. The show still boasts a rabid fanbase and critical adoration, with 2011 BAFTA nominations for lead actor Matt Smith and writer Steven Moffat.2 Carell’s departure marks not only the end of an “Office” era but also an unopened ream of Dunder Mifflin paper. A carbon copy replacement of Michael Scott would be impossible, but the addition of a new regional manager could add new blood to the cast and reinvigorate plot lines.  Ricky Gervais, the creator of the original “Office” series on BBC and producer of the American reboot, even sent Carell an email to tell him that he was “doing the right thing. As a producer, I was expected to try and stop him because he’s a big part of it, [but] you know, it can survive. Whether it should or not, I don’t know.”3

This gray area is what tortures “Office” fans the most. While the show could continue to thrive on unique story lines and off-color humor, it is equally possible that Michael’s absence could be so noticeable as to distract from the positive. Even if a worthy “replacement” does join the ranks of Dunder Mifflin Scranton, something may still be lacking. It’s difficult to imagine this new chapter of “The Office” living up to Michael’s legacy. However, the producers and cast will certainly attempt to do so, and I owe them my dedication as a loyal viewer. Despite my pessimism, I’m interested to see the new direction of the show.

As Michael himself once said, “Sometimes I start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope that I find it along the way.” I’m hoping for the same.


1. Guthrie, Marisa. “Steve Carell’s ‘Office’ farewell boosts ratings.” April 29, 2011.
May 1, 2011. <>

2. Plunkett, John. “BAFTAs battle between Doctor Who and Sherlock.” April 26, 2011. May 4, 2011. <>

3. Gervais, Ricky. Interview with Piers Morgan. Piers Morgan Tonight. CNN, New York, 21 January 2011.


The Author

Chloe Lizotte

Chloe Lizotte is a member of the Concord-Carlisle High School class of 2012 in Concord, Massachusetts.


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