If a long-running sitcom announces its ending, but its fan base has already abandoned it, does it make a sound? We’ll find out this fall, when The Office returns to NBC for its ninth and final season.
Once and future showrunner Greg Daniels announced yesterday that Dunder Mifflin Scranton will close for good in 2013. The news was bittersweet: While it’s good to hear that NBC’s flagship comedy will get time to wrap up loose ends and craft a worthy finale, many fans think that finale is two seasons too late. The Office hasn’t been the same since Steve Carrell moved to Colorado near the end of Season 7, and an eighth year tarnished by go-nowhere storylines and weirdo Regional Manager-turned-CEO Robert California (James Spader) was by far the series’ lowest point.
Much like late-period installments of The Simpsons, latter-day episodes of The Office are still more amusing than much of what’s on TV, but newer shows like Community, Happy Endings, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family — the latter two of which wouldn’t exist if The Office hadn’t popularized the faux documentary format — have stolen the show’s buzz and its thunder. Because it’s a lot more fun to watch a series in its prime than it is to witness the slow devolution of something you once loved, it’s no surprise that a lot of once-devoted viewers have abandoned ship over the last year. (EW even stopped recapping it last year.)
Daniels’ announcement, though, changes everything. Well, maybe. If The Office now has an end point in mind, it’ll have to stop spinning its wheels and finally bring closure to plot threads that have been dangling for far too long. Couples can’t break up, then get back together, then break up, then conceive a baby and try to pass it off as a gay state senator’s child. The question of who, exactly, is in charge of the branch can’t remain up in the air. A teleological trek toward an ending could be just what The Office needs to get it back on track — and to erase the memory of muddled Season 8.
Then again, someone who’s been tuning out the show since Carrell’s exit — or even before that — might feel like too much time has gone by to get re-invested now. Between new characters and an increasingly wacky aesthetic, The Office today is a very different place than it was in its 2006 prime, and nothing’s going to change that.
So tell us, readers — are you planning to tune in for Season 9? And do you think this last hurrah could restore some of what The Office has lost over the years?