In a move that will sadden some longtime fans but please others who felt the show had run its course, exec producer Greg Daniels announced today this will be the last season of NBC comedy "The Office."
"The reason that I’ve come back to the show is that we have thought about what the future of the show should be, and have always held the value that we should feel like a family," Daniels said. "This year feels like the last chance to really go out together and make an artistic ending of the show.”
The end comes despite "The Office" remaining NBC's most-watched scripted series, with an average audience (under 36 years old) younger than any other on the Peacock, ABC or CBS. The show is also NBC's biggest DVR gainer in live+7 ratings, jumping from a 2.8 rating to 4.1 — a 46% rise.
Twitter reaction to the announcement from fans was polarized along the lines described above. Count me among the group who, while acknowledging the show wasn't at its peak in recent seasons, was still better than much of the halfhour programming in primetime these days.
For his part, Daniels, who ran the show for its first five seasons, praised the past three seasons of "The Office" with Paul Lieberstein as showrunner, but today touted the huge potential of comedy and storytelling with a set end date. Earlier this summer, Daniels had spoken to Variety about the potential for the coming year. Now, as sentimental as he is about the show ending, he seems even more excited about the possibilities.
More from Daniels:
"All questions will be answered this year. We are going to see who’s behind the documentary and we’re going to meet some of them. (Also) a big Jim and Pam year.
"I think it could (go on), and we had debated whether we could reboot it. ... The format is a very strong format. For example, we are introducing two new characters this year who I think are very very funny, and you could see a world where new people keep coming on the show. But ultimately, I think this feeling of family and wanting to wrap up these arcs and do justice to the existing characters in the most creative and explosive way means the show will be changed in such a way that if anything was to continue, it just wouldn't be the same show. We have 15 of the (cast) coming back this season ... but it didn't seem to me we could count on getting many people back for season 10. ... This is going to be a real gangbusters season, so I think people will think it was worth it.
"Certainly, we're not leaving for any reasons other than the ones I've described. The show is very healthy and valued at NBC. I'm actually a little surprised how supportive they've been (on the decision).
"It would be a different show (without John Krasinski and Ed Helms), and it depends how important closure and a feeling of artistry are for you. And we felt it is important. ... Jim and Pam are kind of the heart and soul of the show. Back in the early days, I had an inkling of what to do to end that storyline, and to see the possibility of that never happening was a compelling thing to try to grab. The most loyal fans of the show would like to see that happen.
"Definitely I think there's going to be differences between this year and previous years. For one thing, the last few years I think we didn't do arcs so much, we were pursuing episodic comedy. ... It's all going to be set up in the premiere, but there's just so much to pay off from nine seasons of so many great characters that my biggest concern is just packing in the great ideas that the writing staff has on cards all over their walls and make sure we hit on all them or at least squeeze as many as we can. So pretty much the core cast are going to be there. Mindy (Kaling) and B.J. (Novak) are coming back just briefly, hopefully more later. But the cast we had last year, plus Clark Duke and Jake Lacy, are going to be there. If they do take off for a few episodes to shoot a movie or whatever, it'll make it easier to fit in all the ideas that we have, (including) risky things we wouldn't normally do. But now that we know we have an end date, it's very freeing.
"I'm hoping to have Ken Kwapis direct the ending, which I think would be nice since he directed the pilot. We're going to try to have a big exciting party, and get old folks as well as new folks for whom it's their last chance to be on 'The Office.'"
"We're talking about trying to find out who the Scranton Strangler is — certain things that are going to be fun for long-term viewers ... and sort of the change that is going to happen when we start to find out about the documentary a little bit. ... People always say, 'Why are they still filming? What are they after?' I think we're going to explore that for comedy effect.
"We would certainly wish for (Michael Scott returning). We're not going to put pressure on Steve by writing something that would only work if he returns, but it would be fantastic. I think for him, he really loved how he was exited, and probably was anxious about not messing up such a stylish exit — so that's a perfectly legitimate point. So we'll see. We haven't written — we just have ideas for the ending, but if he were to participate, we'd have good times. ... But he's pretty busy.
"The show has run over twice as long as high school, which I was saying to the crew. It's such a rare and lucky thing. ... It's the best professional experience of my life.
"A good move is that we're in our own little studio in the boonies here, so the spirit of the crew is excellent. It's just a very supportive, loving environment to come to work, and I will miss it terribly. I think ultimately what people are going to feel about this show is what's going to go on the air, and we have some ideas of what to do ... I'll find another place to drive in and.
"(NBC Entertainment chairman) Bob Greenblatt has been a producer and is very creative, and I think he really responded to the ideas that I pitched him at the beginning of the season about revealing the documentary and just the twist and turns that I have planned, that (he) felt it would be better to actually call it the last season of the show. The reason I guess I felt it was surprising is that because it was the highest-rated scripted show on the network, and I know he had a lot of new shows, a lot of people would cling to what was working to help them launch (them). But like I said, I think he was very open to a creative pitch. John and Jenna (Fischer) and Ed and Rainn are producers this year, and this year they're very in on this vision and this pitch, and I think we all had a lot of passion for it and it was persuasive.
"If we didn't let it end this year, I don't know that we would have been able to tell the ending stories for so many characters.
"I would like to get back to a world where the audience is surprised by the story turns they see on air. I would like to keep the most fun moves secret so they are incentivized to watch what's on the air."
Previously on The Vote: Greg Daniels and the future of 'The Office'