‘Goodbye, Michael Scott’: A Steve Carell Retrospective

Once in a while there comes along a show that not only is able to entertain audiences week after week, season after season, but relate to people on a very personal level. The Office is one of those shows.  Besides having one of the strongest ensembles casts on television and an original mockumentary form, one of the biggest reasons for this show’s success has been Steve Carell’s performance as Michael Scott.

To get a complete picture of what Carell has brought to this character over the years you must start at the beginning. The pilot episode was shot using the same script as the pilot to the original British version with Carell mimicking the awkward, incompetent boss as Ricky Gervais played it.  Seven seasons later, what we find is a much more likable, sympathetic character that the audience genuinely roots for and cares about.

But what exactly defines the perfect Office episode?  Is it the episode with the most laugh-out-loud lines?  Or is it the one with the cutest Jim and Pam moments?  No, what ultimately takes the show from a regular sit-com to an Emmy Award winning show are the episodes that give you a glimpse into the humanity and vulnerability of Michael Scott.

While it is hard for me to narrow down my favorite episodes, there is one episode in particular that stands out as being the best episode from a filmmaking and storytelling point-of-view.  We have to go back to season two for the first ever Halloween episode where Michael is forced to fire someone on the holiday.  It is here that we first see him not as the incompetent, awkward boss, but as a person that genuinely cares about the people around him.  In one of the best moments that shows Carell’s versatility as an actor, we follow him outside the office setting for the first time in the series to his home where he sits alone and passes out candy to trick-or-treaters.

But of course The Office is really a comedy, and Michael Scott has never been short of great comedic moments.  From the most ridiculous dance contest on his booze cruise company retreat, to burning his foot on a George Forman grill because he likes to wake up to the smell of bacon, Steve Carell has an amazing ability to keep us laughing year after year, coming up with new situations just when you thought the show could never get more awkward.

Here are the top 5 Michael Scott moments:

5. Sponsoring Scott’s Tots

In season six we learned that Michael, years ago, had sponsored a group of kids, promising that we was a millionaire that would send them all to college.  Thinking that he would have become successful and rich by the time the promise needed delivering, he had to confront the awkward situation of telling these kids who looked up to him that there was no way he could afford to do that.  Kinda sad?  Yes, but more importantly it shows Michael’s need to be admired and how the show constantly was able to one-up itself when it came to created awkward situations.

4. Starting the Michael Scott Paper Company

Most of the later half of the season five found Michael quitting his beloved job and starting his own paper company in the same building.  Taking Pam and Ryan along with him, this was really a chance for Michael to expand his relationships with those characters, with Pam becoming his pseudo-best friend.

3. Directing the Dunder Mifflin Commercial

Michael always thought he had an artistic side, whether it be improvisation, singing ridiculous song parodies, or even screenwriting.  So in season four when corporate decided to make a local commercial for the branch, Michael immediately jumped on the opportunity to show off his filmmaking side.  The episode aired right in the middle of the writer’s strike that year, during a brief period of surprisingly mediocre episodes.  Despite that, this episode seemed to stand out from the rest and just let the characters have fun.

2. Kissing Oscar

This moment truly shows what is special about the filmmaking process of this show and how much freedom they really give to their talented cast.  In the season premiere of season three, Michael is convinced that someone in the office is gay.  Not knowing how to deal with the situation, he ends up kissing Oscar to “prove” that he’s okay with the whole thing.  What is amazing is the entire kiss sequence was unscripted.  The scene was simply going to end, but Steve Carell just went with it.  Luckily none of the cast broke out laughing, and what we see are genuine reactions to the last thing anyone was expecting to happen.

1. Proposing to Holly

Yes, this is the one non-comedic moment on the list, but it really was one of the most memorable moments of the show.  It was fitting that the office to pop the question, surrounded by the people Michael cared most about in his life.  Ultimately, however, it was just great writing.  The episode overall felt oddly conclusive, that I shouldn’t feel as sad about his time on the show coming to the end, but rather that maybe it was a good time to start wrapping up the story of Michael Scott.

Last night’s episode proved to be the perfect culmination of everything the show has been working towards, and a fine farewell for Michael Scott.

It was definitely an episode for the fans.  One of the best moments for me was when Michael pulled out his last Dundie Award and placed it on his desk.  They used this to recreate one of the most iconic shots of the original title sequence, which for me signaled that this was going to be a special episode, bringing the show back to it’s roots and making you realize how far they’ve come since then.

One other similar moment came towards the end of the episode when Michael directly address the camera asking, “Will you guys let me know if this ever airs?” referring to the fact this show is suppose to be a documentary the whole time.

There were definitely a lot of tear-jearker moments, which could have easily come across as cheesy if not for the strong performances from Steve Carell and a great goodbye scene from John Krasinski, as well as some really nice moments from Rainn Wilson and Jenna Fischer.

And, of course, you have Michael Scott’s last line in the series being, “That’s what she said.”

So, while The Office will continue to go on without it’s star, the show will obviously never be the same.  Steve Carell is sure to go on to a bright future in feature films, but to some of us he will always be Michael Scott in our hearts.

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