THE OFFICE: A Fond Farewell to Michael Scott - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

THE OFFICE: A Fond Farewell to Michael Scott

April 29, 2011 by  

Michael Scott is the rarest of television characters. Created as a proxy for David Brent’s irreverent boss on the UK version of THE OFFICE, the role of Dunder Mifflin’s main man in Scranton, Pennsylvania was doomed to fail on paper. Skeptics howled at NBC’s decision to import Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant’s work stateside, and wondered aloud if the show would suffer the same quick death that had befallen the Peacock Network’s 2003 British import, a horrific FRIENDS copycat called COUPLING.

Thankfully, someone forget to tell Steve Carell that playing Michael Scott was a dead end career move. Instead, the comedic pride of Concord, Massachusetts went to work forging an iconic prime time presence. With an outstanding team of writers and performers surrounding him, Carell put the franchise on his back and gave us six years of memorable moments.

While a simple Google search will provide hundreds of places to find Steve Carell’s funniest moments or favorite catchphrases, I want to spend a few minutes looking back at an episode that helped turn Michael Scott from a hapless boss into a hopeful man.

It is fitting that “Goodbye, Michael” first aired on April 28, 2011, as it coincided with Take Our Daughters & Sons To Work Day. Devoted Office fans remember Dunder Mifflin’s take on that event, as documented in Episode 2.18 “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.”

Season Two is sacred ground for fans of The Office, a near-perfect year of television that introduced millions of fans to Jim & Pam’s magical chemistry, Dwight Schrute’s primal sense of skepticism, and Michael Scott’s decidedly non-textbook approach to management. On a personal note, it was also the year that introduced me to Kath Skerry and GIVE ME MY REMOTE. Long before I contributed to GMMR, I was a fan of GMMR, and this show was the centerpiece of our mutual fandom.

“Take Your Daughter to Work Day” acts as the perfect bookend to Steve Carell’s last episode because of two scenes, masterfully crafted by Mindy Kaling, writer/producer/actor/Twitter extraordinaire.

Michael Scott never accepted Toby Flenderson as a colleague, a man, or a human. On the other hand, Michael was immediately charmed by Toby’s daughter Sasha, an adorable little girl who shared his affection for train whistles and funny faces. For the first time in the show’s early run, the audience was let in on Michael’s secret: under those layers of inappropriate sarcasm and unprofessional outbursts, there was a decent man who would be an amazing father. Until that scene aired, Steve Carell had rarely failed to make us laugh. Following that scene, we understood that he could touch our hearts.

The deeper connection is uncovered later in the episode, after Michael entertains his employees’ children with his own childhood appearance on a TV variety show. When little Michael was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, his response sent a chill of discomfort through the conference room.

“I want to be married and have 100 kids, so I can have 100 friends, and no one can say no to being my friend.”

From his earliest days, Michael Scott required the attention and approval of everyone around him. It was a burden that he carried through his formative years, his early professional experiences, and a mess of romantic relationships with women who honestly repulsed him (like Jan Levenson) or rejected him for his needy quirks (like Carol Stills.)

Michael was not doomed by his shortcomings, but we all know he was more than just a late bloomer. Steve Carell will never get enough critical acclaim for transforming Michael Scott, slowly but surely, into a grown man who could appreciate the simple joys of life. He bonded with Jim Halpert during their co-manager period, as his protege learned to appreciate the pressures of having to make hard choices. When the corporate world rejected him, and the glass ceiling grew closer, the Michael Scott Paper Company was born, and Pam Halpert showed Michael that she believed in him.

Then along came Holly Flax…

In “Goodbye, Michael,” we bid farewell to a man who was often misjudged as a buffoon or a sad clown. We could believe those horrible things because Michael believed them about himself. It was difficult for Michael to aspire to be anything beyond the title on his business card, until the people around him became the family he had always wanted. Steve Carell orchestrated that change, never forgot to include the funny, and yielded the spotlight to Jim & Pam, Dwight & Angela, and the Ryan-as-boss experiment.

To leave the only place he knew as home, Michael Scott had to change his dreams. He had to reject the petty assumptions that his childhood self had made about the world around him, and believe that people can love you in your truest form. Amy Ryan was the perfect choice to lock hands with Steve Carell and step away from Scranton. As Holly, Ryan made us all believe that Michael’s soul mate had come looking for him. Luckily, Michael had grown up enough to notice she had arrived.

THE OFFICE is not my favorite show anymore. The cast is full of movie stars in-waiting, and Jim & Pam’s wedding seemed to me like the perfect series finale. What was once a magical show has become a solid, but imperfect program, playing second fiddle to its cousin (and logical successor) PARKS & RECREATION on my DVR.

This week, however, I spent 52 minutes shedding real tears as Michael Scott shared his final moments with his friends/employees. The greatest gift that he received from Scranton’s best and brightest wasn’t the Dundie for Best Boss 2011, but their permission (and assistance) to marry Holly Flax and start a new family. I am grateful for the poignant and emotional final scenes Steve Carell got to share with Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski, two actors who have grown exponentially alongside their onscreen boss.

In my perfect world, Michael & Holly will return to Nashua, New Hampshire, the place where they had once said goodbye. They’ll raise their children (though I’d stop FAR before having 100) with Brigham’s Ice Cream, trips to Canobie Lake, and candlepin bowling. Holly can continue her career path in Human Resources, but Michael’s days as a corporate climber are behind him.

What better place could Michael Scott work than as the owner/operator of a small town general store, like the one Steve Carell purchased in 2009 near Marshfield Hills, Massachusetts? Michael could work the cash register, stock the shelves with charming knick-knacks, and treat every customer the way he wants to be treated. It’s the old-fashioned American dream, and the Halperts can always bring CeCe by to visit.

I’m not much of a drinker, as Diet Coke is my adult beverage of choice, but we can all agree to raise a glass to toast Steve Carell for giving us the chance to enjoy THE OFFICE for the past six years. By sharing Michael Scott with us, he always left me satisfied…….(you know the rest)

How did you react to Michael Scott’s last episode? What were your favorite scenes? Could the writers have scripted a better ending? Are you looking forward to a Dunder-Mifflin without their “Best Boss?”

Editor’s Note: the author of this piece was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, spent his early childhood in Nashua, and is a complete pushover for any restaurant that serves Butter Crunch ice cream. Oh, and I was never any good at candlepins 🙂


11 Responses to “THE OFFICE: A Fond Farewell to Michael Scott”

  1. Amanda on April 29th, 2011 3:02 am

    Michael Scott will be missed…

  2. Kath Skerry on April 29th, 2011 6:31 am

    Erik, what a wonderful tribute. Thank you so much for writing this for GMMR.

  3. Emily on April 29th, 2011 7:35 am

    I’m still in denial that he won’t be back next week. But a wonderful tribute. It sums it all up nicely. Michael Scott, you will be missed.

  4. Becky on April 29th, 2011 8:18 am

    Love the article. Loved the episode. I cried, too. And I thought that it was amazing that a fictional boss could touch my heart as much as Michael Scott.

  5. Lisa on April 29th, 2011 9:04 am

    Thanks, Erik, great tribute.

    I cried like a baby especially during the moment between John and Steve as it was John and Steve displaying real emotions not just stage tears. I also loved the soundless last ‘that’s what she said” and the soundless goodbye at the airport. I read elsewhere that they thought unmiking Pam/Jenna at the end was a mistake. Not me. It was a private moment, the way it should be.

    I miss Michael and always willl

  6. Lex on April 29th, 2011 9:23 am

    I was severely underwhelmed by this episode. I just kept waiting and waiting for something to happen and then…… nothing. Regardless, Michael will be missed.

  7. Erik on April 29th, 2011 10:30 am

    Amanda: He certainly will be, but I think most fans appreciated seeing the “new” Michael say his goodbyes with class and dignity, bringing his character full circle from the cruel trickster of Season One.

    Emily: Thanks for the kind words. I tried to write a full paragraph about John Krasinski’s performance in the episode, piecing together the clues of Michael’s escape plan, but I couldn’t find the right words. Jim always represented the audience’s empathy for Michael, both personally and professionally. Their climactic scene in Michael’s office was an instant classic, and was emotionally overwhelming to watch. When the side effects of “Goodbye, Michael” subside, I’ll try to write a follow-up piece about the amazing mentor/protege relationship they shared (where the role of mentor & protege switched back and forth, depending on the circumstances).

  8. Janna on April 29th, 2011 1:53 pm

    Great writeup on Michael Scott. Best one I have read.

  9. Thomas on April 29th, 2011 3:22 pm

    Really nice piece Erik. There are few characters I’ve grown to care about quite as much as Michael Scott, its sad to see him moving on.

    Just as much a miss will be Steve Carell on TV on a weekly basis. Its been a treat to have him on our screens these past few years.

  10. theTVaddict on April 29th, 2011 4:39 pm

    Great Farewell Erik!

  11. Kerry on May 1st, 2011 12:58 am

    This was such a wonderful write up!