When it became clear that this season would be Carell’s last on the NBC series, it was widely assumed that the last we would see of Michael Scott would be in the season finale. But executive producer Paul Lieberstein (who also plays HR rep Toby) says Carell’s last episode will come before then, and the end of the season will focus on the search for his replacement.
In interviews with Vulture and IGN, Lieberstein says that while “The Office” will build to Michael’s departure over several episodes in the coming months, he and his fellow writers wanted to show viewers some of the aftermath before Season 8 begins.
“Deep in the DNA of the show is a boss who will not make great decisions and start up comedic stories,” he tells IGN. “That’s important to maintain. But we’re also going to try to stick with the reality of how everyone reacts to a job opening like that.”
Once Michael does leave, a number of people will jockey for his job — from both inside and outside Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch. Co-exec producer and cast member Mindy Kaling says her character, the recently management-trained Kelly Kapoor, could be one of the internal candidates: “People who aren’t necessarily qualified to be the boss are sometimes put in positions that management hopes they grow into,” she tells Vulture. “And the boss [doesn’t have] to be the starring role. Most shows are about all the underlings. I could see a world where Kelly becomes the boss, and it’s not a show about Kelly.”
Kathy Bates has also said she’ll return to “The Office” as Jo Bennett, the CEO of Dunder Mifflin’s parent company, and the search for Michael’s replacement sounds like a natural way to bring her back.
The news of Carell leaving before the end of the season took us a bit by surprise, but the more we think about it, the more we can see the logic behind it. As Lieberstein tells Vulture, “It was about focusing the spring on the office and everybody else, and not just a character going. If the show was ending, it would be about that. But it’s not.”