On Thursday night, after seven seasons of inappropriate-for-the-workplace jokes and countless sales calls, Michael Scott (and the actor who played him, Steve Carell) left The Office. And, among TV commentators, the clueless but caring boss's departure was a big, sentimental deal. Here, critics reflect on Michael Scott's passing:
He'd come a long way as a character: "When The Office began, it would have been hard to imagine that it would become a story of personal growth," says James Poniewozik in TIME. But, over seven seasons, Michael evolved dramatically as a character. "The show was really about Michael's search for family: Even more than he wanted to be a comedian or a movie director, Michael wanted to be a husband and a dad, but he had to go a long way to be ready for it."
"The Office watch: Leaving on a jet plane"
And he broke new ground: "Over the history of American sitcoms, there are few precedents for the kind of smart but obtuse, aggressive but sentimental, trying-to-be-hip but succeeding at being lovable employer that Carell's Scott became," says Ken Tucker in Entertainment Weekly. At first, as with the original Scott, played in the British version by Ricky Gervais, audiences were inclined to regard the character skeptically. "But ultimately, The Office earned the affection it wanted us to feel for Michael," something that would have been "unthinkable" with Gervais in the role.
"The Office and the final importance of Michael Scott"
He was a great boss: The show's fervent college-student fans may never toil away in one job, with the same boss and co-workers for years, says Hank Stuever in The Washington Post. "For them, The Office is the closest literal and metaphorical way to learn the common rhetoric of mundane, white-collar work." The show isn't just funny, it's also "a salve to so much hurt in the actual workplace." In that sense, "Michael Scott really was the best boss we'll ever have."
TV review: Carell cleans out his Office"
And uniquely American: Michael Scott was an immature man-child and in that way, he is "the quintessential American," says Bill Wyman in Slate. When the show began, George W. Bush — "Michael Scott writ large" — was president. Both men are just-smart-enough-fools who somehow ended up in charge. "This week, as Carrell leaves the role he has filled so indelibly for the past seven years, we are still coping with the effects of our own Michael Scott's reign" and an administration that was as poorly run as Dunder Mifflin.
"Steve Carell's achievement"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why you shouldn't eat dog. Not even once.
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- Why Israel can no longer let the Palestinian Authority be responsible for security in the West Bank
- Grammar quiz: Do you know the passive voice?
- How social conservatives became a minority in need of protection
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
- Why charity can't solve society's deepest problems
Subscribe to the Week