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Sunday, April 24, 2011

WEEKEND REWIND: Steve Carell on "The Office"

This Thursday will mark the end of an era as The Office will air its final episode with star Steve Carell. I am not going to use this space to speculate on whether The Office will or will not be able to survive but rather to reflect on one of the greatest characters ever seen on a sitcom - Michael Scott - and the layered and dynamic performance delivered by Carell.

The character of Michael Scott should be a character the audience doesn't like - he's incompetent, sexist, racist, selfish, and obnoxious. Yet somehow he became someone you rooted for, someone you occasionally felt sorry for, and someone who you wanted to succeed. Part of it was due tot he writing but a great deal of it was due to Carell's portrayal of Michael Scott. His Michael Scott was earnest, someone who genuinely wanted to please everyone even if he had no idea how to do it. He wanted to be good at his job and wanted people to like him and despite how often he annoyed them, it's clear there was some love and respect for the boss from the employees of Dunder Mifflin. Michael also had a parade of women who he didn't know how to handle but from the minute he met Holly, we wanted them to end up together. And end up together, they will (at least it seems). Michael got his happy ending and he deserves it.

There were very few episodes where Michael did not have a redeeming moment, and sometimes it came when we (the audience) or the characters on the show were at their wit's end. After he ruins the "booze cruise" with obnoxious behavior, he tells an upset Jim to "never ever ever give up" in such an earnest way that it pulls at the heart strings. After he storms out of Ryan's business class with a completely unprofessional meltdown, he shows up at Pam's art show and brings her (and us) nearly to tears because he was the only one who cared enough to show up.

Of course, those factors are what made Michael Scott such a dynamic and classic character in sitcom history. He was also hilarious and no one could ever play the role the way Steve Carell could in that respect either. He had a gift for comedic timing that was seen in his attacks on Toby, his adventures with Dwight, and his many awkward office interactions. Dunder Mifflin will never be the same without Michael Scott and The Office will never be the same without Steve Carell. Thanks for the memories, world's best boss.

By the way, it's a crime that Steve Carell hasn't won the Emmy for this role. Even though this season wasn't his strongest, he should win this year just to fix that glaring error.

These are not my Top 15 favorite episodes of the show, but the best Michael episodes. Each includes a quote from him in the episode.

"Diversity Day"
15. #2 "Diversity Day" (first aired: March 29, 2005)
We get an early glimpse of Michael making a fool of himself when he decides to take over "diversity training" despite the fact that it was Michael's racist joke that brought on the training. "How come Chris Rock can do a routine and everybody finds it hilarious and groundbreaking and then I go and do the exact same routine, same comedic timing, and people file a complaint to Corporate? Is it because I'm white and Chris is black?"

14. #121 "Happy Hour" (first aired March 25, 2010)
We are introduced to "Date Mike" in this episode when Michael tries to impress a date set-up for him by Pam. And unfortunately, Date Mike is even more annoying than Michael Scott. "Hi I'm Date Mike. Nice to meet me. How do you like your eggs in the morning?"

13. #100 "Company Picnic" (first aired May 14, 2009)
Michael and Holly are reunited at a Dunder Mifflin company picnic. They put on a hilariously awkward skit and bond all day but Holly is with someone else, leading Michael to speculate on their future. "I didn't find that perfect moment, because I think that today was just about having today. And I think we are one of those couples with a long story, when people ask how they found each other. I will see her every now and then, and maybe one year she'll be with somebody and the next year, I'll be with somebody, and it's gonna take a long time... and then it's perfect. I'm in no rush."

12. #56/57 "Dunder Mifflin Infinity" (first aired October 4, 2007)
Ryan is Michael's new boss and instituting many technology changes which Michael resists. His attempts to prove that the old-fashioned way of doing business is still the best leads to him driving his car into a lake and angrily demanding the return of a gift basket from former clients. "I drove my car into a ****ing lake. Why you may ask did I do this? Well, because of a machine. A machine told me to drive into a lake. And I did it! I did it because I trusted Ryan's precious technology and look where it got me."

"The Deposition"
11. #65 "The Deposition" (first aired November 15, 2007)
In another episode in the long and disastrous relationship of Michael and Jan, Michael must testify at a deposition after Jan has been fired by Dunder Mifflin. While he eventually supports the company and not his girlfriend, it is an uncomfortable process full of hilarity including the reading of Michael's diary. "You expect to get screwed by your company, but you never expect to get screwed by your girlfriend."

10. #48 "Safety Training" (first aired April 12, 2007)
Much like in "diversity day," the office is required to go through safety training after Michael has an incident. But when the group doesn't seem to take things seriously, he takes to the roof with a planned mock suicide jump (to a bounce house castle). This episode also has a great sight gag when they test the jump to a trampoline by using a watermelon that hits Stanley's car. "I saved a life. My own. Am I a hero? I really can't say. But yes."

9. #7 "The Dundies" (first aired September 20, 2005)
We are introduced to a great tradition at Dunder Mifflin - Michael Scott's disastrous emceeing of the Dundies. As expected, his brand of humor does not go well in a slightly offensive and off-color awards show. "Was this year's Dundies a success? Well let's see, I made Pam laugh so hard, that she fell out of her chair, and she almost broke her neck. So I killed. Almost."

8. #145 "Garage Sale" (first aired March 24, 2011)
In a very recent episode, Michael proposes to Holly in a beautiful set-up. This was the happy ending that we all wanted Michael to have and that he got. Even though it means he has to leave Dunder Mifflin, he gets to be with the love of his life. "This is where I fell in love with you. And this is where I ask you to marry me... Holly Flax, marrying me will you be?"

"A Benihana Christmas"
7. #38/39 "A Benihana Christmas" (first aired December 14, 2006)
Michael's Christmas is ruined when he pushes too hard with girlfriend Carol and she breaks up with him. After trying to cancel Christmas, he drowns his sorrows at Benihana and thinks he finds a new soulmate in an Asian waitress, only to get her confused with another Asian waitress he brings back, which lead to the hilarious moment of Michael marking her arm with marker to tell them apart. "Bros before hos. Why? Because your bros are always there for you. They have got your back after your ho rips your heart out for no good reason. And you were nothing but great to your ho and you told her that she was the only ho for you. And that she was better than all the other hos in the world. And then suddenly, she's not yo' ho, no mo'"

6. #28 "Casino Night" (first aired May 11, 2006)
This is my all-time favorite episode of The Office for many reasons and Michael is one of the many. Though not the central character in the episode, he has many hilarious lines and moments. But most of all is his perfect chastizing of Toby, one of the best lines in the entire show. "Why are you the way that you are? Honestly, every time I try to do something fun or exciting, you make it... not that way. I hate so much about the things that you choose to be."

5. #29 "Gay Witch Hunt" (first aired September 21, 2006)
Michael finds out that there is someone gay in the office and, with right-hand man Dwight, he tries to figure out who it is. When its discovered that it's Oscar, Michael "raises the stakes" (an unscripted moment from Steve Carell) and kisses Oscar during a meeting. "I'm glad that today spurred social change. That's part of my job as regional manager. But you know what? Even if it didn't, at least we put this matter to bed. That's what she said. Or he said."

4. #18 "The Injury" (first aired January 12, 2006) 
Michael burns his foot on a George Foreman grill and spend the rest of the episode at the office exaggerating the injury and basically being a big baby about it. Only Michael would burn his foot on a grill in his bedroom. "I don't want any special treatment Pam. I just want you to treat me like you would some family member who's undergone some sort of serious physical trauma. I don't think that's too much to ask." 

3. #71/72 "Goodbye Toby" (first aired May 15, 2008)
Michael is on cloud nine because nemesis Toby is leaving for Costa Rica. But it gets even better for him when he meets Holly, Toby's replacement. From the very beginning when Michael and Holly bond on the floor of the office, it's clear that Holly is the rarest of women - one who's perfect for Michael Scott. "I'm downloading some N3Ps for a CD mix tape for Holly and I'm looking for perfect songs that work on two levels... the two levels being 'Welcome to Scranton' and 'I love you.'"

"The Convict"
2. #37 "The Convict" (first aired November 30, 2006)
Perhaps Steve Carell's funniest moment came in this episode when Michael discovers one of the new employees from the merger with Stamford spent time in jail. This leads to the best of Michael's many characters - "Prison Mike" - lecturing the staff on why Dunder Mifflin is better than prison. It's comedy gold. "Close your eyes. Picture a convict. What's he wearing? Nothing special, baseball cap on backwards, baggy pants... he says something ordinary like 'yo that's shizzle.' Okay now slowly open your eyes again. Who are you picturing? A black man? Wrong. That was a white woman. Surprised? Well, shame on you."

1. #45 "Business School" (first aired February 15, 2007)
As mentioned above, this is the best example of Michael being a redeeming character. He spends the episode bombing as a guest speaker in Ryan's business class and then throwing a tantrum. But he is the one staff member who shows up to support Pam at her art show, and he is genuinely impressed with her work. No quote could convey how great a scene this is so I won't use one but this scene is what makes us love Michael so much. He has a clear desire to make people happy and be a good person. However flawed he may be in carrying that out, this great character will be missed tremendously.


  1. Glad to see the love for The Convict. Nobody ever seems to list that as an elite episode, but that was the one that truly hooked me; thought Prison Mike was so hilarious. I'd started watching early in season 3 and thought it was decent up to that point, but after The Convict I bought seasons 1 & 2 on iTunes and burned through it all in the two weeks before Benihana Christmas.

  2. helpful post.