‘The Office’: Alternate Ending for Series Was Symbolic and Sentimental

Fans of The Office recall how the two-part series finale in May 2013 tied up all the loose ends and featured the return of Steve Carell in the role of notorious Dunder Mifflin manager Michael Scott. But did you know that U.S. creator Greg Daniels had written and shot another ending, just waiting in the can in case Daniels changed his mind about the original ending? If you can’t remember the last scene, The Office is still on Netflix for the next few months. It moves to Peacock in January 2021. 

‘The Office’ had a documentary setup

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The Office was a mockumentary–a fake documentary that revolved around the lives of the staff of generic sort of company in Anytown, USA. Of course, most offices aren’t managed by a Michael Scott, and most don’t have the colorful cast of characters that the writers of The Office created. 

Daniels used documentary techniques to film the series. There was only one camera, while most sitcoms have three. Also unlike most sitcoms, there was no live studio audience or a laugh track, so each episode looked and sounded more like a documentary than a typical sitcom. 

Legendary British writer Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant created The Office for the BBC, and it ran for a couple of seasons. Gervais said that, in his opinion, “drama is real life with the boring parts taken out” and that he was “obsessed with the boring bits….with the minutiae of an excruciating social faux pas.” So, Michael Scott. 

Dunder Mifflin reflected reality for many fans

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The ups and downs of Dunder Mifflin (Scranton branch) did reflect a slice of real-life for fans. The series started in 2005 and ran through the 2008 recession, ending in 2013 when the U.S. economy had pretty much recovered.

During its run, The Office tackled downsizing, the possibility of downsizing, corporate buyouts, and of course, office drama and romance. Gervais himself says that Steve Carell’s character, Michael Scott, could never be written in today’s cultural climate. He would have flunked basic sensitivity training before he ever got a management position. 

One thing that made The Office unique is that four members of the cast doubled as writers. BJ Novak (Ryan), Mindy Kaling (Kelly), Paul Lieberstein (Toby), and Michael Schur (Mose) are all A-list writers away from The Office.

Daniels wanted a sentimental finale

When the time came for the series finale, Daniels wanted to end on a sentimental note. In this two-part episode, the Dunder Mifflin documentary had aired the previous year, and the staff were mini-celebrities in the Scranton area.

Most had moved on from DM but came back to shoot footage for the DVD, and to attend regional manager Dwight’s wedding to Angela (finally!). Michael made an appearance, but it was a small role since Carell had left the series a couple of years earlier.

Pam and Jim announced they were moving to Texas for Jim to give Athleap (formerly Athlead) another chance. It’s all a lot of happy endings with a serving or two of just desserts. Stanly retires, Ryan and Kelly run away together, Oscar goes into politics, and Kevin and Toby are both fired.

Creed gets arrested, whether all his crimes are accounted for is anybody’s guess. Pam takes her watercolor of the building off the wall, and the scene closes with a shot of the building. Cue the awws and the sniffly tears.

Planty! Planty!

Jenna Fischer of 'The Office'
Jenna Fischer of ‘The Office’ | Byron Cohen/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

A plant that has been at the Dunder Mifflin office since the beginning is still there. The group notices the plant as they head upstairs, and they decide they need a grand final gesture–taking the plant outside and putting it in the ground in front of the building. They dig a hole to plant it deep in the soil, chanting “Planty, Planty” while they garden.

According to director Ken Kwapis, Daniel’s idea was to end the show with a shot of the sun coming up over the building the next morning. The sun rising over the new plant at Dunder Mifflin was symbolic of the legacy of the old staff, even though newlywed Dwight remained at the helm.