‘The Office’: Jenna Fischer Was ‘Disappointed’ That the Cast Let ‘Fear’ Drive Certain Situations in Season 8
The Office was a wildly popular comedy that aired for nine seasons on NBC. After Steve Carell left his iconic role of Michael Scott in season 7, many fans thought The Office would end. Instead, the show continued for two more seasons. Jenna Fischer, who played Pam Beesly, wished the cast would have trusted themselves to do one thing during the show’s final two seasons.
The changing landscape of the entertainment business played a role in Steve Carell’s exit from ‘The Office’
In 2011, the entertainment industry saw a shift in how people were consuming content. They no longer had to tune in to see a show when it aired. Instead, many people streamed content. Suddenly, networks had to compete with DVR and streaming services like Netflix.
This change scared network executives. As pointed out on Office actor Brian Baumgartner’s podcast, An Oral History of The Office, the networks didn’t understand that viewers weren’t disinterested in The Office — they were just watching it in other ways. Executive producer Ben Silverman explained how the press and television networks were unprepared to support streaming.
This change in the landscape had an impact on Carell’s contract. Comcast purchased a controlling stake in NBC Universal in December 2009. Distracted by the advent of streaming, the new executives couldn’t negotiate a contract to keep Carell around.
‘The Office’ just wasn’t the same without Steve Carell — and the cast knew it
For many fans, The Office is Michael Scott.
“Once Michael Scott [left The Office], it [had] to become something different,” television critic Emily VanDerWerff said on the podcast. “It never quite figured out how to become different in an interesting way. It’s a tricky thing to do when you have to replace the center of a show. I don’t think The Office managed it, but I don’t think any show ever has. You can’t do that.”
Much of The Office cast agreed. When Carell left, the story became about finding the a new boss for the Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch. The likes of James Spader, Rainn Wilson, and Ed Helms stepped into the role, but not before several stars made a guest appearance on the show.
Jenna Fischer wished ‘The Office’ cast trusted themselves to continue the show without Steve Carell
When Carell left The Office, stars like Spader, Ray Romano, Jim Carrey, Will Arnett, Warren Buffett, and Catherine Tate were interviewed in the “Search Committee” episode. Ultimately, Jim Halpert (John Krasinski), Gabe Lewis (Zach Woods), and Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein) decided Spader’s Robert California was the best fit.
While he was welcomed to the team with open arms, Fischer wishes The Office cast trusted themselves instead of relying on Spader’s star power.
“It [has] always disappointed me that we didn’t trust in our core office group enough to continue the show without bringing in what I think we thought we needed,” Fischer explained to Baumgartner on the podcast.
Fischer explained how bringing in “big guest actors” as contenders for the regional manager position was a decision driven by “fear” instead of what was best for the show.
Ultimately, John Krasinski is why ‘The Office’ ended after season 9
Though Fischer wishes things were handled differently in the final seasons of The Office, the truth is the show was always going to end in season 9, thanks to Krasinski.
“Krasinski said, ‘Look, I think we need to do our last season,'” writer Greg Daniels explained to Baumgartner. “He was the leader [in driving that decision].”
“I had a very honest conversation with Greg,” Krasinski added. “He called me about season 9 and said, ‘What do you think?’ and I said, ‘You have to end the show.'” Krasinski wanted to end the show on the highest note possible before the network decided to end it for them.
“I remember that feeling of like, we don’t want to be taken out back…” Krasinski joked. “I don’t want to go behind the shed.” Baumgartner agreed wholeheartedly. “I remember being conflicted, but ultimately I felt like [ending the show] was the right decision.”
Fortunately, showrunners followed Krasinski’s advice before leaning into any more of the fear-based decisions Fischer mentioned.