‘The Office’: Why Producers Demanded Steve Carell’s Michael Scott Be Made More Likeable After Season 1

If you’ve never happened to see The Office, it’s one of the most beloved American sitcoms of all time. It ran on NBC from 2005 to 2013 and starred a huge ensemble cast of characters that came to seem like close friends to those who watched over the years.

The premise of the show was that it was a mockumentary following the day-to-day life of everyone who worked at a mid-range regional paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania called Dunder-Mifflin. The show starred Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Mindy Kaling, and many others. 

The Office evolved over time in lots of different ways. For instance, the first half of the series focused on the will-they/won’t-they vibe between two characters, Jim (Krasinski) and Pam (Fischer). When the characters eventually get together, the show had to develop new arcs.

This gave them a chance to give special stories to every character on the show so that the series never got too stale. But almost no one had a more evolving character arc over time than Carell’s character, Michael Scott, regional manager.

‘The Office’ was truly huge in the early aughts

When the first season of The Office premiered in the U.S. back in 2005, it already had the makings of a hit. But what only some people knew back then is that it was actually based on a British series also called The Office which had premiered in 2001.

The original series was written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Gervais starred in the series as the central character, David Brent, who was a manager at a branch of the Wernham Hogg paper company.

When the show was adapted for the U.S., the paper company became Dunder-Mifflin, David Brent became Michael Scott, and they brought on Steve Carell to play the American counterpart to the character Gervais had originally created. Many of the storylines from the first season are based almost directly on episodes from the British series.

Still, the U.S. version ended up being the bigger international success and was on the air for much longer. Fans of each still debate which one they think is better overall. 

Fans of the show know Michael Scott was a little different in Season 1

At the beginning of the American version, Michael Scott was much more similar to his counterpart, David Brent. The problem is, American audiences didn’t really want to see a boss be as mean as the character that Gervais had made work so well in the UK.

One thing fans and critics didn’t like was that Scott seemed kind of pessimistic, which made them feel a bit pessimistic about the show in general. They wanted him to be less negative and more of an optimist so that he seemed more like a fumbling idiot than someone who is purposely cruel. He would have to have some heart and empathy in him if Americans were going to make space for him in their own hearts.

Producers decided to salvage the character by making him more likable

Steve Carell
THE OFFICE — “Performance Review” Episode 8 — Aired 11/15/2005 — Pictured: Steve Carell as Michael Scott — Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBCU Photo Bank

‘The Office’ Star Steve Carell Supported Writers By Shutting Down Production

Knowing they were sitting on a goldmine if they could just get it right, producers and writers tweaked Carell’s character for later seasons so that he was ultimately more likable and optimistic. Carell also brought a lot of his own famously likable personality to the character, making Michael Scott an unforgettable character in the history of American television.

Parade reports: “The first season of the show was the one that was most based on the British version of The Office. Critics hated it and no one felt optimistic about the show’s future. Producers responded by making Michael more optimistic and likable.”

It’s a good thing they did because critics had apparently thought the show would get canceled without the turnaround. Instead, it stayed on the air for 9 seasons, including after Carell left the show following season 7.

Plenty of the stars went on to become famous names, like John Krasinski and Mindy Kaling. Even one of the writers, Michael Schur (who played Dwight’s cousin, Mose) went on to have huge success developing shows like Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Good Place.