'The Office' will end next season

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NBC is closing The Office.

The veteran comedy — and NBC’s highest-rated scripted series (gulp!) — will conclude after the upcoming ninth season.

Despite its status as the network’s top entertainment program, the show fell to an all-time ratings low last season following the exit of Steve Carell and general sense among fans that the comedy’s best days were behind it. Now original showrunner (seasons 1-5) Greg Daniels is retaking the creative reins for one last season.

“This year feels like the last chance to really go out together and make an artistic ending for the show that pays off a lot of the stuff that matters most to fans,” Daniels announced to reporters Tuesday. “This will be the last season of The Office. And we’re planning a very big exciting last season. We’re going to have a lot of faces coming back … There are a lot of things that I’ve personally been wanting to do since season two … All questions will be answered this year. We’re going to see who’s behind the documentary … Now that we know we have an end date we can blow things up and take some chances and it will be very freeing, creatively.”

The decision was partly driven by the sense that many of the actors would likely not be around for a tenth season (either due to commitments on other projects, like Mindy Kaling and Rainn Wilson, or due to the rising cost of the show’s key players, like John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer). “You have a choice — only tell the beginning of story and the middle, or allow a story to end,” Daniels said. “If we didn’t let it end this year, I don’t think we would have been able to tell the ending stories of so many characters… we couldn’t count on getting everybody back for season 10.”

That said, creatively rebooting the show was considered. “You could see a world where new people keep coming on the show,” Daniels said. “But I think [we want to] do justice to the existing characters in the most creative and explosive way and that means the show will be changed to such a degree that if anything was to continue it wouldn’t be the same show.”

The showrunner said to expect some “crazy Dwight” stories, a lot of drama in the Jim and Pam storyline, to see Roy’s wedding and David Wallace running Dunder Mifflin. But will the show’s former star, Carell, be back? “We would certainly wish for it,” Daniels said. “We’re not going to put so much pressure on Steve by writing something that would only work if he would return. He really loves how he was exited. He’s probably anxious about not messing up such a stylish exit. It’s a perfectly legitimate point. We’ll see.”

Here’s Daniels talking to EW.com about The Office a few days ago (and much more vaguely):

EntertainmentWeekly: Broadly, what can fans expect to be new/different about season 9?
Greg Daniels: We will be doing more [character] arcs, and more drama in the Jim and Pam story line. We are planning some big surprises … I’m guessing the show will feel more like Dunder-Mifflin from before the Sabre merger [when former showrunner Paul Lieberstein took over].

Given the age of the show and the spinoff plans [The Farm], are you expecting to write a series finale next season?
Daniels: Considering we are still NBC’s highest-rated scripted show, with a cast of 17 all-stars, any decision about a series finale will be made for creative reasons only. [Which, clearly, have now been made].

What can you tell us about [new hire] Jake Lacy’s character, how does he impact things?
Daniels: Jake Lacy and Clark Duke are both hired to handle the enormous number of customer service complaints that Kelly [Mindy Kaling] neglected over the years. They are pals and in their mid 20s.
How much will David Denman [Roy -- Pam's former love interest] be in the show? And Mindy Kaling will be in two episodes?
Daniels: So far, David Denman and Mindy have shot one episode each. I hope to get a few more out of them before the season is over.
Any other new characters or departures that we don’t already know about?
Daniels: All you know about the season are a couple of scraps of hiring information that we couldn’t hide. The other surprises will impact on air.

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