NBC’s The Office was at first viewed with so much skepticism — the Yankee version of Ricky Gervais’ beloved UK cult favorite series. Yet by the second season, the Thursday comedy found its own voice and its quirky ensemble of struggling office drones was embraced by fans and critics. Its docu-style helped launch a TV trend away from studio-based sitcoms and gave NBC a much-needed anchor on TV’s most competitive night. Last year, after nine seasons, The Office closed its doors. Below creator Greg Daniels looks back on the final episode.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how did the final season come about?
Greg Daniels: John Krasinski and Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak were pretty confident that we should have a final season. And when they first suggested at the end of season 8, I thought, “Let’s keep trying to go as long as we can.” But as we got it underway, I actually thought it was a great move, and I got really on board because it opened up a lot of stories, and it felt very good to ultimately have an end.
Did you know what the final story was going to be? Did you change your mind over the years?
Daniels: It was always kind of a reunion show. The part about Dwight’s wedding came awhile later. I think it wouldn’t have been possible to have predicted exactly where we would be with all the characters early on because the show kept on getting picked up and different storylines were resolved and other ones were started.
In terms of having Michael Scott there—how much discussion was there about that?
Daniels: Well, there wasn’t any discussion about it. It was just like, obviously, it would be great to have him and not great to make a big deal out of it because [the finale] wasn’t going to be about his character because he hadn’t been there [since the seventh season]. It wouldn’t have been a big finale without him.
How much did fan desires affect the story, if at all?
Daniels: I don’t think it played in. It was important for them to not know about Steve Carrell appearing, but the show was so important to those of us who worked on it. If some online chatter had disagreed with what I would have wanted, I don’t think I would have paid much attention to it.
What about the network? What were their feelings about the ending? Did they have any input?
Daniels: No, they were super supportive. They wanted it to be done the way we wanted to do it and helped us strategize about how to pull it off. That’s all. Well actually … you know, we didn’t tell them about Steve. They didn’t know about Steve and the line producer was a little nervous about it, I think he was afraid he was going to lose his job. But we shot the Steve stuff and we kept it out of the dailies and didn’t tell them about it. At the table reading, we gave the Steve Carell lines to Creed.
Did you think about leaving the door opened for future spin-off or movie, apart from the Dwight farm project?
Daniels: In retrospect, the [finale] reunion would have been a good movie, but no. The feeling was to just to go out with the satisfying ending.
What’s your take on how much scrutiny finales get now? How much did that weigh over you and did it make it tempting to play it safer?
Daniels: Good question. I was aware that there were certain shows where the finale didn’t leave me feeling satisfied, and I thought [the writers’ approach to those finales] didn’t really get what everybody loved about their show. I certainly was trying to avoid that. You put so much into a show and it’s been on for so many years, your main concern is to do the characters and the other people working on the show justice. I didn’t feel that nervous about it because I felt like, well, who’s gonna know how to end it better than the people who were there? And I felt like after thinking about the characters for so many years, I knew what was an appropriate ending.
What is the best series finale that you’ve ever seen?
Daniels: I think the one we just did—The Office. No, what was the best series finale? Cheers was good, I think, it was very satisfying as I recall. Newhart was totally the most memorable.
Having gone through that experience, has it sort of impacted your feelings of how you might approach Parks and Recreation if that should have a heads up for a final season?
Daniels: Oh no. Because you have to be satisfied as you live through [each season]. You can’t plan that when the show starts in season 2, you can’t say, “I gotta save everything for the season 9 finale.” You have to throw it up there and make it as interesting as you can or you don’t get to have the season 9 finale. So I don’t really think it would change anything.