After a memorable, often-wonderful run, "The Office" is hardly coming to a premature end. The announcement the show is heading into its final season felt like something of a relief, frankly, even for those of us who have long admired it.

Having seen Steve Carell move on and James Spader come and go, there just didn't seem to be many
Jim-500x500more doors to open, or close. Other longtime regulars — like Mindy Kaling, taking on her own Fox series — have also moved on. Nine years, for almost any series, is more than enough, as the show's softening ratings attest.

Still, the notion of building toward a conclusion — which starts with this Thursday's season premiere — is always tricky, and the writers appear to be embracing the task with a couple of significant plot lines that will carry through the season, including a few unexpected twists.

Pam-500x500They also introduce two new characters, which, frankly, risks becoming more of a distraction from the show's core, though that's difficult to firmly establish from the busy opener.

Suffice it to say, without giving too much away, the episode lays the groundwork for people leaving, as happens with any office. At its best, "The Office" has delivered a balance of heart, wackiness and awkward situations, and the early days of the Pam-Jim relationship offer a how-to model for how to milk such a scenario over multiple seasons.

Hopefully the show can send them and the rest of the Dunder-Mifflin team out in style, and the premiere is for the most part promising. That said, the prospect of a spinoff seems increasingly unnecessary. The show and its characters simply feel played out.

Remember, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's original yielded a mere dozen episodes, plus a special. As much as I enjoyed this "Office," there shouldn't be any tears when they finally get around to closing the U.S. branch.

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On a separate front, NBC also made the "Parks and Recreation" premiere available, in which Amy Poehler's character, Leslie Knope, takes a trip to Washington, D.C.

I know the show has a near-rapturous (if small) core of fans, but every time I dip my toe back into it I still come away underwhelmed — including, in this case, the performances by three U.S. senators who make cameo appearances. I know they're not really actors, but if you're going to bring them on at least give them something to do.

By that measure, perhaps the field trip wasn't such a great idea. Even for "Parks" enthusiasts, in terms of comedy, the current Congress sets the bar pretty high.

 

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