×

Review: ‘The Office’ Finale

For NBC and signature sitcom, this is one branch closure that came too late

SPOILER ALERT: If “The Officefinale is still waiting on your DVR, read no further.

“There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things.”

That rather poetic observation came from Pam (Jenna Fischer) in what amounted to the parting thought delivered during “The Officefinale, and in the show’s heyday, that was certainly true. Driven by a touching romance and filled with amusing characters, it was NBC’s best comedy for a long stretch – not only consistently funny, but more human than something like “30 Rock.”

Still, the last few seasons pushed the show well past its expiration date – not because there was still a lot of gas in the tank, necessarily, but rather NBC had nothing else to pick up the slack. So “The Office” trudged on, enduring cast defections, desperate subplots and odd flourishes while the audience gradually slipped away.

Thursday’s sendoff essentially ignored that part of the equation, and it was awash in warmth and inside gags, including cameos by not just Greg Daniels (who developed the show for U.S. consumption) but also his wife Susanne, currently president of programming at MTV, who played the moderator at a panel for the fictional documentary within the show.

Of course, good intentions couldn’t entirely erase some of the creative missteps, and using a wedding as the device to close out the series seemed a little bit trite. Nevertheless, it was hard not to feel that old spirit rekindled when Steve Carell showed up in a perfectly orchestrated cameo and responded to the line “I can’t believe you came” with the inevitable “That’s what she said.” Ditto for Ryan (B.J. Novak) and Kelly (Mindy Kaling) abandoning a baby, no less – along with her too-good-to-be-true date – to run off with each other.

Frankly, I had my doubts about the series embracing the whole nine-years-to-make-a-documentary-series narrative thread – at a certain point, the format simply became another part of the show, easy enough to ignore – but Daniels (who wrote the finale, directed by Ken Kwapis) found a way to pay it off, giving the various characters a chance to reminisce. And if that represented a touch of overkill after the hourlong retrospective that kicked off the night, forgive NBC for treating the final vestige of its Thursday-night-comedy, “Must-See TV” imprimatur like sitcom royalty.

(As a footnote, the episode comes 15 years and a couple of days after the “Seinfeld” finale, which averaged more than 76 million viewers. Good times. (UPDATE: Based on Nielsen data, “The Office” averaged 5.7 million viewers, a bump over recent results and its biggest audience since January 2012, but hardly a major surge of interest.)

In that sense, seeing “The Office” tie up its loose ends couldn’t help but be a nostalgic, bittersweet experience for anyone who admired the show along the way. Because despite Pam’s closing note, at its best “The Office” was far from ordinary and, even if its most-rewarding days were in the rear-view mirror, deserved to finish on top.

That’s what he said.

Review: 'The Office' Finale

More TV

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Health Plan Cuts Premiums by 50% Due to Coronavirus Crisis

    The SAG-AFTRA Health Plan has cut 50% from the cost of premiums for the second quarter in response to the coronavirus crisis. SAG-AFTRA members were notified of the reduction on Wednesday via a message from SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris and national executive director David White. They said the cuts would cover participants who had been [...]

  • Adam Schlesinger

    Tom Hanks, Rachel Bloom, Stephen Colbert, Stephen King Pay Tribute to Adam Schlesinger

    Whether it was the snarky but sincere pop of Fountains of Wayne and Ivy, the ‘60s retro of Tom Hanks’ “That Thing You Do!” or the Broadway fare of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Adam Schlesinger’s music reached far beyond his public profile. The master songwriter passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 52 from complications related [...]

  • Aline Brosh Mckenna Adam Schlesinger

    'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' Co-Creator Aline Brosh McKenna Pays Touching Tribute to Adam Schlesinger

    “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna paid a touching tribute to Adam Schlesinger on Twitter after the Emmy-winning songwriter and singer died Wednesday from coronavirus complications. Brosh McKenna took to the social media platform to fondly recall a moment from the writer’s room, “One day, when Adam, Rachel (Bloom) and Jack (Dolgen) were working, we [...]

  • Rick and Morty HBO Max

    Adult Swim Announces 'Rick and Morty' Season 4 Return Date

    Adult Swim has announced that the second half of Season 4 of “Rick and Morty” will premiere on May 3 at 11:30 p.m. The announcement was made today alongside a new trailer for the season’s remaining five episodes. Set to the upbeat chant of Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town,” the footage offers [...]

  • Jason Kilar

    New WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar on His Vision for the Future of Media

    By tapping Jason Kilar — the co-founder of Hulu and an Amazon veteran — to be its new CEO, AT&T-owned WarnerMedia is sending a signal that its future will be streamed. In a conversation with Variety just hours after the announcement, Kilar himself says as much. Kilar has known AT&T COO and current WarnerMedia CEO [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content