Is "The Office" still a comedy ? That isn't merely a rhetorical question.
The long-awaited finale in which Michael Scott [Steve Carell] says goodbye to Scranton branch was big on poignancy but the comedy was almost non-existent. Scott's tenure as the loopy, clueless Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch, ends not with a bang but with a wimper -- that's what she said.
What is it about TV swan songs that leave us disappointed ? MASH, Seinfeld, Friends, The Sopranos... you name it. Viewers counted down to their finales each time and then wondered why they bothered.
Of course "The Office" is staying on the air; it's just the boss that is leaving. [The character moved to Boulder, CO to be with his fiancee Holly Flax.]
It's just a shame that ol' Michael got such a poor send-off, including by his own staff. Michael pulled a fast one by telling everyone the wrong date he was leaving. A sad sense of irony then that the character who would throw office parties for any lame reason imaginable didn't even have a fete to mark his own departure.
The expanded 50-minute episode was so tinged in sadness and pathos that first-time viewers might not have realized that this was a sitcom. The episode opened with Michael and Dwight Schrute [Rainn Wilson] on the roof of the office building with Michael explaining that promoting Dwight wasn't his call. The scene played out with no jokes-- just a somber, droning conversation.
Michael later meets with the Party Planning Committee to discuss the details of his farewell party, which is set for the next day. Pam Halpert [Jenna Fischer] finds it odd that Michael doesn't want any of the usual things that he firmly insisted on in the past.
We later find out that Michael won't be attending the party...he arranged to fly to Colorado at the end of the work day to start his new life with Holly. Michael's final day at Dunder Mifflin is spent personally saying goodbye to staff members who don't realize that he's leaving a day early.
He plays paint ball with Dwight; gives his beloved St.Paulie Girl beer sign to Ryan Howard [BJ Novak]; and gives his best clients to Andy Bernard [Matt Healms], who promptly loses the first account he calls.
New manager D'Angelo Vickers [Will Ferrill] takes Andy out on a sales call to save the lost account, to disastrous results. Unfortunately, this subplot didn't add much-needed comic relief.
The episode's best scene involved Michael with longtime Number Two Jim Halpert [John Krasinski], the show's steady voice of reason. Halpert figured out Michael was secretly leaving early and tells him that he was the best boss he ever had.
The final scene has Michael at Scranton Airport, removing his microphones for the nebulous office documentary that's been in the works for 6 years. He tells the cameraman "let me know if it ever airs." Pam gets by airport security and gives Michael a hug goodbye. There's a final "that's what she said"...and fade to black.
Sorely missing from the episode was Holly Flax [Amy Adams], who appeared only briefly via telephone [off-screen]. Those who were expecting another 'Office' wedding were disappointed.
It's too bad that Michael Scott, the television character, received such an underwhelming send-off. The clueless boss brought to life by Steve Carell will surely go down in the annals of TV history with other memorable characters like Fonzie, Mr. Spock, Archie Bunker and Benjamin "Hawkeye" Pierce. Come to think of it, those characters didn't get suitable final episode send-offs, either.
In reality, "The Office" jumped the shark two seasons ago. Since then, only a hand full of episodes have been consistently funny. But we'll always have Seasons 1 through 4 on DVD.