It's hard to walk away from a good thing, which is presumably why so many athletes try to eke out a few more seasons past their peak years. Like some lumbering baseball slugger who can no longer hit his weight, NBC's once stellar sitcom hit, "The Office," just can't seem to call it quits, despite the fact that its star power has dimmed, its writing has become juvenile, and its storylines go nowhere. In fact, even though the network itself has not committed to bringing back "The Office" for a ninth season, the cast is apparently amped at the prospect of a return in the fall of 2012. That's the sentiment expressed by Jenna Fischer (Pam) in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, and it frankly smacks of a certain measure of desperation.
Before Season 7, w hen Steve Carell (Michael Scott) announced that he was leaving the show in the spring of 2011, a mad scramble ensued to develop a business continuity plan for "The Office" that would presumably set the stage for a smooth transition to a world of post-Michael hilarity. Instead, writers baited their audience with flimsy promises of big developments and an answer to who would assume managerial duties in Scranton. With Carell several episodes in the rearview mirror, the show wrapped in May with no answers on the table.
The waffling did little to instill confidence in fans and led to a circus atmosphere into which was injected a bevy of celebrities supposedly vying for a permanent gig on "The Office." The uncertainty continued into Season 8, when James Spader (Robert California) was introduced as the new honcho, only to reveal that he had staged a coup over the summer. By wiggling into the CEO's office, California again left the local boss's chair empty, a spot eventually filled by Dwight (Rainn Wilson), Andy (Ed Helms) and, most recently, Nellie (Catherine Tate). It's been a maddening carousel that has sometimes distracted viewers from the declining strength of the dialogue.
And now, after all of the gymnastics and lousy writing of the last two seasons, the stars of "The Office" want more? It's not really surprising, given that shows this successful come along only once or so (at best) in a given career, but there is probably some dignity in walking away before the whole thing collapses under its own weight. Human nature and past experience tell us that won't happen, but it might be best for all concerned to just pull the plug this May.
Of course, there is no way that NBC would even entertain the idea of bringing back "The Office" next fall if fans weren't still watching, and we are, of course. It's hard for us to let go, too.