NBC has set a date for the finale of its venerable comedy series The Office, the one true ratings hit in the network's well-respected but fading Thursday night comedy bloc. It will come to an end on May 16.
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The series finale, which is also the show's 200th episode, will be an hour long, and will presumably feature lots of big plot resolutions, surprising reveals, and a celebrity cameo or two. Though it will not feature original series star Steve Carell, who opted out of returning to the show. And that will be that. A big, successful NBC chapter closed, leaving the network to wander into an uncertain future one important man down.
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NBC is in pretty dire straits right now. The second season of Smash is a flop, 30 Rock is gone (though never terribly well-watched, it was at least a creative feather in the network's cap), one-time critical darling (and ratings underachiever) Community has begun to alienate viewers, and Do No Harm premiered to bad numbers while Deception struggles. The loss of The Office, though long-planned, comes as another blow. We should expect a pretty heavy promo blitz for the run-up to the finale, as the network tries to justify its hobbled existence and build momentum for next season.
One potentially bright spot on NBC's comedy horizon is the new pilot from Office player Ellie Kemper. She's just signed on to star in a pilot for the network called Brenda Forever, which is described as "a unique portrait of how a chubby, awkward but incredibly confident 13-year-old grew up to be a 31-year-old woman who still does her own thing." While it's a pretty concept-heavy premise — the show will feature present day storylines as well as extensive flashbacks — Kemper is a hot commodity after Bridesmaids, and women-led comedies are all the rage these days. Maybe NBC can draft off of that while they head into next fall and begin to rebuild their strongest programming night. In the meantime, we're all invited to The Office's months-long funeral. In lieu of flowers, please send viewers.