Someone says Michael Scott and all you can hear are inappropriate jokes and “That’s what he/she said” punchlines. However, underneath it all, Steve Carell assures The Office fans that the boss is a good guy at heart. Throughout the extended run of the US series, The Office has had its fair share of dark comedy and openly inappropriate and uncomfortable behavior displayed on the screen.
The show became so famously (albeit intentionally) tone-deaf in the Noughties that most of its actors now unanimously agree that the series would not survive in the modern socio-political atmosphere in the entertainment industry and its audience demography. But here exists a punchline as well. The Office is meant to be tone-deaf when it comes to Michael Scott, and no matter how inappropriate the character can be at times, the show would not have rallied on for years without Steve Carell’s deadpan comedic character at the front and center of it all.
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Steve Carell Addresses Michael Scott’s Problematic Behavior
The Office begins and surges through the mid-to-late 2000s accompanied by Dunder Mifflin’s Michael Scott, portrayed brilliantly and unapologetically by actor/comedian, Steve Carell. The 40-Year-Old Virgin actor had at the very beginning of the show gotten down to psychoanalyzing the role that he was set to play. In 2005, at a panel, Carell accompanied by co-star Jenna Fischer claimed:
“He does not have a good learning curve. I thought more of a blank slate approach would be best for me. And then just do what I thought would be funny as that archetype of this boss. For me, the key to the character is the fact that he has no self-awareness and he can’t perceive how other people view him. And, occasionally throughout the series, we’re hoping, and in the first six we’ve tried, he gets little glimpses of how other people actually see him, and it’s horrifying to him.
His head would explode if he was actually filled with self-knowledge of who he was. He kind of tempers it, and it exists just below his brain line essentially.”
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Even though that does sound like Michael Scott, the sight of a grown man manifesting childlike petulance and stunted emotional maturity, who also happens to be responsible for the livelihood of his employees and the survival of an already struggling industry, is a scary one at best.
Michael Scott’s Six-Season Arc Throughout The Office
It was not a horrible feeling to have a boss who was more irresponsible than even the worst of the office employees. The fact allowed most of them (re: Jim and Pam) to pull pranks that gave them a temporary joy to make up for the dreary state of affairs that was required of the Scranton employees located within that infamous chili-smeared bullpen. But it was Michael Scott whose understanding of having a “fun work environment” that allowed The Office to be a show an (often cringe-inducing) unputdownable pleasure to watch.
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According to Steve Carell, around whose character the show is essentially structured, Michael Scott really created a situation that the actor likened to a “road to hell paved with good intentions.” The self-acclaimed “World’s Best Boss” was not an intentionally vindictive one and Carell claims that despite making everyone around him uncomfortable:
“I think he’s someone in need of a giant hug underneath it all. He’s a good guy at heart, and I think he’s not mean-spirited. He does things that are inappropriate and hurts people’s feelings all the time, but I think there is a difference between that and being mean.”
By the end of the seventh season, the rise of streaming created a non-negotiable situation for Steve Carell because of which his contract with NBC could not be extended beyond 2009. Despite the actor’s wish to come back to the show, creator Greg Daniels was left helpless in a situation where The Office would have to run its course for the final two seasons without Michael Scott at its center. The eventual send-off that the character then received was one that tampered down the chaotic bittersweet feelings of losing one of the most ineffective bosses in the history of white-collar jobs.
The Office is now available for streaming on Peacock.
Source: Television Critics Association Panel