By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com April 25, 2011 at 1:37AM
It may have suffered somewhat in recent seasons from a dip in form, especially compared to the superior nature of most of the rest of the NBC comedy line-up -- "Community," "Parks and Recreation" and "30 Rock" -- but for the most part, we've immensely enjoyed the last seven seasons of "The Office." While it may not be as near-flawless as the BBC series on which it was based, it's remained remarkably consistent across over ten times the length, thanks to a star-making performance from lead Steve Carell, and one of the deepest, richest comedic ensembles around, one that's helped to launch names like John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer and Ed Helms, as well as some still on the up, like Mindy Kaling, Rainn Wilson and Ellie Kemper.
But with Carell now established as a genuine, fully fledged A-lister, the time's come for him to leave the show. Michael Scott is all set to leave Scranton, and Dunder Mifflin, to marry the love of his life, and Carell's final, hour-long episode will air this coming Thursday, leaving NBC with the question of how to sustain one of their few successful shows without the star who's carried it this far. And the answer, of course, is to bombard the final few episodes with a cluster of guest stars.
Will Ferrell is currently in the middle of an arc on the show, as Scott's immediate replacement, DeAngelo Vickers, but it's been clear that Ferrell won't be sticking with the show long term, and he is expected to be on his way within a few episodes. The season finale, which will air May 19th, already has a list of guest stars lined up as potential replacements for Carell, with Ricky Gervais, "Arrested Development" genius Will Arnett, "Everybody Loves Raymond" veteran Ray Romano, British comic Catherine Tate ("Gulliver's Travels") and Rosanna-Arquette-leg-fucker James Spader all set to make an appearance. And now one more name, the biggest of the lot, is joining them -- Jim Carrey.
Carrey and Carell go back a little way -- they were co-stars in the animation "Horton Hears A Who," and Carell first drew attention with a cameo in the Carrey vehicle "Bruce Almighty," so it's fitting that he's stepping in as a potential replacement here. It is, however, unlikely that the actor would stick around; while he's no longer quite the bulletproof A-lister he once was, he still commands a hefty quote, one which we imagine that NBC would be reluctant to splash out on. Still, a brief cameo is a smart move for the actor, who's making his return to the family comedy world in "Mr. Popper's Penguins," which lands in theaters on June 17th.
Indeed, with most of the candidates having other commitments in the near future -- bar the mostly unknown (in the States at least) Tate and the not-a-natural-fit-for-the-show Spader -- it's increasingly likely that the show will be promoting from within. Still, considering the talent involved, we're sure even those who've dropped off the show during the lean years will be curious to see how the finale turns out. The episode featuring Carrey airs on NBC on May 19th. [EW]