Around 2010, Steve Carell’s feature film career kicked into a higher gear with movies like Date Night, Despicable Me, Dinner for Schmucks, and Crazy, Stupid, Love. We were never really talking Tom Cruise, or even Will Ferrell here, so it’s strange that we all just jumped to the conclusion that Carell decided to leave The Office after the season’s seventh season to continue pursuing his feature-film career.
As it turns out, that’s not exactly true, either. According to Andy Greene’s new book, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, Steve Carell didn’t actually plan on leaving The Office. NBC just straight-up didn’t bother renewing his contract.
“As I recall, he was going to do another season and then NBC, for whatever reason, wouldn’t make a deal with him,” casting director Allison Jones told Greene. “Somebody didn’t pay him enough. It was absolutely asinine. I don’t know what else to say about that. Just asinine.”
The network apparently had an option on Carell’s contract, which they did not pick up after Carell mentioned offhand in a BBC interview that he was mulling over whether to stay. He did not, however, come to a definitive decision, but NBC made it for him by not offering him a deal to stay.
“He didn’t want to leave the show,” hairstylist Kim Ferry told Greene. “He had told the network that he was going to sign for another couple of years. He told his manager and his manager contacted them and said he’s willing to sign another contract. And the deadline came for when [the network was] supposed to give him an offer and it passed and they didn’t make him an offer.”
At the point when contract negotiations should have taken place, leadership at NBC was switching hands, from Jeff Zucker to Bob Greenblatt, who wasn’t a huge fan of The Office, because he was very much into the “broader is better” strategy that led to a slew of short-lived sitcom cancellations in the early 2010s. Instead of re-signing Steve Carell, Greenblatt preferred apparently to spend NBC’s money on The Michael J. Fox Show, Guys with Kids starring Anthony Anderson, Animal Practice starring Justin Kirk, Go On starring Matthew Perry, and 1600 Penn starring Jenna Elfman and Josh Gad. Remember those shows? Yeah, neither does anyone else, because they were disasters (actually, Go On was pretty good. The others were disasters, notwithstanding all of America wanting The Michael J. Fox Show to succeed).
“If you’re not respected and don’t even get offered a contract or a discussion of a future contract, then you move on,” The Office producer Randy Cordray told Greene, while Ferry further explained, “I feel bad because I think a lot of people think he did leave the show on his own merit and it’s absolutely not true. I’m telling you. I was there. He really wanted to stay. And it devastated all of us because he was the heart of our show.”
If Carell had stayed, maybe the show runs a couple more seasons and, more importantly, maybe we could have avoided that entire messy final season between Jim and Pam because we could have focused instead on Carell’s shenanigans. Also, we never would have had to contend with Ed Helms as manager.
Header Image Source: NBC