Steve Carell hasn't made it official, but his contract with "The Office" (NBC, 9 p.m.) ends after next season, and he told a media outlet that he wouldn't renew.
Of course, that could just be a ploy by Carell to strong-arm NBC into a better deal, but I kind of doubt it.
At that point, Carell would have seven years of playing Michael Scott under his belt, and it's possible that he might be feeling like it's time for a change at this point.
Certainly, "The Office," while still one of the best sitcoms on TV, isn't as sharp as it was a few seasons ago. Ratings have dipped for the series, though on NBC's schedule, it remains a top program.
Carell has launched into a very solid film career and doesn't really need the exposure "The Office" gave him any more. (Nor do John Krashinski, Jenna Fischer, BJ Novak, Rainn Wilson or Ed Helms, who also have solid movie prospects, while actors/writers Mindy Kaling and Paul Lieberstien could get jobs at the drop of a hat).
The US version of the show could take a hint from the UK version, which ended after 13 episodes because creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant felt like it had run its course.
The loss of "The Office" would be devastating to the rest of NBC's Thursday lineup, which needs that anchor to help the ratings of the other shows, which are all good but don't have the ratings "The Office" delivers. Considering all the problems NBC's development department has had over the past few years, it's hard to imagine they could come up with a better option at this point.
But continuing without Carell would be a non-starter. He can't simply be replaced with another comedian playing another character. One could imagine them trying a "Frasier"-like spinoff with some of the show's characters, but many times that works out to be a "Joey" instead of a "Frasier."
It will be an interesting situation to keep an eye on.
THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Sam and Dean get help from a demon to find the remaining Horsemen on "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.), after a new "Vampire Diaries" at 8 p.m. Personally, Matt Frewer really creeped me out last week, so I hope they dispose of him quick.
Dmitri survived his assassination attempt on "FlashForward," (ABC, 8 p.m.), but D. Gibbons wasn't so lucky, a shame since he was the show's coolest character. It's followed by new episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice."
Malcolm McDowell guest stars on "The Mentalist" (CBS, 10 p.m.), following new episodes of "Survivor" and "CSI."
Finally, "Fringe" (Fox, 9 p.m.) gets into Walter's head and turns the episode into a musical, following a new "Bones." "Fringe has really hit its stride over the last month, so I'm eager to see what they've cooked up tonight.
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