Will Steve Carell really leave "The Office?"

  I'm not sure which is another way of saying "I have my doubts." Let me start this by saying that yes, of course "The Office" could go on without its key star, but it would also require a dramatic rethinking of the Dunder Mifflin "boss" role as well as immediate acceptance of the fact that the show would never even hope to replicate Michael Scott - the hopeless, wonderful, clueless, ADD-afflicted, self-absorbed, social inept lonely heart that we all love so much.

 That would then mean that the show would have to explore how a new boss would then interact with the current cast - assuming THEY all stick around once Carell leaves. Or: Would Jim (John Krasinski) simply become office boss (again?)

  Here's why I have my doubts Michael/Steve is leaving, and I'll lay them out in list fashion:

1.) There's an old show biz adage that you should "never leave a hit," and Carell would be leaving a hit - a bona fide hit that may not have vast numbers, but the right numbers, which also translates in DVD and iTunes sales.

2.) "The Office" is the best work he has ever done; the films have been OK (to simply bad), but not even remotely in the same league as "The Office." Carell can pretend he's "done enough" or "there's nothing left to explore here" (not his quotes, mine) but that would be self-delusional. Michael is endlessly interesting /odd/surprising. And after all these years, we really STILL do not know him.

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3.) NBC refuses to comment on his declaration that he plans to leave at the end of the seventh. That's almost a dead-giveaway that negotiations are in progress. Otherwise, they'd say "we wish Steve well and look forward to a fab seventh, etc etc."  Is this a negotiation over per-episode fees? Maybe, or maybe something else. Money is always the primary suspect.

 4.) Actors often declare their intention to walk all the time...Sheen, Gandolfini, Romano. Very few actually do when terms are met. Seinfeld was a rare exception, but believe me - if a show is a hit, and a network determines that person X is a key reason why said show is a hit, then the network will undertake every effort to maintain the alliance of person x with said show. Simply put, they'll pay up.


 5.) Is Carell playing a money game here? I have no idea, and for now, we all have to take him at his word - that he only wanted to stay seven years, and then move on. But I also have to wonder - how did he ever even KNOW it would last seven years, or far far beyond the short run of the BBC version it was based upon? It's always easiest to assume money is a factor (my hunch is he pulls around $750-800,000 per episode, but will do a little more research) because it almost always is. The network may be perfectly happy to give him a huge bump but also knows that if it does, the rest of the cast will line up as well, as they did so famously in the case of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Seinfeld." There are (at least) four other key cast members that could assault the network, "Seinfeld"-style - Rainn Wilson, Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and Ed Helms, then at least six others who could/would get in line too - B.J. Novak, Leslie David Baker, Brian Baumgartner (imagine "The Office" without HIM?!), Angela Kinsey (or HER?!), Kate Flannery, Mindy Kaling, Creed Bratton, Oscar Nunez, and Craig Robinson. Am I missing anyone? Probably.

  Final point: "The Office" isn't forever, and nothing is. But I suspect Carell will re-up for one additional season, an eighth, which will allow him the victory lap he deserves, and buy the show and network time to determine whether it goes on beyond an 8th, or simply come to an end.