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'The Office' to end next season

Rainn Wilson craved authority as Dwight Schrute in

Rainn Wilson craved authority as Dwight Schrute in "The Office," but in his new series he'll be leading a squad of detectives. Credit: Handout

"The Office," one of the classic comedies of the modern television era, will end next season, the show's executive producer Greg Daniels  announced Tuesday during a conference call.

The news, alas, is not even remotely surprising and -- doubtless to some fans -- even a relief.  The Steve Carell-less "Office" had its good moments, many of them, but the feng shui -- so to speak -- of Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch under Ed Helms simply never gelled. He's a great comic actor, Helms -- just not a great replacement for Carell.

But that was to be expected. No one could replace Carell. Moreover, "The Office" -- as 7-year-old series invariably get -- is now officially winded. The jokes no longer seem quite as fresh, the poignant moments no longer quite as poignant.  There were (as mentioned) some excellent episodes last year, but simply not enough.

What's a bit weird in all this is that "30 Rock" is also going, effectively leaving "Parks and Recreation" to assume the comedy mantle. You can be assured "Animal Practice" will not fill the void.

In comments during the conference call, Daniels said -- possibly a bit facetiously, with tongue planted in cheek -- that "all questions will be answered." F'r-instance? Well, viewers will finally get to see who's producing the documentary. (And let the fourth wall come tumbling down!)

 "Now that we know we have an end date we can blow things up and take some chances," Daniels said, "and it will be very freeing, creatively."

But will former regional manager Michael Scott return? Daniels said he hoped Steve Carell will reprise his role, but he isn't counting on it. Carell left in 2011.

Daniels added, "this year feels like the last chance for us to go out together and to make an artisitc ending for the show that pays off a lot of stuff that matters most to fans." Some thought had been given to a total reboot, saying producers could "see a world where new people keep coming into the show but ultimatly this feeling of family and wanting to wrap up these arcs and to do justice to the existing characters" prevailed.

 The ninth - and now final - season will begin Sept. 20.

Photo: Rainn Wilson plays Dwight Schrute in "The Office,"  episode 717, "The PDA."

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