Aug. 21, 2012 at 2:31 PM ET
NBC's "The Office" will end after the upcoming ninth season, it was announced on a conference call to reporters on Tuesday.
Executive producer Greg Daniels will return as showrunner for the final year -- taking over from Paul Lieberstein, who is prepping a potential spinoff. Daniels ran the show, still NBC's highest-rated scripted series, for the first five seasons.
"As we head into the home stretch, we have a lot of exciting things I've been wanting to do since season two," Daniel told reporters. "The end should be pretty cool."
Daniels, who was on-set during the call, called it the "last chance" for the crew "to go out" the way he had envisioned, noting that "familiar faces [will be] coming back" as well as welcoming new cast members like Jake Lacy and Clark Duke for what may be an "emotional" ending for some.
"At some point you have a choice: to always tell the beginnings of stories and the middles or to allow a story to end and I think endings can be very powerful and meaningful pieces of the story," said Daniels, who shared that NBC entertainment president Bob Greenblatt was supportive of the season nine plan. "If we didn't let it end this year, I don't know if we would have been able to tell the endings for so many character that I really want to know the endings for."
The end of "The Office" means a big turning point for NBC as it looks to revamp its scripted lineup. The network is betting big on freshman comedies, picking up seven to series and giving condensed orders for returning half-hours like "Community" and "30 Rock." ("The Office" and "Parks and Recreation" were the only shows to receive 22-episode pickups.) "They may also be crying over lost advertising," Daniels joked. "Hopefully they'll have other things that are working by the end of the year."
The final season will be different from recent seasons, Daniels said, in that it will focus on arcs.
"The real heart of the show are these arcs that allow these characters to have ongoing stories. It's all going to be set up in the premiere," he said. "There's so much to pay off from nine seasons, so many great characters that my biggest concern is just tacking in these great ideas that the writing staff has on the walls and making sure we hit all of them or at least squeeze as many into the ending."
Daniels expressed hope that he would be able to keep big moments top-secret, for the most part. In the era of the Internet, that may well be impossible, something he brought up: "I would like to try to get back to the world where the world is surprised" by the story instead of reading about it three weeks before, he said.
Though most of the main cast of characters will remain on the show, though some (B.J. Novak and Mindy Kaling) in diminished capacities, "there are so many story lines to follow now, so many endings to write for different characters, risky things we wouldn't normally do if we knew we were going for a long time," Daniels said. "Now that we have an end date, we can blow up things and take some chances. It's very freeing and creatively ecxiting for the audience."
Some of those chances include upcoming story lines like Nellie (Catherine Tate) holding a charity drive at the office and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) donating to the Taliban in retaliation and that the identities of the documentary crew will be a big part of season nine. "All questions will be answered this year. We'll see who's behind the documentary and we'll meet some of them," said Daniels.
To bring it full circle, Daniels hopes that Ken Kwapis, who directed the pilot, will helm the final episode.
Does this mean that Steve Carell would return for a swan song as Michael Scott? "We'll see," Daniels said. "We have ideas for the ending and obviously if he would participate, we would have a lot of good times. The idea will fly without him if he can't make it. He is pretty busy."
The news comes after Universal Television, one of the studios behind "The Office," locked up former EP/current "Parks & Rec" showrunner Michael Schur in a new overall deal.
"The Office" returns Sept. 20 at 9 p.m. on NBC.
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