There was a pretty noticeable dip in quality after Season 7 of The Office and the ratings reflected this. Steve Carell's departure from the show forced the writers to come up with material that pushed the limits of what was believable in The Office universe, as well as drastically changing many of the characters that we had come to love in seasons prior. While the series ultimately came back to end on a strong note, it would have been better to end things before the show had lost most of its mojo.
Steve Carell's departure from the show in Season 7 was the start of an apparent downward trend in quality beginning in Season 8. To fill the void created by the absence of Carell's Michael Scott, the season largely focuses on Andy Bernard's journey to, and subsequent struggles as, regional manager of the Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch.
While Ed Helm's Andy Bernard was an entertaining and funny character in small doses in previous seasons, he quickly became irritating as one of the show's central characters. Andy's quirks and poor decision-making were amplified to the point of no longer being funny or relatable, and his relationship with Erin wasn't worth caring about anymore. Much of his character arc was genuinely cringe-worthy in Season 8, and not in the funny way that The Office is known for.
Andy was able to experience some degree of redemption in Season 9 as his character took on a more minor role again. Also, his rendition of "I Will Remember You" by Sarah McLachlan in one of the show's final episodes was rather touching.
Another major problem that developed after Season 7 was that many of the characters didn't feel real anymore. A number of them were written more as caricatures than characters. Andy Bernard is one example. Fan-favorite Dwight Schrute, although never a very ordinary guy, also became a caricature of who he was in earlier seasons. From Dwight's installation of a doomsday device in the office, to his antics in the Tallahassee episode, or his riding of a bicycle across a tightrope in Season 9, he became so over-the-top that it was just not believable anymore, making him a lot less funny.
Even Jim and his relationship with Dwight, always a solid source of laughs in the show, began to show signs of strain. The pranks weren't as funny or as believable as they were earlier and a lot of the original charm that existed between Jim and Dwight was mostly absent after Season 7.
The departure of Carell also allowed for the introduction of one character that never fit in with the rest of the cast or the general feel of the show: Robert California, played by the very talented James Spader, was a weird and unwelcome addition to Season 8. Even as we came to learn more about the philosophical, sex-obsessed enigma that is Robert California, the episodes he was a part of just felt off.
Season 8 was definitely the worst the show ever had. Season 9 was a mixed bag with many episodes that weren't really that funny and others that were both hilarious and emotional. The show's final few episodes gave us solid heartfelt goodbyes to some of our favorite characters and a perfectly executed cameo from Steve Carell. While it's clear that the show was on a downward trend even before Steve Carell left, it was his departure that really strained the writers and fundamentally changed many of our favorite characters, making the show far less enjoyable and entertaining.
Do you agree that The Office should have ended with Season 7? Be sure to let me know in the comment section below.