On a night of season-enders, the final episode of "The Office" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) stands out. "The Office Retrospective" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) kicks off the night.
It's easy to forget that many dreaded the NBC adaptation of "The Office." Most potential fans all but worshipped the British original, created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.
The track record for the Americanization of U.K. series had been spotty at best. For every "All in the Family" (based on the U.K. series "Till Death Us Do Part"), there were numerous lousy "Fawlty Towers" knockoffs and failed attempts to remake "Absolutely Fab ulous." At the time of "The Office" debut, bad memories lingered of NBC's "Coupling," a copycat of a BBC comedy that had been an attempt to photocopy "Friends."
"The Office" was never a huge ratings hit on the order of "Friends" or "Seinfeld." But it did attract younger viewers, whom advertisers covet. Many of its most avid (and perhaps affluent) fans watched it in new and unconventional ways, streaming it on iTunes, Hulu, etc.; this was attractive and yet problematic for the network airing it.
The most innovative aspect of "The Office" was making the fake-documentary show both popular and mainstream -- so mainstream that many people don't even notice that "Modern Family" follows that format. It just seems normal now.
Entertainment is always about creating new ways to make the artificial look "real," therefore making older forms of entertainment look more "fake" than ever. Half of the reason that reality television exploded in the past decade and a half was that younger viewers accepted it as genuine, or at least more genuine than scripted performances.
"The Office" ran with reality TV's ability to "cast" folks who looked more like ordinary people than ludicrously good-looking Hollywood stars. While Steve Carell had been on "The Daily Show With Jon Stew art" and John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer could pass as comedy stars, many of the supporting players on "The Office" looked quite believable as employees at a Scranton paper sales office. Some, including B.J. Novak, Mindy Kaling and Paul Lieberstein (Ryan, Kelly and Toby) were writers on the show. Phyllis Smith had been working on casting "The Office" before being cast as Phyllis.
Many of the actors popularized by "The Office" have gone on to big, if not necessarily good, movies. Will some of the more ordinary faces from the show go on to larger careers? Or will they fade, like "Idol" contestants? Let's hope they remain happy for their collective appearance on a memorable milestone comedy and see it as the role of a lifetime.
---Leonard's tempting offer leaves Penny and Sheldon feeling insecure on "The Big Bang Theory" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
---A winner emerges on "Amer ican Idol" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14). Quick: Who won last year's "Idol"?
---A graduation day ghost in-
vasion rocks Mystic Falls on "The Vampire Diaries" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14).
---Sherlock's ex returns on a two-hour helping of "Elementary" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
---A lingering storm fills the wards as supplies dwindle on "Grey's Anatomy" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
---Secrets of Cat's family emerge on "Beauty and the Beast" (9 p.m., CW, TV-14).
---The search for the mole puts Olivia's team on thin ice on "Scan dal" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
---Charlie's ex invades his group therapy on "Anger Management" (9:30 p.m., FX, TV-14).
---A gruesome murder scene may be intended to lend a voice to the killer on "Hannibal" (10:15 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
---Olivia Colman, Alan Sugar and Hugh Laurie appear on "The Graham Norton Show" (10 p.m., BBC America, TV-14).
An East German spy develops sympathy for a couple under his surveillance in the 2006 drama "The Lives of Others" (10 p.m., Sundance), an Oscar-winner for best foreign language film.
---Taking on the Killer Croc on "Wipeout" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
---Wolowitz returns from space on "The Big Bang Theory" (8:30 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).
---George Packer is scheduled on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" (11 p.m., Comedy Central).
---Zachary Quinto and Heather Graham appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS).
---Kate Bosworth, Chris Franjola, Natasha Leggero and Dov Davidoff are booked on "Chelsea Lately" (11 p.m., E!).
---Dr. Daniel Lieberman sits down on "The Colbert Report" (11:30 p.m., Comedy Central).
---Barbara Walters, Jesse Eisenberg and MS MR appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" (11:35 p.m., CBS).
---Jay Leno welcomes Adam Sandler, Phil Jackson and Family of the Year on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC).
---Chris Pine, Connie Britton and Dawes appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC).
---Tim McGraw visits "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC).
---Craig Ferguson hosts Paul Reiser and Yunjin Kim on "The Late Late Show" (12:35 a.m., CBS).
Kevin McDonough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.