Can we all agree that Steve Carell is a national treasure? I mean, come on. As Gru (Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2) he showed us how lovable a tried and true villain can be. Sure, it was just his voice layered with a heavy accent, but the way he puts warmth into such a callous character was something only he could do. I adored him as Hammy, the hyperactive, cookie-addicted squirrel in Over the Hedge. Have you seen that one? If not, don’t feel bad. Not many people did. But – you should. If only for Hammy’s energy drink fueled antics.
Another movie of his that maybe didn’t get the biggest audience was Bewitched, in which he played the Uncle Arthur character. I remember the Paul Lynde performance from back in the day and trust me; Carell filled his shoes to perfection. Then there’s his turn as the naïve celibate with a heart of gold in The 40 Year Old Virgin. I won’t lie. There were a couple of gut-wrenching moments in that raunchy comedy that really made me feel his pain…both physically and emotionally. The scene where he has the heart-to-heart with his girlfriend’s daughter about being a virgin. The fact that he would put himself on the line like that for her. How devastatingly heartwarming. And Carell pulled it off without being sappy. We won’t even talk about his…umm…waxing.
But then everything changed.
My daughter, bless her heart, introduced me to The Office. She introduced me to. . . Michael Scott. Yes, I now know this was the role that allowed all those other roles to happen, but there’s no rule saying I need to watch anyone’s career arc in chronological order. Sheesh.
So I was pretty late in the game getting to know Michael Scott. He came pre-Gru, pre-Hammy, pre-Uncle Arthur. The point being that I already had a sound yet varied base for my pre-conceived notions on what Steve Carell could do as an actor. He could transition from one role to another keeping his distinct signature, but also inhabiting the character enough where I could lose myself in the plot.
Then Michael Freakin’ Scott, Regional Manager of Dunder-Mifflin’s Scranton Sales Branch on NBC’s The Office appeared and quickly obliterated everything I thought I knew about Mr. Carell. It’s a testament to his acting ability to say that I am now totally disillusioned by that character for the rest of my life. He did such a good job with portraying the self-centered, insecure, incompetent, big-hearted, crybaby Michael Scott that I just can’t look at him the same way anymore.
Hell, as it stands I can barely get through an episode of The Office for reasons that have everything and nothing to do with Steve Carell’s magnificent acting. I feel the embarrassment and awkwardness of the employees so keenly. Yes, they’re fictitious characters and it’s all just actors reading a script they memorized; a script that was designed specifically for the purpose of making me feel uncomfortable. But even knowing all that, it makes me cringe. Now, on top of that general unease, now I see Michael Scott in everything Steve Carell does.
It’s both a blessing and a curse that an actor knocks a role so far out of the park that there’s no coming back. But congratulations Mr. Carell on what you accomplished with Michael Scott. It’s not often that someone does too good of a job.