Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski
Given the fanfare with which NBC is closing The Office after nine seasons (at least two too many), you'd think it was a Cheers or Seinfeld-sized hit from the "must-see" glory days, instead of the show that presided over the slow fade of a once-powerful comedy brand on the back of too many same-seeming niche comedies specializing in preciously arch irony. At its best (the Steve Carell and early Jim-Pam years), The Office had heart as well as range, as it found comic magic in its ensemble once the show emerged from the large shadow cast by the classic Ricky Gervais original series. But now it just hits the same beats over and over to lesser effect, which hasn't stopped NBC from pulling out the stops. The celebration (eulogy?) begins with an hour-long behind-the-scenes retrospective (Thursday, 8/7c) produced by NBC News — which didn't have more pressing business? — featuring interviews from cast members and producers. The main event is a super-sized finale (9/8c) that has swelled to an hour and 15 minutes, staged as a mock reunion of the Dunder Mifflin gang several months after the airing of the mock documentary that took nearly a decade to finish.
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Also going long: the grand finale of Fox's American Idol (8/7c), which staggers to the end of a ratings-embattled season with two hours and seven minutes of padding and special musical performances before we learn if Kree or Candice will be crowned the winner. Elsewhere on a night that will test the resolve of many a household's DVRs, it's a finale smorgasbord, no doubt to be dominated by Thursday's biggest hit comedy, CBS' The Big Bang Theory. Unlikely to top last week's brilliant D&D-themed episode, the sixth-season finale (8/7c) is built around a corny-sounding cliffhanger, with Leonard offered a job overseas, causing Penny and Sheldon varying degrees of panic and resentment.
The drama showdown is between CBS' two-hour Elementary (9:01/8:01c), in which a shattered Sherlock comes to grips with the apparent return from the dead of soulmate Irene Adler (Natalie Dormer), while the mysterious "manipulation is my business" Moriarty plots more mischief; and ABC's hot combo of Grey's Anatomy (9/8c), in which a storm bears down on Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital just in time for Meredith to give birth under what will no doubt be the most perilous of circumstances, followed by the deliciously juicy Scandal (10:02/9:02c), which gave us a great shock last week with the reveal that former veep aide Billy Chambers (Matt Letscher), long presumed dead, is the mole, conspiring with not-so-milquetoast David Rosen (Joshua Malina) to bring down Olivia & Co. Is it even possible to take this crazy show to the next level? Here's hoping.
Last but to cult fans not least among the night's season finales, The CW's The Vampire Diaries (8/7c) finally celebrates Graduation Day of the Mostly Undead, with ghosts on the loose in Mystic Falls and Elena once again making a decision about the Salvatore boys while facing her evil doppelganger Katherine. ... And on the lamentable Beauty and the Beast (9/8c, The CW), most generously renewed for a second season, Cat learns shocking news about her family's past, while Vincent (in CW's words) "finds himself staring his demise in the face." But which face?
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