The ninth and final season of the American television comedy The Office premiered on NBC on September 20, 2012, and concluded on May 16, 2013, consisting of 25 episodes. The Office is an American adaptation of the British comedy series of the same name, and is presented in a mockumentary format, portraying the daily lives of office employees in the Scranton, Pennsylvania branch of the fictitious Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. The ninth season of The Office aired on Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. (Eastern) in the United States, as part of the Comedy Night Done Right television block. This is the second season not to star Steve Carell as lead character Michael Scott, although he returned for a cameo appearance in the series finale.
The ninth season largely focuses on the relationship between Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam Halpert (Jenna Fischer). After Jim decides to follow his dream and start a sports marketing company in Philadelphia, Pam begins to worry about moving, and the couple's relationship experiences stress. Meanwhile, Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) abandons the office for a three-month boating trip, and eventually quits his job to pursue his dream of becoming a star, although he soon becomes famous for a viral video. Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) is finally promoted to regional manager. The documentary airs, and a year later, the members of the office gather for Dwight and Angela's marriage as well as a final round of interviews.
Following the decline in ratings from the previous year, the ninth season of The Office managed to stabilize around 4 million viewers per episode. The series finale, however, was watched by over 5.69 million viewers, making it the highest-rated episode that the show had aired in over a year. The season ranked as the ninety-fourth most watched television series during the 2012–13 television year and saw a decrease in ratings from the previous season. Critical reception was moderately positive; although some critics took issue with certain aspects, such as the reveal of the in-series documentary crew, many argued that it was an improvement over the previous season. Others lauded the way the show was able to successfully wrap-up its story arcs. "Finale" was nominated for three awards at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, and won for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series.
The ninth season of the show was produced by Reveille Productions and Deedle-Dee Productions, both in association with Universal Television. The show is based on the British comedy series of the same name, which was created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant for the BBC. In addition, the two are executive producers on the show. On May 11, 2012, NBC renewed The Office for a ninth season. Series developer Greg Daniels returned as showrunner this season. Daniels stated that the season would feature more big season arcs, saying "I'll tell you that the last couple of years, I don't think we did any big arc-type things in the way that we used to in the beginning, I think the thing we're going to do is bring back a lot of arcs." Brent Forrester, who had been a consulting producer and writer since the third season was promoted to executive producer, alongside new series writer Dan Sterling.
In a conference call with reporters on August 21, 2012, Daniels announced that this would be the final season of the series. Daniels said, "This year feels like the last chance to really go out together and make an artistic ending for the show that pays off a lot of the stuff that matters most to fans." Daniels also said all the questions would be answered, such as who was behind the documentary, and why they had been filming it for so long, as well as the reveal of the Scranton Strangler. A central point during the season was the romance between Erin Hannon (Ellie Kemper) and Pete Miller (Jake Lacy). According to Michael Ausiello of TVLine, the nature of their relationship was heavily debated by the writers and producers; he noted that "the triangle [between Andy, Erin, and Pete] has stirred up a number of debates in the writers room, which tells me even they don't know at this point which guy Erin will choose." Daniels consulted with Kemper and asked for her input, as he felt she had the best understanding of Erin's characterization.
For the season, cast members John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson, and Ed Helms were credited as producers. Krasinski also directed an episode. Guest directors for the season included noted actor Bryan Cranston, who directed the episode "Work Bus", and filmmaker Jon Favreau, who directed the episode "Moving On". Daniels directed the first episode, which he also wrote. This marked the first time that he had both written and directed an episode of The Office since the fourth season entry "Fun Run". Ken Kwapis directed the series finale; he also directed the show's pilot episode. While The Office was mainly filmed on a studio set at Valley Center Studios in Van Nuys, California, the city of Scranton, Pennsylvania, where the show is set, was also used for shots of the opening theme. Angela Kinsey and Rainn Wilson, during an interview, expressed the hope to film an episode of the season in Scranton. Although this never came to fruition, exterior shots of the real Scranton bar The Bog were featured in the tenth episode "Lice".
Originally, the season was supposed to contain 24 episodes, which would have meant that the series aired exactly 200 episodes. However, the series' penultimate episode was elongated into 2 separate episodes, resulting in "Finale"—which was announced previously as an hour-long special—being the 24th and 25th episodes of the season. This meant that the last part of "Finale" is the series' 201st episode. On March 19, 2013, the official Office fansite OfficeTally launched a campaign on Change.org to "super-size or extend" the finale; this campaign was motivated by a statement made by Daniels, in which he mentioned he would "beg" the studio to air a longer episode. On May 2, 2013 the petition amassed 20,000 signatures. On May 7, NBC announced the series finale would be extended, and air in a 75-minute time slot. A one-hour retrospective of the series aired prior to the one-hour series finale on May 16.
The Office employs an ensemble cast. Most of the main characters, and some supporting ones, are based on characters from the British version of The Office. While these characters normally have the same attitudes and perceptions as their British counterparts, the roles have been redesigned to better fit the American show. The show is known for its large cast size, many of whom are known particularly for their improvisational work. Rainn Wilson portrays Dwight Schrute, who, based upon Gareth Keenan, is the Assistant to the Regional Manager, although the character frequently fails to include "to the" in his title. John Krasinski portrays Jim Halpert, a sales representative and prankster, who is based upon Tim Canterbury, and is married to Pam Halpert, the office administrator. Pam (Jenna Fischer), who is based on Dawn Tinsley, is shy, but is often a cohort with Jim in his pranks on Dwight. Ed Helms plays Andy Bernard, the preppy manager—who was previously a salesman—and boastful Cornell alumnus whose love for a cappella music and awkward social skills generates mixed feelings from his employees.
Krasinski and Helms appeared in fewer episodes in order to film several upcoming movies. Helms was temporarily written out of the series with a storyline that saw his character travel to the Caribbean with his brother on a boat. As such, Helms made only a small appearance in "The Whale" and was absent from the following eight episodes. He returned in the episode "Couples Discount". According to TVLine, he returned to work right before the show's Christmas break. Wilson was initially slated to appear in only 13 episodes before leaving for a planned Dwight-centric spin-off, but the spin-off was not picked up by NBC. Mindy Kaling and B. J. Novak have much lesser roles as Kelly Kapoor and Ryan Howard, respectively. Both Kaling and Novak appeared in the season opener "New Guys", and both returned for the series finale. Actress Catherine Tate, who joined the series as a series regular midway through season eight portraying Nellie Bertram, continued with the series. Clark Duke and Lacy joined the cast as customer service representatives hired to deal with the many neglected customer service complaints Kelly has amassed over the years; Lacy's character, Pete, is also a love interest for Erin.
Kinsey and Wilson also noted that the cast and crew could neither "confirm nor deny" but were "hoping" for a return of Steve Carell as Michael Scott. In mid-December, Krasinski later revealed that he was optimistic about a return; in an interview with E! Online Krasinski said that the producers were supposedly "still trying to figure out [Carell's] schedule" and that the finale "just wouldn't be the same without him". However, NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt later admitted during an interview that while he is "hopeful", he does not think Carell will return; he noted that Carell was satisfied with his character's exit and did not want to tarnish it. On January 16, Daniels revealed that Carell would not appear in the finale in any capacity, a decision that Carell later reiterated. Three months later, however, the producers for The Office mounted "an 11th-hour effort last month" to get Carell to make a cameo in the show's final episode, according to TVLine. Carell's personal representative confirmed that Carell was on the set for the final episode, but that he did not film any scenes. However, an anonymous source close to the show cryptically said "don't rule anything out". TVLine later reported on May 6, that Carell would appear in a cameo, although NBC declined to comment and Carell's representatives continued to deny the reports. Carell, however, did end up returning for the finale; his character, Michael Scott, becomes Dwight's best man at his wedding. A month after the episode aired, Carell explained in an interview with TVLine that he "lied for months to the press, to almost everyone, really". He noted that he "felt terribly for the cast and for [executive producer] Greg Daniels, because they all lied, too." Krasinski, on the other hand, explained that "It was so thrilling. We all just flat-out lied … It was just one of those things that we all vowed and had to protect".
In addition to Carell, the season also saw the return of several "veteran cast members". Former series regular David Denman was the first to do so, appearing as Roy Anderson in the second episode of the season "Roy's Wedding"; he was last seen as part of the Threat Level Midnight film in season seven. Josh Groban reprised his role as Andy's brother, Walter Jr, appearing in the episode "The Boat". Melora Hardin returned as Jan Levinson in the episode "The Whale" and had a small vocal cameo in the episode "Couples Discount". "Junior Salesman" saw the return of several minor characters, including Lance Krall as Sensei Ira (who first appeared in the second-season episode "The Fight"), Noel Petok as Troy Underbridge (who first appeared in the fourth-season episode "Night Out"), Beth Grant as Dwight's babysitter (who first appeared in the fourth-season episode "Dinner Party"), and James Urbaniak as Rolf (who first appeared in the fifth-season episode "Company Picnic"). Although cast member Zach Woods' series regular contract was not renewed for the season, he returned to the series as a guest star, in the episode "Moving On". David Koechner returned as Todd Packer in "The Farm". "Finale" also featured the return of several recurring characters, such as Nancy Carell as Carol Stills (who played the recurring role of Michael's real-estate agent and short-time girlfriend), Sendhil Ramamurthy as Ravi, Jackie Debatin as Elizabeth (who first appeared in the third season episode "Ben Franklin"), Devon Abner as Devon (who was a former Dunder Mifflin employee fired in "Halloween"), and Spencer Daniels as Jake Palmer (who first played Meredith's son in the season two episode "Take Your Daughter to Work Day").
Stephen Colbert guest starred in the Halloween episode as Broccoli Rob, a former member of Here Comes Treble, Andy's a cappella group. The episode "Lice" guest starred Julius Erving playing himself as an investor in Jim's sports marketing business. Former NBC co-chairman and The Office executive producer Ben Silverman had a minor recurring role as one of Jim's colleagues. He appeared in the episodes "Here Comes Treble", "Suit Warehouse", "Customer Loyalty", and "Moving On". The fourteenth episode, "Junior Salesmen", featured several guest stars. These included Eric Wareheim as Gabor, Matt L. Jones as Zeke, and Will McCormack as Wolf. In the episode "Promos", athlete Ryan Howard played a version of himself. Comedian Roseanne Barr had a two-episode arc as a talent agent named Carla Fern, and first appeared in the episode "Stairmageddon". Michael Imperioli guest starred in the episode "Livin' the Dream" as Sensei Billy, acting as a foil for Dwight. The episode "A.A.R.M." guest starred Aaron Rodgers, Clay Aiken, Mark McGrath, Santigold, and Jessica St. Clair, all playing themselves. The series finale guest starred: Rachael Harris as Angela's sister; Joan Cusack and Ed Begley Jr. as Erin's biological parents; Malcolm Barrett as Stanley's replacement; and Bill Hader and Seth Meyers as themselves.
The season aired on Thursdays at 9:00 p.m., as part of the Comedy Night Done Right programming block. The season premiere, "New Guys" received a 2.1/6 percent share in the Nielsen ratings among viewers aged 18 to 49, meaning that 2.1 percent of viewers aged 18 to 49 watched the episode, and 6 percent of viewers watching television at the time watched the episode. The episode was viewed by 4.28 million viewers and became the lowest-rated season premiere for the series. In addition, it marked a 46 percent drop in viewership from the season eight premiere "The List". For the first sixteen episodes, the series was able to maintain roughly 4 million viewers. However, starting with the seventeenth episode "The Farm", ratings began to drop below this threshold. The series hit an all-time low with the twentieth episode, "Paper Airplane", which was viewed by only 3.25 million viewers, and received a 1.7 rating/5 percent share. The series finale was viewed by 5.69 million viewers and received a 3.0 rating among adults between the ages of 18 and 49. This made it the highest-rated episode of the season; it also marked an increase in the previous season finale, which garnered only 4.49 million viewers. "Finale" was the most watched episode of The Office since the eighth season episode "Pool Party", but ranked as the third-least watched finale of the series, following the eighth- and first-season finales. Although in its ninth season, The Office no longer was NBC's highest-rated scripted comedy series—it was surpassed by Go On—it often ranked as the highest-rated scripted NBC series on Thursday nights. Rainn Wilson argued that the show's lower ratings were a combination of the overall trend in lower television ratings in 2012, as well as the fact that "NBC didn't promote [the series] one bit". NBC increased their usual ad-price by 200 percent for the finale, asking for $400,000 per commercial. This was largely due to the anticipated increase in viewership that the finale would bring.
The season ranked as the ninety-fourth most watched television series during the 2012–13 season, with an average of 5.061 million viewers. The season also tied with the CBS series Rules of Engagement and the Fox series American Dad! to be the forty-third most watched television series in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic. In this category, the show received a 2.6 rating. This meant that, on average, the season was viewed by 2.6 percent of all 18- to 49-year-olds. It was viewed by 3.32 million in this demographic. In terms of viewers, the ninth season ranked as the lowest-rated season of The Office, although it beat the first season's ranking, which was the 102nd most watched program for the 2004–05 year.
The ninth season of The Office received moderately positive reviews from television critics. Based on seven critiques, review aggregation website Metacritic gave the ninth season of the show a 64 out of 100 rating, which denotes "generally favorable reviews". Entertainment website Holy Moly named the series one of the best shows during the 2012–13 season, writing that "this final season of The Office has been great" largely due to the fact that "every single relationship in the show rings true with the audience." Michael Tedder of Vulture commented that he was "willing to call it the fourth best season of the show overall, which is by no means faint praise." He explained that this was largely due to the fact that the "final season was a chance to see how everyone else would end up". Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club wrote that "the tension between Jim and Pam in the final season ended up being highly controversial for a number of reasons ... but it also provided the most hopeful moments of the series' final stretch" (although he did note that it was clear that the writers had "blatantly" set up the drama). He concluded that the finale was able to successfully return the series "to what had always been its heart—to have true fulfillment". Roth Cornet of IGN awarded the season an 8.5 out of 10, denoting a "great" year. She felt that the character growth in the final few episodes was particularly well executed, and the last stretch of the season helped raise it after a rocky start; ultimately, she felt that the writers were able to craft the proper ending for the show. She was, however, critical of Andy's characterization, noting that he was merely used as a plot device when convenient. Many critics argued that the season was an improvement, in both writing and humor, over the previous season.
Several specific episodes received praise. Andrea Reiher of Zap2it named "Dwight Christmas" the best comedy TV episode of 2012. She wrote that the episode "was not only funny but had a huge nostalgia factor", and continued the show's trend of strong Christmas episodes. Reiher also praised the episode's two subplots, writing that "drunk Darryl and Die Hard" helped produce "a classic episode of The Office that brought back the warm and fuzzy feelings of the early seasons of the show." The season's penultimate entry, "A.A.R.M.", received a glowing response from many critics. Alan Sepinwall of HitFix wrote that the episode was "surprisingly ... terrific in most areas." Roth Cornet of IGN noted that "The interplay between Jim, Dwight, and Pam has been the core of the series since Michael Scott's departure, and it was good to see the trio front and center once again as The Office comes to a close." The series finale, in particular, was praised by critics. Sepinwall called it "a tremendously satisfying conclusion to a show that could make us gasp with laughter, but that could also make us cry or smile". Cornet wrote that it "was a strong hour of television [and] the finale shone and delivered on all of its promise." Nick Campbell of TV.com wrote that the episode was "just right" for the series. Other episodes were not received as positively. "Lice", for instance, was called "terrible" by Campbell, as well as the "epitome of filler" by Brett Davinger of The California Literary Review. "The Farm" was largely derided due to its uneven nature, and the broad humor that it used.
The reveal of the in-series documentary crew in "Customer Loyalty" received large amounts of critical attention. E! Online named the reveal one of the "Best TV Moments of the Week". Verne Gay of Newsday called the scene a "historic" moment for the show. Conversely, Myles McNutt of The A.V. Club wrote an article that argued that the mockumentary format made the camera "an audience surrogate", and that by revealing the documentary crew, "the audience no longer felt welcome". The subplot involving Brian (played by Chris Diamantopoulos), a boom mic operator for the in-series documentary, was met with mostly negative reviews. Michael Tedder of Vulture called it "the least interesting way this camera crew reveal could have gone". Dan Forcella of TV Fanatic criticized the reintroduction of the character in the episode "Promos", noting that his reappearance felt "forced". McNutt called it "an abandoned novelty". Daniels later revealed in an interview that the subplot was a red herring to keep viewers emotionally invested in Pam and Jim's story. He explained, "we never intended him to actually [interfere with Pam and Jim's marriage], but wanted people to worry about it so they would be engaged in the story."
On December 12, 2012, the series was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series, but lost to Modern Family. Michael Scott's return was nominated and won the fan-voted "Best TV Moment" at the 3rd Critics' Choice Television Awards on June 10, 2013. Greg Daniels was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards for "Finale". "Finale" was also nominated for an Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series Emmy and an Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series Emmy; David Rogers and Claire Scanlon for "Finale" won the latter, marking the fifth win for The Office at the Emmys overall and the series' first win since 2009. Rogers and Scanlon also won an American Cinema Editors award for Best Edited Half-Hour Series for Television. In addition, the web documentary "The Office: The Farewells", which aired on NBC.com prior to the series' conclusion, was nominated for an Outstanding Special Class Program Creative Arts Emmy Award.
In the following table, "U.S. viewers (million)" refers to the number of Americans who viewed the episode on the night of broadcast. Episodes are listed by the order in which they aired, and may not necessarily correspond to their production codes. ‡ denotes an hour-long episode (with advertisements; actual runtime around 42 minutes), and ¤ denotes an extended 75-minute episode (with advertisements; actual runtime around 52 minutes).