Perhaps The Office has been working a little too long. Over at Vulture Margaret Lyons reports that the long-running NBC show had its lowest rated season premiere ever on Thursday, bringing in only 4.32 million viewers (18-49) to kick off its ninth season. That is down 46 percent from the last year's season debut. To be fair though, it was still the top-rated show in NBC faded Thursday night comedy lineup with Up All Night and Parks and Recreation. As Jon Weisman of Variety wrote back in August when it was announced that this season would be the last for The Office, it is still " NBC's most-watched scripted series, with an average audience (under 36 years old) younger than any other on the Peacock, ABC or CBS." The drop, however, isn't that surprising. James Hibberd of Entertainment Weekly wrote that he "figured the show would be down from its last premiere given how much its ratings dropped midseason." That said, he was surprised at just how large that drop was "considering how little competition was on the air and how much pre-season momentum NBC has had lately."
It's actually been something of a steady decline over the show's nine-season run. And even though last year's debut was lackluster, it's worth remembering that the network had been marketing hard the looming question of who would take over as the new regional manager of Dunder Mifflin, the role famously inhabited by Steve Carrell's Michael Scott. Carrell had left in the previous season. As Linda Holmes at NPR's Monkey See wrote back then:
The producers of The Office were careful about keeping last night's season premiere under wraps. Critics didn't see it, and while some details had come out, they successfully maintained the suspense over the biggest question fans were likely to have with Steve Carell and Michael Scott gone: What now?
The stunt netted 7.64 million viewers for the season premiere. This year, without any mystery, the show is starting to feel pretty long in the tooth. Our own Richard Lawson urged NBC to find an exit strategy for the show back in June, considering a number of its stars had already bowed out. Alas, the show will truck on even as it hits a new low.