'The Office' plans a long goodbye, featuring Mindy Kaling and more familiar faces

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office-set-visit.JPGIf you're waiting for the finale of "The Office" to say goodbye to all your favorite characters, you might miss some of them.

"I don't think we're planning on packing everything into the last episode. I would encourage people -- if you're waiting for the end of 'The Office' to re-tune in, I would start doing it right away," executive producer Greg Daniels said Wednesday (Jan. 16) at the show's final TCA press conference. "There's one [Thursday] that's very good, and then the one after that is really what I would say is the beginning of the end."

The Jan. 24 episode will start to reveal the documentary crew that's been following the employees of Dunder Mifflin for the past eight years. Daniels says the show's writers have been talking about exposing the documentary crew since the second or third season.

"The basic idea for the last episode has been floating around since way back then, but the specifics of how we're getting there are changing," Daniels says. "We [also] had an idea around Season 4 that we're incorporating. Basically what we're doing is, all the really cool ideas that would break the show that we had over the years -- that we were like, 'Wow, that's really cool, but I don't see how you come back from that' -- we've taken all those up and we're kind of going to start doling them out in a couple of episodes."

With more than a dozen regular characters to service, the show will spread out its goodbyes over the latter part of the season. Some of them will undoubtedly be happy, but not necessarily all of them: Daniels notes that someone gets fired in episode 15, which airs in February. "The Office" will also welcome back Zach Woods (Gabe) later this season, and Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak are slated to return for the series finale.

One person who very likely won't be back is Steve Carell. NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt held out slight hope that Carell might make a cameo before the show ended, but Daniels isn't counting on it.

"Steve is very much of the opinion that the 'Goodbye, Michael' episode and the story arc he did leading up to it was his goodbye to the show, and the stuff we're doing this season is the goodbye the rest of the show gets to have," Daniels says. "So at the moment we don't have any plans for him to come back, but there's still a lot of good things we have planned for the rest of the goodbye."

The cast, meanwhile, appears to be gearing up for the end. Rainn Wilson and Jenna Fischer each recalled making the pilot episode and wondering what it would be like if the show got picked up and then ran for a while. Fischer says that during production of the pilot, "Office" creator Ricky Gervais had lunch with the cast and talked about making the orignal series in the U.K.

"I remember going home and thinking, 'Oh my gosh, if nothing else happens except that I got to have lunch with Ricky Gervais, this is amazing,'" Fischer says. "And now, look -- it's 10 years later, and we've made like a whole show."

Wilson jokes that he'd like to keep Dwight's car after the show wraps, but that's not what he'll really miss.

"People have asked me, what are you going to miss? It's really clear to me -- this is my other family," Wilson says. "This is where I've been coming for nine years, and I love all of these people. We've grown up together, we've had children, we've gotten married, we've gotten divorced. We've cried together, we fought a little bit -- not like 'Grey's Anatomy' -- and that's really what I'm going to miss the most."
Photo/Video credit: NBC