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Steve Carell Saved ‘The Office’ From Jumping the Shark by Nixing a Wild Horse Joke

One joke had Carell feeling the show was veering too much into "The Simpsons" territory.

Steve Carell, "The Office"

Steve Carell, “The Office”

NBC

Jim and Pam’s wedding episode “Niagara” is often considered one of the best installments of “The Office,” but it could have been the moment the NBC comedy series jumped the shark had it not been for Steve Carell. Andy Green’s new book “The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s” reveals an axed “Niagara” subplot that found Jim and Pam’s romantic boat ride to the eponymous waterfall disrupted by a horse plunging to its death (via Collider). Episode director Paul Feig told Green that Pam’s ex Roy (David Denman) was originally going to crash the wedding on horseback.

“It was supposed to be that Pam and Jim are in the middle of the ceremony and Roy has been haunting around and regretting that he let her go and wanted her back,” Feig said. “When they were in the middle of the ceremony, it was supposed to be that Roy rides into the church on horseback dressed like a white knight to win her back.”

“The Office” showrunner Greg Daniels and star Mindy Kaling wrote into the original “Niagara” script another subplot where Dwight (Rainn Wilson) has “an obsession with the falls and some sort of suicide gene to go over them.” Dwight originally spent the episode fighting his genetic urge to go over the falls. Dwight’s predicament was worsened when he ran into Roy after the wedding and used the horse to ride to the falls. The storyline ended with Dwight abandoning the horse just as it’s about to go over the falls. Dwight survives, but the horse goes over. Cut to Jim and Pam on a boat underneath the falls having a romantic moment while the horse falls to its death in the background.

“The Office” producer Randy Cordray told Green that the horse subplot was locked into the script just a week before the cast and crew were set to travel to Niagara Falls to film the episode. The team got together for a table read of the episode and no one at the network or the studio gave notes to remove the bit. It was Steve Carell who stayed behind after the table read to express his concerns.

“[Steve] is a producer on the show and he has some say over the writing of the show. Steve was the first one to speak up,” Cordray said. “He said, ‘Guys, I love the episode but you can’t throw a horse over Niagara Falls.’ And Greg and Mindy [Kaling] were like, ‘Really? But it’s so funny.’ And he’s like, ‘Yes, it’ is funny. I love your writing. I love all of you, but this is really an animated joke. This is a cartoon joke. This is a joke we might see on “The Simpsons.” I know many people think that “The Office” has already jumped the shark in many different ways, but let me just say, throwing a horse over Niagara Falls is really jumping the shark. I’m not in favor of this.’ And with that, he took his leave and we were left to discuss it.”

Daniels ultimately gave in to Carell’s request to nix the horse subplot. Removing the horse freed up the budget and allowed all of the key cast members to fly to Niagara Falls to film the episode. Head over to Collider’s website to read more about the original “Niagara” script.

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