'The Office' finale draws season high of 5.7 million viewers

John Krasinski, star of "The Office," meets with fans during the "'The Office' Wrap Party" in Scranton, Pennsylvania on May 4, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Sadowski

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The finale of NBC’s “The Office” drew a season high of 5.7 million viewers, as fans tuned in to see the show’s biggest star Steve Carell return for a wedding and nostalgic farewell.

The 75-minute finale episode, which aired from 9 p.m. to 10:15 p.m EDT after an hour-long retrospective featuring cast members and producers, was watched by 3.8 million viewers in the 18-49 demographic coveted by advertisers, according to Nielsen ratings figures provided by NBC.

The 5.7 million finale viewership marked a 16-month high for the show. It was up by 25 percent from last week’s penultimate episode, which garnered 4.6 million viewers, and was 27 percent higher than the previous season’s finale, which attracted 4.5 million viewers.

“The Office” - adapted from comedian Ricky Gervais’ mockumentary British series of the same name - followed the daily lives of employees at a Scranton, Pennsylvania, paper company, led for many seasons by hapless boss Michael Scott, played by Carell.

Following Carell’s exit in 2011 after the show’s seventh season, audiences began to turn away and viewership dropped to around 4 million per episode last year from a high of about 8 million in 2008.

In the finale, Carell returned as a surprise guest at the wedding of “The Office’s” dysfunctional couple, Machiavellian manager Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) and uptight accountant Angela Martin (Angela Kinsey).

Many of the characters were given happy endings, including Stanley retiring, Andy landing a job at Cornell University, Kelly and Ryan running off into the sunset and Jim and Pam moving to Austin, Texas, to pursue Jim’s career ambitions.

“The Office” has launched the careers of many of its stars, including Carell, Ed Helms and John Krasinski, who have transitioned into films, and Mindy Kaling, who fronts her own sitcom “The Mindy Project” on Fox.

NBC is a unit of Comcast Corp.

Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Eric Walsh