The foundation of Netflix is not it’s original entertainment, though it’s certainly making headway these past few years, but it’s ability to so easily tap into our nostalgia centers and spring forth beloved shows and movies that have stood the test of time.
A fantastic example of this is their continued streaming of every single episode of the 2000’s TV classic, The Office.
I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve rewatched the series, but what I can say without a doubt is that as long as The Office is offered on demand, I will tune in again and again.
The U.S. version of The Office aired on NBC from 2005 to 2013, and amassed an expansive following that to this day still displays their Dundee awards and decorates for birthday parties with banners that say simply “It is your birthday.” Fans have happily tugged this series along with them into a new age of technology (you should see my Snapchats), a fact I think Kelly and Ryan would be extremely proud of.
This is by no means an accident. When a series starts off with a Greg Daniels as the showrunner (King of the Hill, Parks and Recreation) and a crack team of writers and producers, magic is bound to happen. And in this case, it absolutely did.
The final line of the series is spoken by the beloved Pam Beesly Halpert, and what she says wraps up the show perfectly.
There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?
The Office takes place in a Pennsylvania branch of a paper company, and focuses on the lives and loves of the employees who work there, including the ever-annoying yet strangely lovable boss. That’s it, and yet it’s one of the most popular and adored shows of the past 15 years. That’s what happens when time, effort, and a lot of love is put into every aspect of a story. From the main character of an episode, to a character with a single line, time is taken to make every moment and every joke count. The Office is the perfect marriage of humor, wit, and soul.
Unique from others shows on television at the time, The Office was shot and presented in the style of a workplace documentary. With near constant camera movement and plentiful talking-head shots, this style not only sets a creative tone, but also works as an incredible storytelling device for a part of the show that we don’t really get a taste of until the final season.
This is what truly carries the series into my TV hall of fame. Shows like Parks and Recreation (another favorite of mine) have followed in it’s footsteps and gone the way of the talking-head, but without the satisfaction of there being an actual reason for the style to have been used. The Dunder Mifflin employees actually watch and give their thoughts on the documentary they had been the subjects of for nine years, and there’s a certain finality in those interactions that connects every storyline and character we encountered throughout the series.
One of the most important rules of storytelling is to provide the audience with a protagonist to care about. The viewers don’t have to love that character or want to see a happily ever after exactly, but they have to want to see what happens next for them. To care about where they end up. The characters in The Office are truly the genius of the show, and in particular, Michael Gary Scott.
Michael, both as a manager and as a character, is a love-to-hate, cringe worthy man who ultimately just wants to be loved and accepted. The first season of the series didn’t sit too well with audiences or the studio due to his constant misuse of power and uncomfortable joking. But, with a small tweak of his personality, the writer’s created a protagonist that, though audiences still find themselves wincing at him every episode or so, you can truly love and that you want to see good things happen to.
Michael Scott was hilariously wrong when he tried to be serious, and incredibly inconsiderate of other’s emotions when trying to help, so why do we love him as a character? Because we know him. We all know a ‘Michael Scott’, and we’ve all probably been a ‘Michael Scott’ at some point in our lives. At the end of it all, Michael wants to be loved, and wants to give love. He gets his happy ending with the dorky, beautiful Holly Flax, and though the show wasn’t the same without him, audiences were elated to see his story to completion.
There’s something extra special about the humor of The Office. Superb dialogue and sticky situations make for some truly hilarious moments, but alongside the classic definition of jokes used in the show, several of the characters were particularly fond of pranking each other at work. This brought another level of funny to the series, as the storytellers would stick pranks into the cold openings every couple of episodes, which would set the tone for the rest of what they were airing to the audience that week.
Pranks were such a huge part of the show that in the final episode Jim actually plans Dwight’s bachelor party around their 12-year-long prank war. Good surprises, of course, but surprises nonetheless in honor of the time they’d spent pranking each other in the office.
In the end, The Office is your office. The conference-room meetings are your conference-room meetings (to an extent), and the faulty copier was your faulty copier. You may not fall in love with a coworker or lose a huge client to your boss’s Willy Wonka-like antics, but The Office did exactly the job it set out to do. Each episode presented an everyday occurrence, magnified it a bit, threw in a joke, or two, or eleven, and made you see it in a different light.
Many viewers saw a downhill spiral once Steve Carrell left the cast, and I agree that things definitely changed at that point, but the last couple seasons of the show tied the finishing knot around what I think was a practically perfect series. Every rewatch brings out more of what makes the story so special to me, and I think Andy said it best with his famous finale line.
I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.