By Patrick McAvoy
If someone would have told me a year ago that one of the best TV shows of all time was about a paper company I would’ve called them crazy, but here we are. About a month ago, I watched the final episode of “The Office” and now I’m finally ready to talk about it. The funny thing is that I almost gave up on the show after the first season because it started off slowly, but I stuck it out and it has grown into one of my favorite shows of all time as well as one of the most influential TV shows in television history because of it’s bold filming style, innovative ways to connect to the audience, and relatable characters.
The American version of the show was one of the most influential shows of the 2000’s because of the unique way it was made. Unlike other shows, such as “The Big Bang Theory” and many others, “The Office” implemented a single-camera shot style. This camera technique handles the camera in one long shot that covers everything as opposed to cutting between multiple cameras. This style was used in other shows before “The Office,” but they were one of the first shows to use the single-camera shot technique to make the show seem like a documentary. Although just a small detail, the show did this so well that other sitcoms began to use it as well, and as Andy Greenwald, of Grantland says, “…The Office made single-camera the preferred visual style for smart sitcoms on every channel.” Along with the single-camera shot style, “The Office” implemented a mockumentary style seen as common today because of how famous “The Office” made it. Examples of shows that “The Office” directly influenced are “Parks and Recreation,” “Modern Family,” and “Outsourced.” Other shows began to see the successful style of “The Office” and mimicked it to their advantage.
As successful as “The Office” has become, it almost never happened. After the first season, which was only a six-episode order from NBC, “The Office” was almost cancelled. The show was so close to being cancelled that John Krasinski said in an interview with US Magazine; “We were constantly in fear of being cancelled. We actually had a guy come down every Friday to the set and he’d be like, ‘Ah man, this episode’s so great. It’s going so well…You know this is the last episode, right? We’re not going to pick it up…” This quote from one of the show’s biggest stars shows the uncertainty they felt because the show initially was struggling. The fact that “The Office” was doing something different is one of the reasons it was almost cancelled. The single-camera, mockumentary style television show was unheard of at the time and therefore people were wary of watching it.
Ironically, one of the reasons “The Office” survived was certainly because of the innovation it displayed. Andy Greenwald says, “…it was the first sitcom to take big advantage of new media to boost its chances and its audience. (It was the earliest NBC series available on iTunes, and the number of downloads factored into its surprise early renewal.)” in his article for Grantland.“The Office” initially struggled because how different it was, but they were one of the first shows to take advantage of new technology and because of this, they were able to reach a broader audience. No one else was doing this, thus opening the door to an untapped market that became loyal viewers because they could watch the show wherever they were, giving “The Office” a second life.
“The Office” was influential because of the breakthroughs the show made stylistically, but the most transcendent part of the show is the characters. Who would’ve thought a small paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania could be so interesting? Although the cast is seemingly a rag tag group of people trying to occupy their time while working at a paper company they find a way into our hearts. This is because “The Office” doesn’t show these people as ordinary people, but instead amplifies the traits that make them different, thus showing that everyone is special in their own way. The everyday shenanigans that occur at Dunder Mifflin are very similar to what someone could see at their own job which is what makes it so genuine. Whether it’s the constant pranking between Dwight and Jim, the never-ending frustration of Pam and the rest of the office at the copier, or everyone stopping what they were doing for the Office Olympics, these people fill roles that we see in our everyday lives that then translate to emotional links to the show.
“The Office” started off as a show that was potentially going to be cancelled and morphed itself into one of the most popular shows of all time and a majority of that credit has to be given to Michael Scott, Jim Halpert, and Pam Beesly. These three characters are the biggest reason the show was able to create such a strong emotional connection with its fanbase. Michael’s constant longing for love and to create his own family and constant failures are real feelings that people actually go through thus humanizing Michael Scott and making him much more than a goofy boss. James Ponieozik, of TIME Magazine said “Michael Scott was ridiculous and inappropriate, but he was also sympathetic; when his heart broke, yours did for him.” When watching the show, because the characters were so relatable, the audience began to create emotional ties to the show and empathize with the characters because they were seen as if they were real people.
To go along with this, the budding love story of Jim and Pam drew fans in who wondered whether or not Jim could ever escape the friend zone. The writers of the show pulled on the heartstrings of the audience for years with constant ups and downs in their relationship, from all of the innocent loving looks across the office, to their first kiss where she shut him down and sent him into the arms of Rashida Jones, and to eventually Jim asking her on their first dates in one of the most perfect cinematic scenes in history. Even after the first date, the writers continued to use this love story to emotionally draw fans and there is no better episode to prove this than their wedding. Even with all of the problems going on, Jim saved the day and they would go on to have the perfect wedding for the perfect couple. Jim and Pam are what we all strive for and that is what makes it so relatable. Everyone is looking for love and their love story doesn’t seem like an ordinary TV love story. Their love, with all the ups and downs, seem as if it is almost real and that is relatable to the audience.
Few shows are able to stand the test of time but “The Office” has potential to do so. The beginning years were rocky but it paved the way for the future successes for the show. They created a brand new style that has led to many famous shows we know today as well as created some of the most relatable characters in television. A fictional paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania is not interesting, but the characters working for that fictional paper company definitely are. “The Office” shows that no matter where people come from or what they do, we are all people and have our own stories. Pam Beesly sums this up perfectly with the final line of the show when she says,“There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things.”