The Office: A Long, Hard (That’s What She Said) Look Back
The Office is over, done. No, honestly, it is: here’s the proof. It’s completely finished. Its legacy will be as a show that came from very humble beginnings – a remake of a hit UK sitcom (The Office) that was aired as a mid-season replacement. In US network television, beginnings don’t get much more humble than that. From there, however, the show became something much bigger, emerging and engulfing the shadow that it was created under – the shadow of the initially superior British sitcom – and eventually proving itself superior.
It is odd to compare the US and UK versions of The Office, because aside from some first season plotlines, they are completely different. The Office US (as it is known in the UK) found itself in its second season when it stopped trying to emulate the tone and pitch of the UK version. Sure, the first season had some great comedic moments – Michael (Steve Carell) and his affection for Ryan (BJ Novak), who was then just a temp, Dwight (Rainn Wilson) choosing the office’s health care plan in the face of potential downsizing, Michael attempting to seduce Katy (Amy Adams), the purse sales rep, with a $1000 espresso machine bought with employee prize money, Pam (Jenna Fischer), Jim (Jon Krasinski) and Roy’s (David Denman) awkward affection triangle – but the fact that it was only six episodes long was undoubtedly to its benefit. As a standalone season, it definitely has the beginnings of the show we’d come to know and love, but the missteps that were made in that season (mostly by emulating the original) allowed it to grow and find itself.
The second season changed all that. You can imagine show runner Greg Daniels gathering the writing staff together and deciding to make a more American interpretation of the office, rather than the show The Office. This freed them up thematically and dramatically, allowing for multiple romances, wackier comedic moments, and a less oppressive atmosphere than the UK version. Season 2 was the first full-length season, and introduced key stories that would resonate throughout the seasons to follow – Jan (Melora Hardin) “spending the night” with Michael, Dwight and Angela (Angela Kinsey), Jim and Pam’s furtive glances blossoming into something more than friendship, and how that will affect her relationship with Roy.
This season also features the first really classic episodes, those ones you think of when you’re describing the show to someone who has never seen it before. There’s “The Dundies,” the first episode to let Michael Scott get his way, taking him from awkward to goofy and give full rein to his multiple neuroses. “Office Olympics” was the first great “bunk off” day, where the entire office downs tools and just has fun. This also showed us the full comedic inventiveness of Jim, being as he was up to then mainly the prankster bane of Dwight’s life. The episode introduced viewers to Flonkerton, Dunderball, and Pam Pong; all recreated in errant offices up and down the country. We also had “Booze Cruise,” when Jim finally tells someone (Michael) that he loves Pam, which gave the last few episodes a palpable air of tension. Jim finally tells Pam how he feels about her in the finale, “Casino Night,” and the kiss they shared was a perfect ending to that season, setting the next one up quite nicely.