A cold open is the opening of a show usually before it hits the title sequence. When it comes to The Office, the cold opens are usually nothing short of excellent. Sometimes it’s related to the plot of the whole episode. Other times it’s just random shenanigans that we end up loving.
There’s really nothing specific that makes a cold open great. The goal of every cold open is to make sure you stick through for the rest of the episode, and if it can do that, then it’s a winner. Either it’s through random comedy, or something dramatic, or even a mixture of both.
With The Office ending this week, we’ve decided to celebrate its many brilliant cold opens. It’s a staple of most TV shows, but The Office has made it sort of its own thing. Sometimes, it’s even the best part of the episode.
A lot of times the cold opens feature pranks, especially between Jim and Dwight. Considering that I’ve already compiled a list of the best pranks of the show, I’ve decided not to include them in this list. Besides, if there’s one thing this list proves, it’s that a cold open for this show doesn’t need a prank to be brilliant.
With that, we present to your our top 10 cold opens from The Office. I hope you enjoy reliving them as we head towards the series finale.
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Sleepy Michael: In the cold open for the Season 5 finale, Company Picnic, Michael falls asleep after eating an entire family size Chicken Pot Pie, and the entire office make a plan to get out of work early. It’s only 1pm, but everyone changes the clocks around the place, especially inside Michael’s office and car, to make it look like it’s 5pm. Then they wake Michael up with laughter and noise and sure enough, he thinks it’s already 5 and lets them all leave. A highlight of this is Dwight, who agrees to be a part of this because he has a meeting with a horse doctor later in the day. He even makes a lame joke about it and then laughs at it himself, which is funny because, well, have you seen the way he laughs?
Sabre: The cold open for Season 6′s Sabre, has the office receive a box from Sabre, Dunder-Mifflin’s new owner. Michael thinks the box is for the office and promptly opens and distributes the items in it to everybody, which includes a fax machine, a printer and a scanner. There’s a great scene where Michael and Dwight test out the new scanners with newfound joy. When Michael realizes it’s not for them but for a new worker named Gabe, Michael has everyone put everything back in the box, which according to Dwight, was opened like an ape. Somehow they manage to put it all in, only for Michael to find his phone was accidentally left in the box. The highlight? When Michael has to tell the office the bad news, Dwight gets in a great line that always gets me to laugh, just because of the way he delivers it.
Michael: Due to circumstances beyond my control–
Dwight: [Michael's] impulsivity and inattention to detail
Lip-Dub: The Season 7 premiere, Nepotism, had a lip dub performance by the entire cast for a cold open. ‘Nuff said.
Dwight K. Schrute, (Acting) Manager: This is the name of the episode from Season 7, which sees Dwight become manager until they can find a permanent one. The office seems to take care of itself even without anyone in charge, much to Jim’s amusement. And then he gets a call from Jo to become acting manager, and Jim being Jim, declines the offer. Which he soon realizes is a huge mistake once Dwight gets the same call and accepts. The cold open turns from good to great in one moment, when Dwight calls Mose. Dwight simply says, “Mose, you’ll never guess where I’m at right now.” Mose apparently does guess right because he just starts screaming in joy, which even surprises Dwight.
Creepy Michael: In Season 2′s The Carpet, Pam’s on vacation and Ryan’s the temporary receptionist. Jim can’t stop looking his way as he misses Pam and can’t wait for her to get back the next day. Ryan doesn’t know why Jim keeps looking at him but he’s not creeped out by it. Why? Because it’s nothing compared to the way that Michael stares at him from his office. Long-time fans will know that Michael has always had this hidden man-crush on Ryan, and the way he looks at Ryan…he would’ve looked scary if we didn’t know what Michael Scott was really like.
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The cold open for Season 8′s After Hours centers on Pam, Angela and Oscar. All three find something to complain about the other. When Angela and Pam talk about their babies, Oscar jumps in to the conversation to talk about his dog, leading to Pam and Angela complaining about how Oscar thinks pets are like children. When Angela claims her son is already crawling when Pam’s isn’t, Oscar and Pam complain about how Angela is such a liar. When Pam talks about the hard work that comes with having two children, Oscar and Angela complain about Pam as no one asked her to have two kids.
The real kicker though is when Andy comes in and talks about the new boat his brother bought and how there’s nothing harder to take care of. This leads to all three coming together to complain about Andy as they feel it’s “Unbelievable!” It’s all in the delivery as the way Oscar says it (emphasizing each syllable) is what really makes you laugh, especially considering he’s not the one with kids.
In Costume Contest from Season 7, the cold open centers on Stanley. When Stanley drinks Jim’s coffee by accident and doesn’t realize it wasn’t his, Jim decides to test if there’s a limit to what he won’t notice. We see the different ways Jim does this as he makes Kevin dress up like Phyllis and Andy go shirtless only for Stanley to still not notice anything. They then replace his computer with a box, have Michael put on fake teeth, and even have Stanley sit in the opposite direction in the conference room as Michael speaks nonsense. And he still doesn’t seem to notice any of it as he is fixated on his crossword puzzles. The only time Stanley notices something? When the clock is slow and he realizes it’s already 5pm and time to go home. Classic Stanley.
8. Cheese Puffs
As Michael, Pam and Ryan are now part of the Michael Scott Paper Company, they seem to have a lot of free time. And with that free time they seem to have perfected some…skills. In the cold open for Season 5′s Heavy Competition, the three throw around cheese puffs in each other’s mouth, whether it’s bounced off a wall or thrown backwards. And they get it in every single time. It’s not only funny, but very impressive.
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It’s Halloween time in Season 5′s Employee Transfer, as everyone dresses up to work (except for Jim) in some interesting costumes. Stanley just has something over his head so he can sleep, while Kelly is Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. Creed comes in dressed as Heath Ledger’s Joker, and repeats the iconic line, “Let’s put a smile on that face,” in that menacing tone. You’re not sure if he’s just getting in the Halloween spirit or if he really means it because well…it’s Creed. This sucks for Kevin who spent all night also working on his Joker costume. Pam dresses up all the way in New York, except no one else does that over there. She comes in dressed up as Charlie Chaplin but due to the fact she used grease paint, she can’t get rid of the moustache. And if she takes off her hat, she looks like Hitler. The best part is when Dwight is coming in to the office and you realize, he’s also dressed up as the Joker.
6. A Chance At The Title
In Season 6, we have two managers: Michael who takes care of the big picture stuff, and Jim who deals with the day-to-day operations. In the cold open for The Promotion, Dwight needs something signed and visits Michael who directs him to Jim, who annoys Dwight and thus sends him back to Michael. Dwight then tries to trick Michael into issuing a complaint against Jim, but fails to do so. He then goes back to Jim to issue the same complaint, and Jim just messes with him back while acting serious about it.
This leads to Dwight getting super mad, especially because he wanted the promotion that Jim received. In a talking head, he talks about how he’d like to put Jim in a triangle chokehold, and keep pressing and pressing, and then put him in a hammerlock until Jim loses his breath, as the crowd goes crazy and he’s now victorious with a shot at the title. He sounds like a really twisted person, and that’s what makes it hilarious.
5. The Cube
For once, Michael is conducting a serious meeting in the conference room in Season 4′s Launch Party, and it looks like everyone’s into the meeting as they all look alert and interested. But in reality, they’re looking at the TV behind Michael, which has the ‘DVD’ cube bouncing around. As Jim explains to us, they’re waiting to see if the cube can get into a corner as it never seems to do. As they react in disappointment every time it doesn’t, Michael thinks that they’re responding to his ideas and whatever he’s talking about.
The cube finally hits a corner just as Michael proposes an idea for something, and they scream in joy. Michael is very pleased, thinking that everyone was happy with the meeting. “Somedays I am just on fire,” he says. It’s amazing how the writers turned something so normal, into something completely hilarious.
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4. Dwight Saves The Day
At the end of Season 2, Jim kissed Pam while she was still engaged to Roy. By Season 3, Jim had found a new girlfriend in Karen, and had seemingly moved on. Pam, who was still with Roy wanted a fresh start in their relationship and revealed to Roy her kiss with Jim. Roy didn’t take this easily and promised to kill the man. This is how things stood as Season 3′s The Negotiation opens. The cold open sees everyone packing up to leave for home. Jim and Karen are flirting while Pam watches them with upset eyes. Enter Roy, who shows up looking angry. It’s a tense situation and Roy charges at Jim to attack him. Out of nowhere he’s blasted with pepper spray, and we turn around to find that it’s Dwight, who immediately controls the situation.
You can’t help but root for the guy, especially considering how Jim and Dwight are natural enemies. But now Jim is saved by him. Of course this doesn’t significantly change their relationship, but you can’t help but respect Dwight a little bit more. As Dwight says while fighting back tears (from the pepper spray), “Every day, for eight years, I have brought pepper spray into this office to protect myself and my fellow employees, and every day for eight years people have laughed at me. Well, who’s laughing now?” Unlike the others, this isn’t really a funny cold open, it’s just straight up awesome.
When someone from the phone company comes in to see Michael Scott to talk about a new phone system, Pam tries to stop it from happening since the new systems pretty much does almost all of her tasks as a receptionist. When she tells him that Michael isn’t in, he tries to make an appointment. Realizing that she can’t stall him for any longer, Jim comes in and introduces himself as Michael Scott (in a way that would make Michael proud). Just as he’s about to save the day for Pam, the real Michael Scott walks in and Jim calls him “Jimbo,” to stop him from ruining Jim’s plan, which leaves Michael confused.
Not knowing what to say, Jim just goes “Aaaayyyyyy” with his thumbs up, inviting Michael to join along. Michael does the same, and so does Pam, with Dwight coming in to join the fun. Eventually they drive off the phone guy out of the office, and it’s mission accomplished. It’s pure nonsense, but it worked so brilliantly. Seeing the happiness on Michael’s face as he feels like he’s finally part of something with his employees make it all the more wonderful. It’s a great Michael Scott moment, and a great cold open overall from Season 5′s Blood Drive.
2. Toby Returns
In Season 5′s Frame Toby, the group is gathered in the conference room eating free brownies. When Kelly takes two, claiming that one is for Toby, Michael shrugs it off as a joke and thinks she’s a weirdo, not knowing that Toby is in fact back from Costa Rica. When Jim realizes that Michael doesn’t know, he sends Michael to the annex. It seems fine for a second, but then he turns around to find Toby is back after all. Before he can say anything, Michael is filled with fury and just screams “NO,” spawning this wonderful gif in the process. If you’re like me, Michael’s contempt at Toby and their relationship is one of your favorite parts of the show, and this cold open completely defines that relationship.
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1. Fire Drill
Could anything else be number 1? In Season 5′s Stress Relief, when Dwight fails at teaching fire safety using PowerPoint, he decides to teach by experience. He locks all the door and makes sure they can’t be opened, and then creates a small fire. This leads to a panic in the office as they think they’re trapped in there and that the building is on fire. And by panic, I mean complete and utter chaos, with some hilarious results. Michael is the one that panics the most, while Kevin tries to save all the snacks in the vending machine.
Angela tries to save her cat by throwing it up into the air ducts, only for it to fall back down from the other side. Andy screams out nonsense while Dwight tries to scream out the rules everyone should be following. There’s pushing and breaking of things as everyone tries to find a way out. Eventually, Dwight stops the entire thing and lets everyone know it wasn’t real. But before anyone can say anything, Stanley falls down with a heart attack, while Michael tries to save him by letting him know that “Barack is President!” Not only is this the best cold open, it’s one of the best moments of The Office.
So, there you have it folks. These are my favorite cold opens from the show, and it looks like Season 5 was its golden age. But let’s be honest, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Office is filled with so many good ones, it’d be hard to go wrong with any of them. Hopefully we’ll get a great one for the finale.
What do you think are the best cold opens of The Office? Let us know in the comments, as always.Previous