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Why The Office, Works

by Birithivy Yogaratnam about a month ago in comedy / tv / pop culture / entertainment
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A show that gained more fame after its run, The Office was a path breaking show that transcended its original run.

Dunder Mifflin.

It's been 17 years since the first episode of The Office came out, and almost 10 years since the series had finished its run on NBC in 2013. But its a funny thing how popularity and cultural relevance works in the entertainment industry. There are plenty of shows/movies/music/fads that came out in the year 2005 that were huge successes and super popular at the time, but fail to hold a scintilla of that same popularity today. So its quite surprising that a show about an office environment would be able to withstand the test of time, and become even more popular now than it ever was back in its original run. And its even more surprising that a show like The Office even was able to survive and have a run, considering it almost was given up on before it was able to find its footing.

As any mega fan of the gang from Dunder Mifflin would tell you, the show only finds its stripes later on in its run, past its first season. Granted, there were some iconic episodes from that inaugural season, but it was the creativity, risks, and downright hilarity that came in the consecutive seasons that made The Office into a critic and audience darling. But why did a show about a bunch of paper sales folk work? Because it felt real! There are numerous things to talk about, and unlike shows prior like Seinfeld or F*R*I*E*N*D*S*, The Office was able to bring a sense of realism towards things, even if the situation was a little outlandish at times.

For starters, we've all worked in a workplace where a manager like Michael Scott could be present. Steve Carell did an amazing job of creating a boss that any person who has worked in an office setting or even just a general workplace setting could relate to. At times Michael was a bumbling buffoon who somehow always got the numbers to keep his location afloat. But he also felt super real in terms of how he was as a person. You can sense a deep loneliness from him, even though his over kindness should have warranted more friends for him in that setting. There are moments where you can tell that the character is hurt for not being invited to an event, or not being a part of gossip, or just not considered as "just one of the guys." It makes you feel for the character, even if the scene prior had him saying something so outlandish or ridiculous that it made your skin crawl or burst out laughing. He's also human: with his pursuit of love and to be loved a key focal point of his character. Michael is such an interesting portrait of a character because he's not the prototypical boss. Yes, he does boss his associates at times, but he equally wants the best for them (most of the time) and wants everyone to feel like their a part of his family (except for Toby of course). It makes you look back at a boss or coworker who possibly had those same qualities, and makes you reminisce as to why they possibly acted or were the way that they were.

Another thing that made the show the thing that it was was its showcase on love. Love is something that every great sitcom has and will have: the "will they/won't they" dynamic. That dynamic can make (or severely) break a show, and a show like The Office had a multitude of romance. Famously, everyone always talks about the Jim & Pam story, but the show also had the Dwight & Angela and Ryan & Kelly storylines too. Though out of the three, the biggest spotlight was always on the Jim & Pam story, the other two stories were equally interesting and surprisingly realistic too. The show did an amazing job of writing these stories, because almost anyone who has worked somewhere has probably had a situation that would relate to one of those three stories. The show was able to properly highlight the awkwardness, the one sided love, the toxicity, the cheating, the honesty, and the warm feeling of love so beautifully in the show. Most of these moments are part of jokes or gags in the show, but when the moment deserved a little honesty, The Office was able to take off the hilarity lens and give us an honest look at these situations. Many times I hear fans talking about these moments and relating back to things that they've dealt with in their personal lives, and that to me is another mark as to why this show works so damn well.

And another reason why this show was able to transcend time was because its familiarity and honesty to how workplace dynamics work. Forget about the show being based in an office. If you were to close your eyes and just listen to how some of the characters talked, you would think that you were hearing someone from your own workplace talk. And with the absence of a laugh track, it also lead credence to the whole "docudrama" feel the show was going for. You also had caricature characters that didn't feel like caricatures at all. They felt like real people that we've all had in our workplaces: the bossy type, the gossiper, the suck up, the grumpy one, the obnoxious type, the "too cool for school" type, the old school thinker, the "I don't know what they're doing here" person, the under/over qualified person, and the oblivious type. We've all had people that act like the characters in the show in our real lives, whether it be in work or normal life. And it makes us revisit the show often to be see how accurate or hilariously over the top they make those people seem. Its another thing that many of the fans always account the show's success too as well. It also helped that prior to Carell getting his mega fame through The 40 Year Old Virgin, all the stars of the show were either new to the field or actors that had small roles in shows/films beforehand. It made us connect to the characters even more, since we didn't know, or barely knew these people prior to watching The Office.

But the main reason as to why The Office works is simple: its so damn funny. Forget about the relatability of the show or its human element, the show was just too darn funny. Granted, a lot of the humor might not fly with audiences had the show released today, but its that same reason why people flock to watch this show on Netflix/Peacock or any streaming site that the show is on. It captured that time period extremely well in terms of its comedy, and had one of the greatest comedic actors portraying one of the funniest characters of all time in Michael Scott. Some of the lines resonate today more than they did when they originally aired on tv. Memes and small clips from the show still go viral as if they were just aired today. And there's a brilliance in the writing of the joke and the setup. Sometimes, the silence or downright cringey awkwardness that follows some of the gags or jokes are even more funnier than the actual joke it self. Its a lasting reason why The Office worked, because it made you think you were watching real people at work, when in reality it was just a sitcom. It made you feel like you were in that atmosphere and environment, without making you feel like its a show you were watching. Even when a big star had a guest appearance on the show, it always felt authentic and realistic towards the show's setting.

So there's one question that remains: will The Office still gain popularity for years to come? And that answer is yes. With some of the cast and crew gaining more fame over the years, and various shows having copied the whole docudrama filming technique, people will always wonder and enquire what show did it first and did it best. For that main reason, The Office will continue to have a hold on viewers for years to come. As a huge fan of the show myself, I think the main reason that drawn me towards the show was its honesty and realistic takes on mundane and normal things. I've seen shows before this and after this that tried doing the same things, but The Office seemed to had this amazing grasp on somethings that were so simple. I've laughed, I've cried, I've cheered, and I've had my heart warm up from various moments from this show, and I can't tell you how much times this show has come up in conversations or situations in real life. It's one of the greatest achievements in television and comedy history, and to think it all stemmed from a group of normal people in a paper company in Scranton.

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Birithivy Yogaratnam

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