I Binge Watched THE OFFICE During Quarantine - Full Series Thoughts & Impressions | Fanboys Anonymous

I never bothered to watch The Office when it was running. I had convinced myself that since it was so popular and it was advertised as "that cooky Steve Carell show", I would hate it, so I shouldn't even bother.

What a mistake that was.

Many people have treated this COVID-19 pandemic as a means to catch up on movies and television, and while I haven't had the free time to do that, I did decide on a whim to give The Office a shot, if given the opportunity.

What's the worst that could happen? I watch a few episodes, hate it, figure "I was right all along" and move on to another thing?

Well, I liked it from the start and got hooked to the point where I loved it.

Binging all 9 seasons of a show like this during the span of one month was a journey. It wasn't nearly the same as growing 9 years older with these characters like most fans of the show, though. But even still, I decided to write down a lot of my thoughts along the way and share them so those fans could see how the series was viewed through different eyes—and yet, I get a sense we still came to the same conclusions about a lot of things.

There's no clean, organized way of doing this, so let's just dive right in.


Jim and Pam

The love story between Jim and Pam is the crux of the show. Had that not worked from the beginning and continued to be solid, the whole series has a bad foundation.

Thankfully, they never ran into much of the tropes so many of these shows fall victim to. Even the good ones, like How I Met Your Mother and Scrubs, are guilty of some really cliche situations and plot contrivances.

One of the things I absolutely loved about The Office was how there wasn't manufactured tension for extended periods that drove the show. Nearly every show has nearly every episode about how the characters are fighting with one another or there are entire seasons dedicated to a problem that could have been solved with a few seconds of talking.

Like "real people", there were moments of issues between Jim and Pam (and other characters), but it wasn't some sensational thing. They'd argue or have things in their way, but most of the time, it didn't feel like some writer just threw in a wrench because "wouldn't that be interesting?" That did happen a few times, but not often.

For example, a lesser show would have had Jim be a terrible person to Karen. Or for Karen to pop back into Jim's life and try to win him back so Pam is on the defense. Or, with the inclusion of Cathy, they would have had that awful trope where she kisses Jim and Pam sees it, walks away and doesn't see that a moment later, Jim scolds Cathy for doing something he didn't want. Then, a whole season revolves around him having to prove he didn't initiate the kiss or have feelings. Had that happened, it would have been awful textbook crap and I'm glad The Office was better than that.

Instead of just tolerating the romantic subplot, the Jim and Pam angle was one of my absolute favorite things about The Office. I rooted for them from the start and didn't feel disappointed along the way.

Immediately, I pegged Jim as the most likable character. I also thought Roy was shitty and needed to go, which made him a great foil. Katy as a fake Pam was a nice touch.

I'm glad the show didn't stall on their relationship. You know they're interested in each other right out of the gate, they establish their feelings early on, and each season they take one or two steps forward (until, admittedly, they hit a bit of a snag. We'll get to that with the season 8 problem or so.)

You can kind of live for those moments where Jim has spent time away at the Stamford branch and by the end of the season, he asks Pam on a date. You're thinking FINALLY, and it didn't take 6 seasons to get there. It was basically 2, since the first season's so short.

Good lord. The teapot note. My heart. When that came back at the end, that was a beautiful touch, and I'm glad we don't get to know what was said on it. We don't need to know.

I'm glad both Jim and Pam are more than just their relationship, too.

Pam's the heart of the show in a lot of ways and even though she didn't get to become some majorly famous artist, she got her moment in the sun. Also, what the hell, people? You didn't go to her art show? Awful friends. That was a great moment when Michael was so proud of her and bought the painting, though. I loved that. Major highlight moment for the series.

Jim's got his future career that he'll be much happier with, overall, than selling paper. Even though it's sad to think the gang can't all just keep hanging out, that's not life. You need endings to some things and this is a happy ending. That guy was always better than this job and now, he gets a chance to fulfill his true potential. He was there to meet Pam and develop these relationships and then to move on. Happy ending.

Jim and Pam make the show. Had they been written off or anything, it would have needed to been cancelled. They were both such great, lovable characters and their relationship was amazing.

Dwight K. Schrute

My first impression was "Dwight's a great character, but I can see myself getting annoyed of him once they try to make him break out too much."

There was only one instance of that, which was the episode The Farm.

It's to my understanding this was somewhat of a backdoor pilot to see if they could do a spin-off with that group and give Dwight his own show, right? If so, thank God it didn't happen. That would have been brutal, as I couldn't even take that episode.

Sometimes, they went a little too out there with the farm stuff in general and could have dialed it back a bit. But they'd frequently tone it down for some other episodes. My preference was always more of the office stuff with him, rather than getting deep into the weird, over-the-top rituals and such.

But how great is Dwight? They really found the right balance of making sure he's weird, but not annoying, and someone you could see yourself growing to pity-love if you were around the guy and could witness how strange he is.

He doesn't get nerfed when his character grows. As in, once he starts showing emotions, it's not like they destroyed his edge. They really, really did well with him.

I'm very glad they made it so he's Phillip was his son and Angela just didn't want Dwight to want to be with her for that reason. Nice touch. I'm also glad Dwight and Angela got together just in general. It was hard not to want that to happen once they had such good chemistry early on.

SO happy with the rapport Dwight and Jim had for the final episodes. Their rivalry was more like siblings than enemies, so you needed to have them end on good terms. Having them both endorse the other as a good potential manager shows they can put their egos aside. Hugging each other and Dwight making Clark move out of Jim's seat was a great gesture. And I LOVED the dynamic of A.A.R.M. I could have eaten up a whole season of that.

Dwight deserved to be the manager. That's the best ending I was hoping for him.

Michael Scott

It's odd. Michael was the main reason I didn't watch the show when it was on and now that I did, I'll flat out say when he left, the show got worse.

My first impression was that I didn't really like him, initially. It took a little while for me to warm up to the character. A few episodes in, though, I was pretty sold. I can't actually tell you even when it was that I started liking him, but it might have been The Dundies (season 2 episode 1). Eventually, the note I wrote was "Michael would be so infuriating to work for, but he's too nice of a person to dislike."

His rhythm of being the centerpiece with which everything revolved around worked so well because he was equal parts subdued for the cameras as well as crazy for the plot. It's a mundane setting and you get the sense that Michael's the driving force for a lot of the antics that go down. That's the way it should be. He serves a purpose as the main protagonist because he's the subject.

That's why it's such a downer when he leaves the show and they can't find a new rhythm. Again, we're going to address this further down in another section, but in short, I feel like once Michael leaves, the series goes downhill and doesn't recover until the finale.

Speaking of when he left. Maaaaan. I got a little choked up with his letter of recommendation for Dwight, but when he and Jim said their goodbyes that weren't really goodbyes, that got me really teary.

As far as his love life went, I'll admit that I grew a little tired of Jan at times. She went from a solid foil to a great character to one that overstayed her welcome. Then, after she left, I was glad to see her pop up for a cameo.

But Holly was key. She worked so well as his true love that it was great to see his exit from the show at least came about for a happy reason. Seeing that Michael has kids and is happy and grows up a bit (but not so much that he can't still crack a "that's what she said" joke) and be Dwight's best man (as Jim's surprise, nonetheless) was so so so so goooooood.

Andy Bernard

So much to unpack here. Where do I get started?

Andy was a roller coaster ride and not for the right reasons, most of the time. Here's the adventure I went on with his character:

  1. Hated him. I thought he was just a side element that would be gone once the Stamford storyline ended and he was there just to be "a worse Dwight" to prove that Jim would rather work with Dwight in comparison. Totally wrong.
  2. Totally right about one thing, though. When he was brought in with the other Stamfordites, I was hoping he and Karen would be the only two that would stay and they'd find a role for them on the show. Eventually, Karen started to prove herself as not having much of a character, so I was okay with her leaving the show, too.
  3. However, once Andy started being the suck up to Michael, I liked the character a lot more. He served a purpose and was different from Dwight in that role.
  4. Dating Angela? Not a huge fan of him during that time. He got a little obnoxious and they went a bit too far into the idea of poking at him so we'd prefer Dwight. It worked, but it made Andy more annoying.
  5. Trying to date Erin? Endearing. I liked him again.
  6. Andy's brought on as the manager and becomes Michael Lite. More on that later.
  7. But hey, he went ahead with the tattoo. He's trying. Also, cute moment that its a Nard Dog. I really liked that camaraderie and it made me feel good that maybe he'd work out well as the new boss in the long run for the show.
  8. Then, he became too much of a focal point and I'm annoyed with him again because too much of season 8 was about Andy and Robert California.
  9. But hey, he's not anywhere near as bad as Nellie. Holy shit. Let's get rid of her and bring Andy back!
  10. Aaaaand now I hate Andy again when he leaves on the boat trip because he's become an entirely unlikable character. It's almost as if they had a vendetta against Ed Helms for being busy with The Hangover.
  11. Ultimately, he lands where he should have. Andy's better off at Cornell and while they made him a meme to get made fun of, they also didn't fully crap on him in the finale.
He had one of the best lines in the whole show during that finale, too. "I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them." That hit me hard.

Nice touch with Stephen Colbert being Broccoli Rob. That was great.

Ultimately, Andy is a character that came in when the show was in its stride, threw everything for a loop and found his place, but ultimately kept being thrown around in weird ways. At times, he was the glue that held things together. At other times, he was easily the most divisive character that I can understand having tons of haters for.

Kelly and Ryan

Right from the beginning, I loved Ryan. His complete lack of enthusiasm in the first three seasons, which grew into him becoming a worse person was fantastic. I actually was thinking at the start of the show that they might end it with him being the manager and that this would be kind of framed within the context of the rise of a temp to the boss. When he became a boss in season 4 and was such an awful person, that was interesting in its own way and I enjoyed that storyline a lot.

Kelly wasn't such a smash hit, at first. I didn't think she served any purpose for the beginning of the show as she was just sort of there, not doing much. Eventually, though, once they developed her character as gossipy and awful in her own right, she instantly upgraded considerably and became a real highlight.

It was always surprising to me that B.J. Novak was considered main cast all throughout 8 seasons. Ed Helms was still even just "starring" for his first three seasons. 

I was disappointed we didn't get them in the last season, but having them run off together was the best ending possible.

Erin

I was very, very suspicious of her, originally. I thought she'd be too much of a situation where a show brings in a younger kid once the children actors start aging, or they introduce "the fun uncle" to the sitcom to spice things up. She was allowed to grow on her own, though, and quickly became a highlight.

She's just so cute and adorable. How could you hate her?

When she was paired with Gabe, I wasn't a fan. With Andy, I thought it worked. Then, once Andy was out of the picture and they threw Pete in there, it didn't feel right. I never got the vibe Pete and Erin should be a thing.

Erin meeting her mom and dad at the end? Very touching moment and I'm glad she got that happy ending.

Darryl

Rockstar. The man. Easily one of my most favorite characters, by far.

I really don't know what more to say about him other than that, oddly. He and Erin were the two main additions post original cast that I grew to love like they were originals (even though Darryl was officially in the first season and all, but it's a big step to go from a background character to a principal one).

The Accountants

Oscar was a little meh, but got better. He's more of the straight man (no pun intended) so he doesn't have as much of a bombastic side to really win you over. However, despite that, I missed him when he was gone for most of that one season and I'm glad he never became a total asshole even when he was part of the affair with Angela's husband. Good B-level character.

Speaking of Angela, she was one that I assumed they'd go too far with. They didn't, really. They kept her a pill to deal with but one that you could feel bad for at times. Every show needs some villains and she managed to be one without becoming unlikable. Overall, I think I liked her purposefulness on the show even more than Oscar.

But Kevin was probably the character that made me smile the most of all of the entire cast. "But you can't eat cats. You can't eat cats, Kevin." Damn near every line of his was gold. I do feel like they dropped the ball with him, though. There was a lot of stuff for nearly every character, yet no real Kevin episodes. I'd gladly sacrifice multiple Andy episodes, the entirety of Robert California and so on to get one good Kevin episode per season.

I understand why some people say he suffered from Flanderization, as he did go from "clearly the stupidest one in the office" to someone who could barely function, but hey, I also enjoyed that ride. I also like the theory that he's suffering from the gas leak and that that's an explanation. One of my favorite moments was Holly thinking he was "special" and him giving her all the reason to believe it. I wish they would have given him more of a positive send-off with buying the bar, though. I guess he was supposed to have become a cult favorite from the documentary and that was what helped him buy it and run it successfully? I'd have liked to see that and for him to be happy. It's nice to win one, right? (Gah. That was sad.)

The Old Timers

Let's talk about Phyllis and Stanley.

They were extremely consistent supporting players. Very early, it became clear what their roles were and they didn't adjust all too much, but they didn't need to. Of course, they did see some progression and I think that was for the better, too.

Stanley was best, I think, when he was dismissive and didn't want to be involved. The episode where he flips out ("Did I stutter?") was a bit strange, to me, and I thought it was weird how they seemed to almost glorify his affairs, but overall, I loved when he would be surly and cantankerous even by just not participating. Very glad his conclusion was a retirement in Florida that he seemed to enjoy a lot when he visited.

It's interesting Phyllis Smith was originally in casting before they decided to give her a spot on the show with the Phyllis character (side note: it's also interesting how many people have the same names as the actor's names). I really loved how even though she'd be picked on, it never felt like we were supposed to not pity her in the process. I also like how she got progressively more confident and a higher self-esteem after dating Bob Vance (Vance Refrigeration...loved that gag). Very sweet character in a lot of ways.

The Oddballs

Lumping in Meredith, Creed and Toby together as the odd ones who more often than not were just hanging out in the background.

Meredith took me a bit. She was just sort of there in the background and didn't make an impression on me until she started to come out of her shell as the office trash bag, essentially. At times, I'd have liked her character to be toned down just a smidge at least, as it got a little slapsticky and too broad, but I tend to prefer that with every character in every show, not just her. It's hard to find a character I don't like better before that Flanderization kicks in (although with Kevin, he's a rare exception and stayed amazing). I thought the hair stuff was kind of sweet in a way as one of her send-off ideas and that she was partying mostly because she was in college getting her degree during the show. Hilarious touch.

Creed. So good. I started off saying "I didn't even know he was a character until he almost got fired" and my friends told me that was the point and it would make more sense as the show went on. Little did I know how right that would be! LOOOOOOVED Creed throughout the show. Tons of little moments that were gems, like just throwing an old shirt in a bag for a Christmas gift and stealing tons of things.

Gotta love Toby being the sad sack. I felt bad that his big happy ending was just a fleeting moment of happiness to be invited to join the rest of the crew, but then again, that's kind of fitting, too. It's interesting that this was the first bit of acting work Paul Lieberstein had done, because he was so good in that role.

All these were at their best when they were sprinkled into episodes.

The Regime Change Causes a Downfall

It's time to address the biggest problem with the series, which was the transition to a new writing approach and a shake-up with the team on and off the screen.

Greg Daniels left as showrunner from seasons 5 through 8. Want to guess which seasons I find the worst?

Season 1 was so short that it's hard to even really count it, but it got me into the show. Season 2 secured that I would stick through it. Season 3 and 4 had hit its stride and it was just awesome (not perfect, but easily the most consistent product).

Then, season 5 comes along and I didn't even know about this change in the writing team, but I actually wrote in my notes that it felt like there was a change. I could feel the difference and I didn't like it.

I liked Holly Flax a lot, but I didn't like Charles Miner. I did like Erin, but I didn't like how it felt like she was introduced as a point of tension with Pam in art school. That plot in and of itself felt very normal sitcom-like where the whole time, I was waiting for her to become infatuated with some new guy and all that nonsense.

I was nervous when Michael quit and they were doing that story, but I was happy when he was bought out. It felt like they had found a new status quo and I was going to enjoy season 6.

Now season 6 was better, in some ways. Andy trying to get with Erin was much better than the Andy vs Dwight over Angela stuff, for example. But I felt like Michael dating Pam's mom wasn't utilized as well as it could have been.

Yet the big problem with season 6 was the introduction of Sabre and the inclusion of a bunch of characters I wasn't really into.

I never grew to fully like Gabe. He had some moments, but the cast had gotten so overcrowded that I would have rather had more stuff from the core group of like 10+ people than to just insert another person in there and keep him for the next few seasons.

Jo Bennett? Wasn't digging her, either. Jim as co-manager had some good moments, but it also felt a little strange, too. It could have been done much better. We didn't even get much of a take down from Ryan and Dwight teaming up. That would've been fun.

Season 7 was a series of miscellaneous random things that felt very disjointed. Sweeney Todd and Glee and all, for instance, when Michael's exit just was rushed?

I did love Jim and Michael having their moment when he was leaving, as well as Pam's goodbye and the letter of recommendation for Dwight. Those were sweet and I was happy to see Michael leaving on a happy note instead of just being fired or something.

But man...Deangelo. I went from loving his introduction to disliking the character to being okay with him trying to find his place, to hating him, to missing him, to forgetting he was even there.

I will say, though, he had the one line that made me laugh the most hysterically out of any line in the entire series, which was when his idea of banter for the awards was to say "Where were you on September 11th?" I BUSTED OUT laughing at that. I wasn't expecting it at all.

So we end season 7 not knowing who will take over for Michael. Big shoes to fill. And boy did they blow it.

Season 8 was the Andy and Robert California show. Ed Helms being a bigger star and James Spader being a featured name DOMINATED the season and I didn't enjoy it.

Andy was Michael Lite, as I mentioned. They managed to make him okay in the long run, but just not Michael. Being around Robert, though, made Andy less annoying in comparison.

Now I'll say this. The character of Robert California would have been amazing if it had only been a guest supporting part that comes in once in a while, like a Todd Packer. He had intrigue, but they killed it by having him be such a monumental focal point.

Then, they go even worse by making Nellie an absolute chore to sit through. I HATED her character, and not in a "grr I can't wait to see her get her comeuppance" way. I mean in an "uggghh she's in this scene so I hope it ends soon" way.

But thankfully, David Wallace stepped in at the end and saved the day. I've always been a big fan of his straight man act and I was super, super happy to see him back at the helm of Dunder Mifflin. And to be honest, I was happy to see Andy reinstated as the boss, too. I would have preferred Michael back and Andy to go into sales once more, but Andy was a step up from Robert and Nellie.

Then, even though season 9 is great for a lot of reasons, it's also problematic as hell for one major problem: they decided "fuck Andy, right?"

Nellie got better. She went from an obnoxious character to watch to someone who was just meh and taking time away from my preferred characters. I'd rather you get rid of Nellie and give me Ryan and Kelly in that season. But I'm glad Nellie got a kid...even if it's Ryan's. Dark!

I couldn't get attached to Clark and Pete. Clark had some moments, but I think he would have been better had he been introduced earlier in the show and become Dwight's protege in a more full way. Pete was just a stand-in to give Erin someone to flirt with and I think if you take out the atrocious "Andy is a complete dick and goes off the walls and leaves for months, which is a horrible thing to do to Erin so we should hate him and root against him" angle and just make it so Andy's in the season as regularly as he was the previous few, you not only don't need Pete, you also don't even create the character.

Brian the boom mic guy was an interesting choice. I liked that as the show was wrapping up being filmed, they were playing around more with the crew filming the documentary. It's like senior year of high school. I'm also glad they once again avoided having Pam actually develop feelings for Brian in return and Jim needing to save the day.

The Floor Plan

I could not get a proper foothold of the floor plan of that office for the longest time. I keep imagining the accounts sitting in the corner that Darryl's office is in. Basically, like this:

Accountants            Darryl            Creed and Meredith               ????
Stanley/Phyllis/Andy                    Dwight/Jim/Pam                    Reception

I know it doesn't make any sense, but that's how my brain malfunctioned so often when I couldn't grasp the layout. It also seemed so crazy to me that Toby and Kelly were so far away from everyone all the time, even though I knew they had to be. Still just weird to me even after looking at maps.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • Hilary Swank is hot. C'mon now.
  • I love that the same stripper kept popping up.
  • Whatever happened to Danny Cordray?
  • I expected a little more payoff for the Scranton Strangler.
  • So was Kevin's fudging of the numbers the reason why Scranton was always doing better?
  • Astrid is Hunter's kid, right?
  • Who the fuck is Louanne?

Final Thoughts

Even at its moments that I wasn't enjoying it as much as I had before, this show was still great. I'm so thankful to have been able to watch it and taken that plunge. It's a shame I didn't watch it when it was on the air so I could experience it as it went on, but maybe this was even better, as I got to speed through it so the bad stuff didn't drag and the good stuff just kept coming along.

I'll be holding a lot of reverence for this show. It's not going to top the first 10 seasons of The Simpsons as my favorite show of all time or unseat Seinfeld or anything like that, but I'd say I'd probably put it on my top 10 favorite sitcoms at this point along with the likes of Community, Modern Family, etc.

This show wins so many Dundies.
THIS POST WRITTEN BY: ANTHONY MANGO

Tony Mango is the founder, editor-in-chief, head writer and show host of Fanboys Anonymous as well as all other A Mango Tree branches including Smark Out Moment. He is a pundit, creative director/consultant, media manager and more. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Extended profile here.

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