It’s National Paper Clip Day, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate that than to remember The Office.
Before The Office was developed, we had series about an office, but not about the office. The Dick Van Dyke Show was set in the writers’ office in parts of many episodes, but the cast’s personal lives were also a large part of the show. Barney Miller was set in the office, but that show was more about the crime in New York. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was set in the television station, but that was also more about the employees’ relationships away from the office. For many years, The Office only concentrated on work relationships.
Based on a BBC sitcom, The Office was a mockmentary about office workers—their egos, their inappropriate behavior, their boredom, their bizarre situations, and the way they eventually became a family. In the first season, I think the show was more about a mediocre paper company with mediocre employees that had a mediocre amount of happiness in their lives, but as the show continued, the characters became more three-dimensional and likable, despite their quirks.
Ironically, the exterior shot of the building used in the show is in Scranton, across from a bar called “The Office.” I’m not sure how enthused the city of Scranton was when the show first began, but they developed an affection for the show, and the Chamber has a page dedicated to Dunder Mifflin. Many real businesses were mentioned on the show.
One of the surprising things was that a show with such a huge cast kept viewers interested in the entire crew. Each character was real and unique. Although characters joined and departed the cast throughout the nine seasons, 17 characters were in at least 55% of the episodes, and 7 characters were on every episode of the series. All of the cast has had successful and busy careers since The Office ended. Let’s look at the major characters.
Stanley Hudson (Leslie David Baker) Stanley is a sales man who can be a bit grumpy. He is a hard worker but underappreciated. In the finale, divorced, he retires and moves to the Everglades where he carves birds. Since the show ended he’s been in 8 tv series and 4 movies.
Kevin Malone (Brian Baumgartner) Kevin, an accountant, gambles and will place bets on items and events ranging from the NCAA basketball tournament to how much candy is at the receptionist’s desk. He is in a band, is a Philadelphia Eagles fan, likes naval history, bowling, and cooking. He leaves to manage a bar and eventually becomes a co-owner. He’s been very busy since the show ended with 17 tv series, 3 movies and a movie in production in his credits.
Angela Martin (Angela Kinsey) Angela is a corporate accountant for Dunder Mifflin. She is rigid and often unnecessarily callous to coworkers like Phyllis and Pam. She claims to be a good Christian woman but often contradicts herself through micromanaging and being extremely judgmental of others. She loves photos of babies dressed like adults. At the finale, Angela is marrying Dwight. Martin has been in 16 tv series since 2013 many of them with recurring roles, 6 movies and has 3 movies in production.
Phyllis Vance (Phyllis Smith) Married to Bob Vance, Phyllis is a saleswoman for Dunder Mifflin. She is quiet and friendly and loves gossip. Michael often refers to her as “old” yet they graduated in the same class. In the finale, she moved to St. Louis to knit. She has appeared in 3 movies, including Inside Out which she did the voice of Sadness.
Meredith Palmer (Kate Flannery) She was described as both an accountant and office buyer for supplies. Admittedly an alcoholic and a flasher, Meredith was one of the sadder characters. If someone is accidentally hurt at work, it typically is Meredith who had her hair set on fire, got rabies from a bat, was hit by Michael’s car, and took a football to the face. With 8 tv appearances, 9 movies and 3 movies in production, she has also kept busy.
Creed Bratton (Creed Bratton) Creed sometimes sleeps in the office building under his desk, only has four toes on one of his feet, loves stealing things, and only recently got a fridge for the first time. He doesn’t have a great memory due to drug use, so he doesn’t really remember what his job entails and he constantly uses the wrong names on his co-workers. He faked his death but was eventually arrested. In real life, Creed Bratton was part of the Grass Roots. Like his other cast members, Bratton has been in 5 tv shows, 9 movies, and has 3 movies in production.
Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nunez) Oscar is an openly gay accountant. He is intelligent, efficient and rational. With Pam and Jim, he refers to the trio as the Coalition for Reason. He left to run for the senate. With 17 tv series, including one with a regular role, 6 movies, and 2 movies in production, he has been quite busy since the show’s end.
Ryan Howard (BJ Novak) Ryan went through various phases during the show as he comes and goes as an employee. Michael tries to be his friend, but Ryan obviously dislikes his employees. He ran away with Kelly during Dwight’s wedding. In real life, he and Kaling dated but are just friends. He has written two books, a short story collection and a children’s book The Book with No Pictures. He has also appeared in 5 tv series and 5 movies.
Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling) Kelly is a customer service representative. She is a bit of a chatterbox; loves shopping and fashion, and can’t wait to get married and have kids. She ends up with Ryan. After the show, Kaling wrote a book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? She developed The Mindy Project, has appeared in 3 other tv series, 3 movies including Inside Out as Disgust, and has 3 movies in production.
Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) Andy comes in as management. He is self-centered and arrogant. He and Angela have a relationship but that does not work out. In the finale, he is working at Cornell, his alma mater. In real life, he is in a bluegrass band The Lonesome Trio. Bernard has been in 7 tv shows, 7 movies, and has a whopping 7 movies in production.
Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein) Toby is a human resources representative. He is very quiet and likes most of his colleagues. However, he is the one person Michael can’t stand. At one point, he moves to Costa Rica, but returns to Dunder Mifflin after a zip line accident. At the end of the show, he moved to New York City to be a writer. Flenderson was one of the producers for The Office. He has continued his career in production, but has also been in 4 tv series and is currently acting in and producing a movie in production.
Darryl Philbin (Craig Robinson) Competent and ambitious, Darryl is the foreman of the warehouse. He is hired at Athlead, the same company Jim works for. He came back for Dwight’s wedding. In real life, he began his career as a music teacher. With 6 tv shows, 9 movies, and 5 movies in production, Philbin too has had a steady career since he was Darryl.
Erin Hannon (Ellie Kemper) She is the new receptionist when Pam leaves. She is just nice and actually admires Michael and Dwight. In the finale, she met her biological parents. She has kept as busy as her other cast members with 12 tv appearances and 6 movies to her credit.
Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) Dwight is essentially kind, and means well, however he is just socially inept. Everyone has a Dwight in their office. In addition to marrying Angela, he still has his beet farm and becomes the regional manager for Dunder Mifflin. Originally, he auditioned for the part of Michael Scott, but received the role of Dwight, beating out Seth Rogan. Since The Office ended, Wilson had a recurring role on Backstrom, appeared in four tv series, five movies and has five movies coming out in the next few years as well as appearances on Star Trek: Discovery.
Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) Jim matures the most of any other character on the show. He started out as a bit of a goof-off, became a hopeless romantic wooing Pam, and then the ideal husband. Near the end of the show, he moved to Austin to work in a sports corporation. Since the show ended, Krasinski has been busy. He had quite a few movies debut during the run of The Office, has appeared in four tv series, six movies and has a role in Jack Ryan, a television series debuting in 2017, as well as three movies in production.
Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) Married to Jim with two kids, she gives up her ambitions and moves to Austin for Jim’s career. In real life, she is best friends with Angela Kinsey. Since the show ended, Fischer has appeared in 3 movies and been in 8 series, many of them as a recurring character.
Michael Scott (Steve Carell) Michael means well but never seems to say the right thing. Even when he’s being sincere, he’s a racist and a chauvinist. He has a huge need to be liked. He’s also very lonely. In one episode, he buys a new phone. He can get unlimited calling for his five top friends, but he can’t come up with five friends. During the finale, he says “I feel like all my kids grew up and married each other. It’s every parent’s dream.” Even as we realize it’s a sweet sentiment, it also makes us cringe. After seven seasons, he married his true love Holly and moves to Colorado with her, one of the toughest choices he had to make. He comes back to be Dwight’s best man for his wedding. He truly cares about his employees and never loses his dream.
The show debuted to praise from the critics, winning four Emmys during its tenure. None of the actors were well known when the show started, but Steve Carell’s role in the Forty-Year-Old Virgin propelled him to national stardom, which aided in the show’s success.
Many of the cast members were also writers on the show. When you watch reruns, notice that the actors are on their computers while other things are going on. Each of them was hooked up to the internet, so the actors were playing games, shopping online, and doing their taxes during the show.
Many of the characters have a love/hate relationship with each other, although they end up respecting each other eventually. Jim was known as the office prankster. When Michael tells him to hire a male stripper for Phyllis’s office bridal shower, Jim calls the Scholastic Speakers of Pennsylvania and hires Benjamin Franklin to give an informative talk. One day, Jim finds Dwight’s wallet in the parking lot. He tries to decide what to do with it, but Pam convinces him that the only right decision is to give it back. He does, but Dwight can’t believe there isn’t more to the story and ends up cancelling all his credit cards. When Michael was on vacation, Jim was supposed to run the meeting. Dwight records it so he will have it on tape. Partway through the meeting, Jim says, “Dwight, what are you doing? You can’t take your pants off in the office. It’s making me uncomfortable. This is sexual harassment.” When Andy is added to the cast, he is not exempt from Jim’s gags. Jim puts Andy’s phone in the ceiling tiles and then he and Pam take turns calling the phone just to drive Andy crazy, trying to figure out where it is.
Like any family, these characters have no choice in spending so much of their time together. The show has conflicts, joyous occasions, sad situations, and funny moments. There is a quote from the show to fit almost any life situation. Despite being stuck in a job with not a lot of advancement options, the American dream still exists. That’s really what everyone wants – a dream.
The show created many fans who designed costumes, fan clubs, games, mugs, and Lego displays. A blog at blog.drawbotics.com maps out versions of sitcom settings and put together one for The Office.
Some great quotes from the series include:
Dwight: Your pencils are creating a health hazard. I could fall and pierce an organ.
Michael: I guess the atmosphere that I’ve tried to create here is that I’m a friend first and a boss second, and probably an entertainer third.
Michael: I wouldn’t miss it for the world, but if something else came up, I would definitely not go.
Dwight: Michael says KISS – keep it simple stupid. Hurts my feelings every time.
Michael: Please do not drink and drive because you might hit a bump and spill your drink.
I think my favorite episode was “Business School” from season 3. In this episode, Michael goes to Ryan’s business school to do a presentation. He wants to inspire the class, but they find him obsolete, and he leaves humiliated and feeling ignorant. At the same time, Pam has found a gallery to display her art. However, none of her co-workers or her fiancé have any interest in her work. Both characters are feeling sad and wondering how talented they might really be. At the end of the show, Michael shows up at the gallery even though no one else is there. He is genuinely interested in Pam’s paintings and seems to have a true appreciation for her art. He buys a painting and puts it on his wall at home. With them feeling like comrades, Pam gives him a hug. That small action says a lot about their relationship, being able to count on each other.
Pam’s quote at the end of the show sums things up perfectly. “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that the point?”