The Office premiered on NBC in 2005. Based on a wildly successful BBC show that ran for two seasons and several specials, the American version follows a group of people working at a paper company in the small town of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and all of their intertwining lives.
The Office has become a cultural touchstone—it’s one of the most quoted, referenced and memed shows of the 2000s. It spawned years of “your mom” and “that’s what she said” jokes, bobble head obsessions and was responsible for all those bright blue Dunder Mifflin, Inc. t-shirts everyone had in high school. It was also the trailblazer for all of the mockumentary, cringe-worthy humor shows that have sprung up since its end in 2013.
If you’re looking for the perfect show to binge watch (or re-watch) as the weather drops this fall, this is your best bet. It’s a true classic that will simultaneously make you laugh until you pee your pants and cry until your eyes are dry. So, get your Netflix going and settle in with these 15 facts you probably didn’t know about The Office.
15. The Pilot(s)
When NBC picked up The Office in 2005, they were buying a show that had been pitched as the American adaptation of the British hit. So, when show runner Greg Daniels, and his team of writers, producers and directors began working on the pilot (which was shot an entire year before the second episode!), they knew they had to stick pretty close to the BBC pilot, and stick close they did. The two pilots are almost identical, with many of the same lines, scenarios and scenes showing up in both. The only real difference is the cast and setting (Scranton vs. Slough). In fact, Daniels says that it wasn’t until Season 2 that the American show really found its own footing and started veering away from the BBC version, becoming the hilarious, sarcastic, wonderful show that got us through all of the early 2000s.
14. The Scranton footage
One of the things that really set The Office apart from all of the other shows that were on TV at the time was the way it was shot. The show is filmed with a single camera, and crew members were encouraged to make shots a little blurry and off center. The idea was that it would make the episodes look more realistic and less unrehearsed. The camera work, lighting and lack of background music was all designed to keep audiences feeling like Michael, Jim, Pam and the rest of the gang are just as clueless as they are about what’s going to happen next. Another way they kept this vibe going was by using footage shot by John Krasinski on a research trip for the opening montage. It feels unprofessional and homemade, because it was unprofessional and homemade. And this made it one of the coolest opening sequences ever!
13. The show was saved by iTunes
By the end of its run, The Office was attracting millions of viewers per episode. It never attracted the level of viewership and hysteria of its predecessors like Seinfeld and Friends, partly due to its unique cringe-inducing comedy, and almost cheap-looking method of setting and shooting, but it did lead Thursday nights on NBC for several years. At the beginning, though, this definitely wasn’t the case. After the first six episodes aired, the ratings were low and the network was worried about overspending on an underperformer. The show’s lucky break came between the first and second seasons, by way of iTunes. Of the shows available for purchase on the platform, The Office occupied four of the top five spots, giving producers a better understanding of their audience and helping them target that group to prolong their run.
12. There were (almost) spin-offs
Once the show hit its stride around the time of seasons two and three, NBC executives started looking for ways to spin their new success into even more success. They contemplated two spin-offs: one that starred Dwight and one that featured Andy. Dwight’s spin-off was titled The Farm, and would have had Rainn Wilson’s character leaving Dunder Mifflin partway through season nine. While the concept is sort of vague, it seems that the show would have centered around Schrute farms and had Dwight and cousin Mose becoming traveling beet salesmen, with crossover appearances from other Office cast members. Andy’s show was going to be titled An American Family, and would be another mockumentary type show about Andy, his wife Nellie (Catherine Tate) and their family, living some boringly ordinary life in middle America. Neither show ended up being picked up, primarily because executives became worried that taking some of their prime cast members away from the original show would result in a ratings drop for The Office.
11. The Parks and Recreation tie-in
The Office also almost had a sister series in another beloved mockumentary style show, Parks and Recreation. The two workplace comedies shared a creative team and an actress (Rashida Jones, who played Karen Filippelli on The Office and Ann Perkins on Parks and Rec), but contrary to what you would imagine, she wasn’t going to be the connection between the two workplaces and their worlds. Instead, it was going to be a copier. Yep, a copier. In one episode of The Office, the copy machine breaks and the repairman is called in to fix it, but at the end of the episode it’s put on a truck and taken away seemingly to be replaced. In Greg Daniel’s mind, the copier would have been refurbished somewhere and then taken to Pawnee and installed in the Parks and Recreation offices, firmly linking the two together and maybe even inviting casting cross overs at some point. But in the end, the creative team scrapped that idea and Parks and Rec became its own freestanding show.
10. Dunder Mifflin, Inc.
Like everything else in the show, the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company is soundly fictional. However, it does have several interesting ties to the real world. To begin with, the Scranton branch address is 1725 Slough Avenue, which isn’t actually a real Scranton address, but rather a tribute to the BBC version that was set in Slough, England. Another cool thing? The Scranton Chamber of Commerce took in the fictional company as a real-life member, as a tribute to the amount of exposure it brought the city and other real-life businesses like Poor Richard’s Pub (where the Dunder Mifflin staff frequently head to for a drink or party after work). Finally, you can actually buy real-life Dunder Mifflin paper products from Quill.com, a business owned by Staples (one of Dunder Mifflin’s on-air rivals). All of the products have Office themed names, and quickly became the best-selling brand offered on the website.
9. The Schrute Family
Dwight is hands down the weirdest character on the show, maybe only rivalled by Creed. Most of his weirdness comes from his upbringing and family, but it turns out not all of that strange quasi-Eastern European Amish nonsense is completely made up—his background actually comes from a mishmash of sources. Rainn Wilson brought in old pictures of his real family, which he described as a “eclectic and trailer park-y bunch,” and this inspired Dwight’s rural, farmer background. Also, Greg Daniels’ family were actually beet farmers in Portland before the war, which inspired the odd choice of crop. Finally, Michael Schur (who plays Dwight’s cousin Mose and was a writer on the show) loved the show Amish in the City and was inspired by its ridiculousness, deciding to write it into Dwight and Mose’s family life and background.
8. A casting agent made the cast
Phyllis Vance, the matronly sweetheart who has a surprisingly vindictive side, and a love/hate relationship with her desk mate Stanley, was not a piece of the original BBC cast of The Office. Instead, she’s a mixture of characters and originality that the American producers put together. Because she’s an addition to the regular cast, directors had much more freedom in finding the exactly right person to fill the role, but they didn’t have to look far. Phyllis Smith (who plays Phyllis Vance) was actually a casting director for the show. During an audition, she was reading through a script with some other actors (as is the casting director’s job) when directors decided she would be the perfect fit for their party planning, sales representative, refrigeration queen.
7. The alternate-universe cast
Some shows are built around a certain cast, other shows build themselves around their cast. The Office is some sort of blend between the two. Certain casting calls, like Steve Carell as Michael Scott, were made pretty early on in the process (until Carell took another role in a show called Come to Papa, and creators had to scramble to find a potential replacement). But, other roles took lots and lots of auditions to fill. Lots of the roles were filled by casting directors identifying talent in an individual and finding a place for them in the cast. For example, Angela Kinsey (who plays Angela Martin) originally auditioned for the role of Pam, but instead writers created the role of Angela for her. Kate Flannery auditioned for Jan before finding a fit with hot mess, addict Meredith. Rainn Wilson audition for Michael Scott before he was cast as Dwight. And John Krasinski read for Dwight before convincing producers to let him try Jim.
6. All that improv
A large part of The Office is improv, which is uber impressive when you really think about it. Yes, one of the most successful comedies of the last decade is built on jokes that are developed on the spot. It works for the show because many of its writers, actors and writer/actors have previous experience in stand-up comedy, improvisation and joke writing (on shows like Late Night with Conan O’Brien and SNL), meaning that they are seasoned in reaction acting, thinking quickly and creating scenarios that lend themselves to humor. One good example of this is perhaps the boldest and most controversial joke in the entire series: when Michael kisses Oscar during “Gay Witch Hunt.” The script called for the two to hug, but at the last minute Michael leaned in for a kiss, meaning Oscar Nunez’s shocked and horrified reaction is all real.
5. The proposal…
Season five brought one of the most anticipated moments in the show’s run: Jim and Pam’s engagement. The scene itself is a quick 52 seconds long, but it was 52 seconds that millions tuned in to witness. It turns out that the writers had had a very specific vision for Jim’s proposal all along. They had originally intended on renting out a real service station on the Merritt Parkway to make it feel more realistic and less rom-com, but when they learned it would cost $100,000 and they wouldn’t be able to use the fake rain that is essential to the scene, they turned to plan B. Plan B was to rent out a large parking lot in L.A., build a set identical to the real service station, use the fake rain and have cars driving by like they would on the real parkway. This cost the show $250,000—more than double the original price tag. But, the price tag was well worth it because fans, Greg Daniels, the show’s writers and cast and crew were all head over heels for the outcome.
4. …and the ring
And that ring we had to wait five seasons (filled with several breakups and missed opportunities) to see? It turns out that Jenna Fischer (Pam Beesly) got to keep it as a souvenir when the show wrapped, and reportedly wore it regularly. The scene where Jim first pulls the diamond-topped silver band out of his wallet and proudly tells the camera crew he bought it a week after the started dating, is another fan favorite. It’s one of the most heart-melting “Jam” scenes in the series, ranking up there with the actual proposal, the wedding, and the dinner/fireworks date in season two. Knowing this little piece of Office trivia helps keep our Pam and Jim dreams alive. Hopefully, they’re still out there somewhere, in some alternate universe, with their two kids, loving each other as sweetly and perfectly as they did for nine seasons.
3. Garry Daniels’ favorite moment
There are SO many perfect moments in The Office—the cold open where Kevin spills a pot of chili all over the floor, Michael proposing to Holly, and Meredith getting hit by the car. The list could go on and on. But, it turns out, the show’s creator and showrunner, Gary Daniels, has one moment that stands out as his favorite in the entire show. It happens towards the end of season nine, in “Paper Airplane,” when Pam and Jim are undergoing marital counseling. There’s a scene that flashes back to the couple’s wedding, where the camera is in the minister’s place, and they both look directly into the camera with all of their emotions and excitement and relief written all over their faces. Daniels was so moved by the scene that he once said he “got chills and a fever” from it.
2. The biggest finale surprise
One of the biggest, and most tear-jerking moments in the show’s finale at the end of season nine, is Michael Scott’s reappearance. At the time, his involvement in the finale was kept tightly under wraps, with other actors on the show lying or avoiding the questions when asked during press engagements for the show. There were fan theories all over the internet and social media, with everyone trying to figure out whether the legendary boss would be there or not. But, it turns out they shouldn’t have even bothered. Michael’s appearance was kept so tightly under wraps that even NBC executives didn’t know whether or not he’d be showing up. In the script, Michael’s few lines were all attributed to Creed, and his work was kept out of the dailies (the raw footage shot each day that’s synced with sound and music, and then sent for review and kept for reference and prosperity), so that if anything happened to leak, the biggest surprise of all wouldn’t be ruined. Talk about a secret!
1. The museum
If you’re a die-hard Office fan, you’ve probably seen every episode, binged the entire show (again and again) on Netflix, taken every quiz discovering your identity in one of the Office employees and read every article that contains rumors about a potential, hopeful reunion. While it seems pretty definite that a reunion, movie, or sequel will never happen, you can still hold out hope for some new Office material. Almost every single prop used in The Office‘s nine season run is currently being held in a warehouse in L.A., and rumor has it that NBC is considering opening an Office museum. In a perfect world, the museum would be similar to the Warner Brother’s Studio Tour in London that’s based around Harry Potter. It would include sets, props, costumes, reels of unused footage, bloopers and never-before-known facts and tidbits about the plot line and filming. But really, anything that gives us more of The Office would be a huge win!The Things