I remember exactly where I was when I saw my first episode of The Office. It was 2006, the summer before my senior year of high school, and I was at a summer screenwriting program at USC. A lot of people forget this, but one of the reasons that The Office took off like it did was because it was one of the very first shows that allowed you to buy individual episodes on the iTunes Store - This was before easy streaming, before fast torrenting, before Netflix, after all - and that was the way I was first introduced to it. On the recommendation of a friend, I sat down in front of a laptop in a dorm at USC to watch the twelfth episode of the second season of some show called The Office.
That episode was “The Injury,” and it remains a favorite episode of mine to this day. Not just of The Office, but of any TV show ever. I had no idea who the characters were, or what was really going on, but it grabbed me in a way where I knew that I was going to be watching a lot more of this show. After that, I got every episode from seasons 1 and 2, got caught up, and was prepared to watch the premiere of season 3 that fall. Since that episode (“Gay Witch Hunt,” which aired on September 21st, 2006 if you’re curious) I have watched every single episode of The Office within a week of its airing.
This isn’t going to be a retrospective about the show’s ups and downs or how it was at its peak during seasons 3 and 4 or anything like that... This is about what The Office has meant to me. I made friendships because of that show, quoting the amazing Michael Scott ad nauseum. It helped me break the ice with my first girlfriend, as I showed her episodes on the absurdly tiny screen of my Video iPod. It was there for me when I went to college, where I arranged weekly screening nights of new episodes with my friends. It was my comfort when I experienced my first true heartbreak. When I graduated and entered the real world.
The Office changed how I view comedy and it forever altered my tastes in TV. It taught me how to write amazing and flawed characters. It taught me actual life lessons about confronting difficult situations and always striving to remain positive. It sounds like hyperbole, but the impact that The Office has had on my life has been huge.
But want to know the craziest thing?
For the last 7 years I’ve listened to an episode of The Office almost every night while I fall asleep.
Sure I’ve swapped it out sometimes; there will be periods where it’s Scrubs or Friends for a few weeks to break it up, but I come back to The Office every time. When Netflix started streaming the whole series it just made it easier. I tried to do the math, and I worked out that there are episodes of that show (including “The Injury”) that I’ve probably listened to at least 50 times. Putting my sleeping brain through that, it’s no wonder that show has had the impact on me that it has.
It might sound silly, but all the characters on that show (and god there have been a lot of them at this point) have grown to feel like my friends. Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute, Jim Halpert, Pam Beesly... Characters that I’ve grown up with while watching that show and who all grew up as well. Watching the finale and knowing that there really will never be more episodes with those characters, that those characters are done and finished, is an unusual feeling for me. I’m happy that it was such a terrific finale, and that each and every one of them got their sendoff (including a few surprise cameos), but I can’t quite shake the sadness that I’ll never see them again.
That’s a ridiculous notion, of course, because all I need to do is go to Netflix or pop in a DVD to see them again right now, but it feels different somehow knowing that The Office is now a Finished Show - the sort of show where you can buy The Complete Series Boxset. Because now I know where the characters eventually end and how all the stories tie up.
When I first downloaded “The Injury” on the iTunes Store (which took about an hour, by the way), one of the B-Plots was about Dwight and Angela just starting their secret affair. Now, 7 years later, I just finished watching the finale in which they get married, and I streamed it on Hulu the morning after it aired. It’s a testament to how much TV and technology has changed while The Office has been on the air, and a testament to the lasting qualities of the show that it survived them all.
I may never get to see what happens next to any of those characters, but I will definitely still be revisiting them for a long, long time to come. Heck, I'll probably still be listening to that show every night. The Office has meant the world to me, and I’m simultaneously so sad to see it go and so happy that it got the finale it deserved.
I offer my sincerest gratitude and profound thanks to the writers, directors, producers, cast, and everyone else involved with creating what will go down in the books as one of my favorite shows of all time - One that always sent me off to sleep with a smile on my face.