The New York Times has an amazing article detailing The Office’s early days when it was still trying to find an audience, Executive Producer’s Greg Daniels original idea for the finale (back in Season 3!), and how the show paved the way for cringeworthiness.
As the anchor of NBC’s once-heralded Thursday-night lineup, it played a role in pioneering alternative entertainment forms like TV offerings on iTunes and Webisodes on the Internet. It helped executives recognize the value of delayed viewing. Equally important, it opened broadcast television to a new concept in humor: the sitcom that makes you uncomfortable.
(A warning that there are spoilerish details at the beginning of the article.)