B.J. Novak TV Guide blog: Office Olympics

From B.J. Novak’s TV Guide blog, dated October 4, 2005:

Michael and Co. Hit the Road
by B.J. Novak aka “Ryan”

It’s Tuesday again. Tuesday, of course, is a tough day for a lot of people, because it’s halfway between the weekend and Hump Day. This is why many people call it “Tuesday the Bluesday.” Or at least they will, now that I just invented it here.

The good news about Tuesdays this fall is that there are all-new episodes of The Office [airing at 9:30 pm/ET on NBC], and, in turn, all-new stories on TVGuide.com — stories about what it was like to make the show.

Tonight’s episode is about the “Office Olympics,” an impromptu event that organizes all the weird little office games that people play into one giant, “point”-ful event. This takes place while Michael (Steve Carell) and Dwight (Rainn Wilson), the two people who would normally prevent these games from taking on epic proportions, are out of the office on a mission to purchase a condo for Michael.

There were a lot of fun elements to making this episode. On the Office set, we got to play a lot of games and do the small, observational things that we always have liked doing. But we also got to make a field trip outside of the office to the condo location.

And we got to shoot a scene between the office and the condo — in Michael’s car. Choosing cars for the characters is always a lot of fun. Our producer, Kent [Zbornak], usually comes into the writing offices with a bunch of pictures of cars that are available for the week’s shooting. We get to tell a lot about the characters through their cars.

Michael Scott, we always knew, would drive a gleaming new Sebring convertible — we figured it’s the showiest car that he could afford, and it’s worth it to him to drive a convertible even in a cold-weather climate. Originally I thought that the toxically alpha-male salesman Todd Packer should drive a Mustang, but when those weren’t available, Kent chose a red Corvette, which I thought was even better. (Todd Packer’s license plate, displayed in last week’s episode, told us about him in far more explicit terms — WLHUNG.) In next week’s episode, “The Fire,” we get to see Dwight’s car as well as Ryan’s car. Big car episode coming up.

“Office Olympics” brought multiple incidents of minor bad luck involving cars. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a curse, but… you can decide for yourself. During the scene in Michael’s car, our cameraman, Randall, broke the back window of Michael’s Sebring, which cost the production $859 to replace. The same week, the writer of the episode, Michael Schur, was involved in tiny accident that set him back $836, but not before he raised over $30,000 for hurricane relief while trying to shame the other guy into not replacing his bumper. (It’s a long, good story, and you can read more at saabbumper.blogspot.com or in the Oct. 3 issue of the New Yorker.)

Too much about cars; back to Office territory. Some overall updates on the show: Our ratings are up a lot over last year, thanks in large part to airing alongside My Name Is Earl, which has a similar audience to our show since it’s a similarly off-beat, smart comedy. NBC ordered seven more episodes of Office last week. And Nate, our P.A., got a haircut over the weekend. It looks pretty OK.

Sometimes we get into potentially offensive areas on The Office, sometimes we don’t. It’s important to us to make the show feel funny and real by reflecting the way that people actually talk and act in offices. And, of course, it’s different from week to week. Last week’s much-talked-about “Sexual Harassment” episode aired with a “Viewer Discretion Advised” warning, and in Kentucky the episode didn’t air at all.

We hope that this week we will be allowed to air Steve Carell’s real-estate freakout in all 50 states.

Until next week…

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