Happy 100th episode, The Office!

‘The Office’ 100th episode

‘The Office’ 100th episode
By Daniel Carlson
May 13, 2009, 06:00 PM ET

As with a growing number of people in Hollywood, “The Office” owes its success to Judd Apatow.

“The Office” wasn’t even “The Office” when it started. NBC’s remake of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s cult-favorite British series was a midseason entry that kicked off in March 2005, and its first few episodes drew mixed reviews from critics.

“All I could focus on was getting it past the hurdle of six episodes,” says Angela Bromstad, president of primetime entertainment at NBC and Universal Media Studios. At the time, Bromstad was president of what was then called NBC Universal Television Studios, producers of the series. “Forget about seasons; we were just focused on getting the episodes.”

The series was an Americanized version of Gervais and Merchant’s mordant skewering of the modern workplace, but in the best sense of the word: It thrived on the idiotic buzzwords and corporate lingo that have infiltrated American lives and made it possible to make punch lines out of things like “action statements.” Gervais’ British onscreen alter-ego David Brent became American lead Steve Carell’s Michael Scott, a blustery and thick-headed manager at the Scranton, Penn., branch of Dunder Mifflin Paper Co. The office was stocked with sharply drawn characters, most notably Jim (John Krasinski), an affable salesman driven to distraction by his crush on the receptionist, Pam (Jenna Fischer). Also stealing scenes was Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, an egotistical but ultimately harmless employee who loves his job and his boss with equal abandon.

Just one small problem: Not enough people were watching.

But that summer, Apatow’s feature directorial debut, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” hit screens and went on to gross $177 million worldwide. In the process, it made a star out of Carell, who had been active in film and television for several years but was now a household name.

Carell’s burgeoning film career lent an “incredible acceleration” to “The Office,” says Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and an executive producer on the series. “And because that was a Universal picture, we were able to cross-promote to both the show and the movie.”

The series needed that acceleration. Its first season averaged a 2.5 rating and 6 share in adults 18-49, ranking 82nd in the demo. Greg Daniels, the series’ creator who also executive produces, writes and directs, chalks the slow start up to the novelty of the show’s documentary-style approach, which eschews music and glamorous sets for a narrower comedy based on very specific characters.

But because of Carell’s luck at the boxoffice, the series earned a pickup for a second season. That was the year the show also moved from Tuesdays to NBC’s prime comedy real estate of Thursday nights.

However, the series’ life expectancy was still a thing of doubt due to weak numbers. As Bromstad says, “You don’t want to be cavalier and say, ‘Hey, “Seinfeld” took forever.’ ”

What saved the show from being just another short-lived cult favorite was a demonstrable fan response that played out in two parts: First, after making what he calls an “offhand comment” to a newspaper about how he wished that the series’ second-season finale could be supersized like others in the NBC lineup, Daniels says fans organized themselves and sent letters to NBC, which greenlit the extra-long finale.

The second half is that “The Office” was lucky enough to be on iTunes before it got crowded. Series downloads were more limited on the Apple service four years ago, and the younger audience that was embracing the show did their part in buying episodes online.

“That was something we could point to as an earlier indicator of a younger audience really being very voracious about the show,” Bromstad says.

Daniels also says he believes that a younger audience isn’t just drawn to the new media methods of attaining the show but to the series’ very careful design and tone.

“There’s no feeling that it has to be this glossy Hollywood product,” Daniels says of the freedom he feels when shooting a handheld mockumentary comedy. “It has this more modern, YouTube feel. Most people have camcorders now, and they spend a lot of time taping each other, and this show looked like that.”

It’s a sentiment backed up by Ken Kwapis, who’s directed a dozen episodes of the series, including the pilot and the 100th episode. He says the lived-in, observational aesthetic was a goal from the start.

“At the first production meeting, I sat in front of the crew and I said to everyone: ‘Everything that you would normally be fired for on another show is actually what we want on this show,’ ” Kwapis says. ” ‘So if the cameraman pans too far and misses a line, that’s fine, that’s what we want.’ ”

Growing acceptance from viewers also helped the cast and crew tighten up, says Krasinski: “The most rewarding part of the show has absolutely been the creation of such an incredible family.”

But the most interesting thing about the success of “The Office” is that it seems to be going firmly against the set plan of how to be a successful show. It’s not just that the show started weaker and built up; it’s that it’s now pulling in almost double the ratings of its first season in 18-49, making this its best year yet. Plus it has added viewers every year.

“It’s a thrill that we got to 100 episodes, and probably incredibly surprising looking back at the process it took,” Silverman says. “But the reality is, we believed in it.”

55 comments

  1. Congratulations Office Crew!

    Getty Images has lots of pictures of the event :)

    Including a picture of Riann putting his hand in the cake :)

  2. What a HUGE accomplishment! That’s what she said :)

    Office cast and crew: Your hard work and faith has made the “little engine that could” turn into a cult-classic with legions of fans. Yes, that is right. Legions.

    As a fan, I feel so lucky to be part of such a wonderful show. And as a terrified-of-graduating-in-May student, I have gained inspiration to begin a career in journalism – a far cry from my Marketing degree :) Thank you!

  3. Haha for a second I thought that the cake actually had Officetally.com written on it!
    So proud of the Office gang!

  4. Congratulations to The Office cast and crew for all their hard work and dedication! 100 episodes is quite a feat.

  5. Hmm, Bob Vance isn’t wearing a Scranton shirt! Maybe, just maybe, by the season finale, both Michael and Jenna are back in the fold as Dunder Mifflin employees? Oh and Ryan too!

  6. I bet that cake tasted sweeter than a pretzel with all the toppings. Congrats to The Office on their 100th episode!

  7. AAH I’m so jealous of you!! I wanna meet the Office cast like it’s my JOB! lolol It’s pretty much my life goal right now. :)

  8. In addition to Steve, Jenna, and BJ being there in Scranton branch t-shirts, I was pleased to note that the character of Charles does NOT appear to be there (saying this with the understanding that Idris Elba seems to be a lovely person in real life)–I’m all for mixing things up a bit, but the character is just too mean to exist much longer in the Office universe without ripping a hole in the time-space continuum. Then again, maybe he just wasn’t in the shot because he’s a guest star…

  9. Too bad I could not have put my Wilton cake decorating lessons to practical use!

    Many congrats to the cast and crew of “The Office!”

  10. Why am I not surprised that Rainn put his hand in the cake? Such a Dwight thing to do.

    Here’s a link to Getty Images photos of the event:

    Link

    Did you get a piece, tanster, or did they make you wait like Milton and you didn’t get anything and threaten to set the building on fire? ;)

    [from tanster: i got a piece! after the press event, they moved the cake to the set so that everyone could get a piece. :)

  11. Congrats to the entire cast & crew of The Office! YEAH! Very great accomplishment and this better be a DANG good episode! :) we have high expectations after 100 episodes you know!

  12. YES! Michael, Pam and Ryan all with red Scranton shirts.

    Ain’t no party like a Scranton party, cause a Scranton party don’t stop!

  13. It looks like Michael, Ryan, and Pam will all be back at Dunder-Mifflin by the end of the season (thank God.) My guess is they merge the companies to get Michael’s newly signed clients.

  14. I’m betting DM is going to find MSP as a threat and buy them out in a merger, making Michael Scott a rich, rich man (for negative 2 hours when he buys a fur coat from Burlington Coat Factory).

  15. it’s kind of funny seeing the cast in their ‘street clothes’–i always either see them in costume, or, on the rare occasion i watch, in their dresses at awards shows.

  16. You can see the back of the shirts in some pictures at nbc.com. I think it says “Dunder Mifflin Company Picnic!” I hope that means that Pam and Michael are really back! Congrats to the best show on tv!

  17. It really amuses me to see them on their street clothes. WTF are they wearing? Man, those people should never leave their stylists…
    That said, I love them to death and am so jealous you get to spend the entire week with them. You totally deserved it.

  18. Why wouldn’t they celebrate the 100th with a full episode? I’m going to fantasize that it’s all a surprise, and the rest of the episode will continue to a full hour. And yes Congratulations Office cast/crew!

  19. 23-Clara: The cast is dressed in character! I’m fairly sure their everyday attire doesn’t involve matching Scranton shirts :)

  20. i love how john kras mentioned the long pause from booze cruise.

    i’m glad to see no charles. idris is a good actor, but no one messes with jim….or michael…..or stanley with his crossword puzzles. lol

  21. Congrats to the show! Now all “The Office” needs is a paltry 231 more episodes to match “ER’s” tally and earn a one-hour retrospective and a two-hour finale at the end of the show’s run :P

  22. I have become a big fan of The Office

    Congratulations to everyone of the series on their 100th episode anniversary!!!!!

    I like Jenna Fischer, she’s my favorite actress of the series, and I love her character of Pam!!!!

  23. Congrats to the entire cast and crew of The Office!! This is by far one of the best shows on tv right now. (at least i think so! )

  24. What a fun little compilation of interviews!

    BJ’s “Yea, me too” throwaway line at the end made me laugh out loud.

  25. Jenna: “Holly’s at the picnic, so Michael has a real reason to come.”

    John: “TWSS”

    How could John not say that? Jenna clearly set him up for it.

  26. Congrats to anyone that has been a part of this amazing tv show. Keep going strong. Another 100+ right? ;-)

  27. I love the cast’s sarcasm to all the questions. They make the interviews so much better!

  28. “I rollll with different people…”

    Haha! I couldn’t love Steve Carell more. Or any of them, actually. Big congrats to all! :)

  29. Jenna’s alien baby “spoiler” kills me! And Steve is just ridiculous (in the greatest possible way!). I honestly love their interviews as much as I love the episodes. So great.

  30. steve carrell may be the most endearing person on the planet.
    they seemed to be interviewing b.j. and mindy together a lot. i feel like that means a ryan/kelley reunion is in the works. i hope so, i always thought their relationship was hilarious.

  31. Bob Vance has the sweetest lil’ interview with you as well as a big THANKS to you on MySpace! Loved it! It looked like a wonderful time!

  32. oh god, the alien baby crack…. “we know it’s jim’s because it has the flip hair.” NICE!

  33. hey i’m pretty sure idris elba is standing behind steve during his interview, in the black dunder mifflin shirt

  34. I don’t know but I think Angela let one of her cats out of the bag when she said that this will be when jim and pam get married.

  35. I loved Jenna’s call-back to Pam’s “This was the best Dundies EVER! WOO!”

    I think Ryan and Andy are fighting because Andy and Kelly are bff’s and Ryan is jealous.

  36. Ed called Rainn Dwight! Hahaha.

    Is it just me, or did Season 5 positively fly? Regardless, I cannot wait for this episode.

  37. I want to see that picture of John, Jenna and Steve that was taken during this video. Come on NBC.

  38. Does anyone know why the season finale is only a 1/2 hour? Especially since it’s the 100th episode?

  39. I wish there was some way we could see the “100 moments” montage that Greg Daniels talks about in his interview!

  40. I agree Maya – how about as an extra on the season 5 DVD set? Please please please!

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