It’s probably no secret that I’m a huge fan of television. We’re all big fans of television. So I know I’m not alone in how I watch TV, or how each episode of my favorite show stays with me days after it airs. Now, I’ve been pretty obsessive about TV for a long time, but there was one show that changed everything for me. We all have that one show: the show with episodes you can quote in their entirety, the one whose episode titles you’ve written down off the top of your head just because you’re bored. The one that makes you cry just as easily as it makes you laugh. For me, that show was The Office.
I probably didn’t hear about The Office until the second season premiere. Its first season aired in March 2005, a six episode run that was more or less forgettable. But the first few episodes of its second season picked up momentum, enough that I was hearing about it online and had thought about starting to watch it. The first time I ever watched the show was in December; I was channel surfing and stumbled across its first Christmas episode, aptly titled Christmas Party. It was the Yankee Swap scene, a moment that helped define the show’s tendency to present moments so awkward, it was painful to watch. But of course, despite my limited knowledge of the show, I had no idea what was going on, so when the floppy-haired guy gave the brunette girl a teapot, I decided to change the channel.
A few months later, I finally committed to watching the show. The first episode I watched in full was Take Your Daughter to Work Day, the 18th episode of the second season; I kept watching after that, and received the first season DVD for my birthday about a month later. After that, I was absolutely hooked. I must have marathoned the second season sometime between Take Your Daughter to Work Day and the season finale, which, to this day, is almost always included on lists of greatest season finales of all time. It was Casino Night, the episode where Jim told Pam he loved her. As if that wasn’t enough of a shock, he kissed her two scenes later. It was television history, a moment that completely changed the show, and the moment that got me hooked on The Office.
Now, plenty of shows have had a huge, defining moment like that. Every good show has at least a few moments that leave their audience breathless, and with the unshakable feeling that they’ve just witnessed history. In the eight years since I’ve considered myself an obsessive TV watcher, I’ve been lucky enough to watch maybe a handful of moments that you could tell were going to change everything. But watching Jim tell Pam he wanted to be more than friends was the first time a TV show made me feel like I was part of something. Like maybe it could be more than something that comes on my TV for thirty minutes every week. It was when I learned that media is a living, breathing thing – there’s something that pulses within every TV show and every movie, that draws people closer and lets them in. That heart connects fans to the show itself, and to other fans, and once you learn that, you never stop giving up a part of yourself to the things you love. A part of your heart goes to your favorite movie, or the band you’ve seen in concert twelve times. It’s why fans care so much when their favorite shows are at risk of cancellation – because they’re losing so much more than just a half hour of laughter per week. The first time I cared about something intangible, something that I couldn’t touch, was when I fell in love with The Office, and it’s given me so much in return.
The Office is, at its heart, a show about love. Of course there’s Jim and Pam, the main ship of the series, and Dwight and Angela, whose rocky relationship has had so many ups and downs throughout every season. But there’s so much more than that. There’s the love created between friends, between people that you have to see every day for years, for people that you never imagined would become such a huge part of your life. And the documentary format lets the audience become a part of that – we’re a part of the Dunder Mifflin family, just as much as Stanley or Creed or Phyllis. We’re the ones watching, the ones participating in their story, watching it all unfold in an intensely intimate way.
I’m not going to pretend that the show has been consistently amazing all throughout its nine seasons. For as much as I love it, I honestly can’t watch most of the sixth and seventh seasons, save a few episodes here and there. The eighth and ninth were better, though certainly incomparable to the first five; the tone of the show just felt different after Michael Scott left, like they were struggling to find the new centerpiece. Instead, they focused moreso on the ensemble, a move that took a while to take hold. We spent weeks watching Darryl pine after the girl in the warehouse, and Angela’s growing relationship with the senator, and Andy going after Erin…and leaving on a months-long boat trip…and doing his best to become famous (yeah, I’m not a huge fan of what they’ve done with Andy), and some of the storylines worked better than others. It was certainly not the same as watching Jim tell Pam to go after her dreams, or Michael telling Jim to never give up on Pam, but that was okay. It wasn’t that show anymore. It was our sixth and seventh and eighth years watching these people; they had evolved, and we had been right there with them as they changed in so many different ways. And that is why I never gave up on The Office: I loved the characters too much. I’ve put so much into this show. When I got the first season on DVD all those years ago, I would come home from school every single day and watch it all. All six episodes, every day, for at least two months. When the other seasons came out on DVD, I would wake up early, go to the store, come back, and spend the entire day watching every episode, and every single bonus feature. I cried when Dwight quit in season three, screamed when we found out Pam was pregnant in season five, and laughed too many times to count. This show means so much more to me than a few lackluster episodes, and those won’t be the parts I remember. I’m going to remember the characters, the ones who kept me tuning in every week.
And I could go on and on about the things I love about this show: about how invested I am in Jim and Pam’s relationship, a storyline that feels so real and important that you can’t help but become immersed in it. I could talk about how hard I cried the five weeks leading up to Steve Carell’s last episode, or how many times I’ve watched each episode (just for reference, I can pretty much do the entire Jim/Pam scene in Casino Night, even though I haven’t watched it in full in probably three years, so, yeah, I’m pretty baller). Because the thing is, you all know. Everyone who watches this show knows that it’s impossible not to care about it, because the show is just so real and emotional in so many ways that it demands such immersion from its viewers. It inherently creates an unbreakable connection, at least for me.
So to Michael, Dwight, Jim, and Pam, and everyone else at Dunder Mifflin, thank you for showing me what friendship could be, and how beautifully love can manifest. Thank you for all the times I screamed at my TV, and all the times I cried, and for ensuring that every second I spent thinking about or watching this show was not in vain. This show gave me something so special (beyond just my undying love of John Krasinski), something that I will never find again, at least not in the same way. This show has always been there for me; it’s been a huge part of my life since I was twelve, and it’s heartbreaking to think that I can’t look forward to watching it every week anymore. But, at the risk of being cheesy (because if there’s anything this post is lacking in, it’s cheese), I’ll always have nine seasons worth of memories, and for that, I’ll always be so grateful to this wonderful, near-perfect show that’s given me so much.