This week we’re celebrating the 15th anniversary of The Office. Also check out our ranking of the show’s 20 best episodes and 25 best cold opens, as well as essays on the show’s enduring legacy and why it still holds up in the #MeToo Era.
In the age of Coronavirus and social distancing, we’re all feeling isolated, we’re all longing for the boredom of our old routines, and we’re all looking for something to watch. So, what better time than now to reconnect with our old colleagues at Dunder-Mifflin by binging all nine — eh, maybe seven — seasons of NBC’s The Office.
Actually, it’s rather serendipitous.
Because today Greg Daniels’ iconic series turns 15, making our return to Scranton, PA all the more momentous. To mark the occasion, we’ve ordered some Chilis 2 Go and are hosting our very own Dundie Awards in the comforts of our living room. Below, we’ve honored the highs, the lows, and the awkward moments we’ll never forget.
So, read on, grab a second drink, and feel god in this streaming guide.
The “Over the Top” Cold Open Award
“Stress Relief: Part 1” (Season 5, Episode 14)
In an attempt to take his job as Safety Officer seriously, Dwight stages a fake fire complete with hot doorknobs, cut phone lines, and fireworks causing panic and hilarious destruction of office equipment. Kevin breaks into the vending machine, Oscar falls through the ceiling, and we all learn that Angela keeps a cat in her file cabinet. Airing immediately after Superbowl XLIII, this is five minutes of “spit your drink out” comedic genius, and still stands as one of the funniest scenes in television history.
Honorable Mentions: Kevin’s Chili in “Casual Friday” (Season 5, Episode 26); Recyclopse in “Shareholder Meeting” (Season 6, Episode 11); and Parkour Hardcore in “Gossip” (Season 6, Episode 1)
The “Took You Long Enough” Romantic Award
“The Job” (Season 3, Episode 23)
After three seasons of “Will they? Won’t they?” tension between Jim and Pam, the relationship finally begins as Jim leaves his job interview in New York and interrupts Pam’s interview to ask if she’s free for dinner. The happy tears in Pam’s eyes after she says yes is a quiet but powerful moment of well-earned celebration 51 episodes in the making. The couple will have bigger moments throughout the series, but this is the one that won our hearts.
Honorable Mentions: Letter in the teapot in “Christmas Party” (Season 2, Episode 10); Michael proposes to Holly in “Garage Sale” (Season 7, Episode 19), and Jim and Pam’s wedding in “Niagara Parts 1 & 2” (Season 6, Episodes 4 & 5)
The “Fastest Rebound” Standout Episode Award
“A Benihana Christmas” (Season 3, Episode 10)
This double episode is the perfect microcosm of all the show’s best elements. Set against the backdrop of the Christmas party, “A Benihana Christmas” features Michael’s romantic ineptitude, dueling party planning committees, Dwight attempting to slaughter a goose at reception, and an Alanis Morissette karaoke cover for the ages. Not to mention, it sports one of the best single lines of the series: “And suddenly she’s not your ho no mo.” It has become essential holiday viewing in this house.
Honorable Mentions: “The Dundies” (Season 2, Episode 1); “Dinner Party” (Season 4, Episode 9); “Murder” (Season 6, Episode 10); and “Goodbye, Michael (Season 7, Episode 22)
The “Dear God, No!” Awkward Moment Award
“Scott’s Tots” (Season 6, Episode 12)
This episode is so cringeworthy it’s almost unwatchable. In a misguided attempt at philanthropy, Michael promised a group of 3rd graders that if they got into college, he would pay their tuition. Of course, he’d be a millionaire by the time he’s 30, right? Well, now they’re seniors and want to honor the generosity he has no way of providing. He does promise to buy books for one student, but the scene where he has to come clean is a standout of awkwardness in a show that specializes in finding the humor in everyday awkward situations.
Honorable Mentions: “Prince Family Paper” (Season 5, Episode 13); “Did I Stutter” (Season 4, Episode 12)
The “Worst Deskmate” Award
The Director of Accounting seems to go out of her way to make others miserable. From her passive aggressive and diminishing comments about Pam’s pregnancies to her cruel dictator-like rule of the party planning committee, to the casual way she treats her engagement to Andy, it’s a wonder anyone bothers to talk to her at all. She does redeem herself in the final season, when she’s brought to the brink of homelessness and must accept help from Oscar, but the constant unpleasantness wears thin after nine seasons. I guess those brownies really are that good.
Honorable Mentions: Todd Packer, Charles Miner, and Nellie Bertram
The “That’s What She Said” Most Quotable Award
“Product Recall” (Season 3, Episode 20)
A pair of four dollar drugstore glasses is the genesis of one of the show’s most memorable moments. Jim, dressed in Dwight’s trademark mustard yellow shirt, calculator watch, aforementioned glasses, and permafrown, is acting out of character asking: “What kind of bear is best?” Eventually, Dwight catches on to the impression, but not before Jim delivers one of the series’ most iconic lines: “Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica“. That single line sums up Dwight’s personality in the process — and it’s $11 well spent.
Honorable Mentions: “I declare BANKRUPTCY!” in “Money” (Season 4, Episode 4); “I feel God in this Chilli’s tonight.” in “The Dundies” (Season 2, Episode 1)
Best “Desert Island” Quarantine Award
“Murder” (Season 6, Episode 10)
When times are tough, some respond by keeping a level head and finding out as much information as possible. Others respond with a thick Georgia accent and a mysterious murder. Faced with ominous rumors about the future of Dunder Mifflin, Michael organizes a murder mystery game — Belles, Bourbon, and Bullets — to distract his employees from obsessing over their fears.
Lured by sandwich platters and baby carrots, characters engage to varying degrees. The murderer turns out to be “the person you most medium suspect” but we all learn that a Southern accent is a lot harder than it seems. Bonus points for the final standoff where practically everyone reveals themselves to be double agents and for another standout line, “There has been another murder.”
Honorable Mentions: Locked in the vestibule in “Night Out” (Season 4, Episode 11); Ryan started the fire in “The Fire” (Season 2, Episode 4)
The “How Does He Still Work Here” Unprofessional Award
Michael loves to push the envelope in the worst ways. From declaring Prima Nocta before Phyllis’s wedding, to treating all the female employees to gifts from Victoria’s Secret, and constant use of the phrase “That’s what she said.” Michael’s casual misogyny and general cluelessness would lead to his termination many times over in the real world. Though the show smartly softens his character by constantly reminding us that his intentions are good, only a fictional company would continue to employ this walking lawsuit for 15 years.
Honorable Mentions: Outing, then kissing Oscar in “Gay Witch Hunt” (Season 3, Episode 1); Hitting Meredith with his car in “Fun Run” (Season 4, Episode 1); and e-mailing a topless photo of Jan to the company in “Back From Vacation” (Season 3, Episode 11)
The “Beers in Heaven” Musical Award
“Goodbye, Toby” (Season 4, Episode 14)
After inadvertently putting his hand on Pam’s leg, Toby attempts to erase the awkwardness by announcing that he’s fulfilling his lifelong dream of moving to Costa Rica. His goodbye party, planned by Phyllis and bankrolled by Michael and Jim, is one for the ages. Holly believes Kevin is mentally handicapped, Andy steals Jim’s proposal moment, and we find out that Angela and Dwight are having an affair. Michael lets loose in a parody of Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger”, gleefully waving goodbye to Toby’s HR requirements and general meh-ness. We dare you to listen to this song without singing, “Whoo! Toby’s going away!”
Honorable Mentions: Musical Moments: The Jan Song in “Dinner Party” (Season 4, Episode 9); Andy’s Phone in “The Return” (Season 3, Episode 13); and Seasons of Love in “Michael’s Last Dundies” (Season 7, Episode 21)
The “Citizen Kane” Michael Scott Joint Award
“Threat Level Midnight” (Season 7, Episode 17)
Michael considers himself to be quite the auteur, writing and directing several performances over the years. But none so epic as Threat Level Midnight, a so-bad-it’s-good action film that rips off every franchise in existence. We first hear parts of the script in “The Client” (Season 2, Episode 7), and in one of the show’s best payoffs, we get to see the completed project shortly before Michael’s departure in Season 7. Bonus points for being the tipping point (aided by Holly) when Michael stops taking himself so seriously and begins to enjoy the campiness of his wonderful film. Meet new friends. Tie that yarn. That’s how you do the Scarn.
Honorable Mentions: “Local Ad” (Season 4, Episode 5), “Lazy Scranton” in “The Merger” (Season 3, Episode 8)
The “MegaDesk” Office Prank Award
“Classy Christmas Parts 1 & 2” (Season 7, Episodes 11 & 12)
There’s nothing Jim loves to waste time on more than playing pranks on his deskmate Dwight. From putting his stapler in jello to sending faxes from Future Dwight, Jim has pulled off countless deceptions at Dwight’s expense over the years. But in Season 7’s Christmas party, Dwight finally gets his own victory in an escalating snowball fight that quickly spirals (snowballs?) out of Jim’s control. From secret Rube Goldberg-esque gifts to a parking lot filled with menacing snowmen, Dwight truly proves that sometimes the best snowball is not a snowball at all. It’s fear.
Honorable Mentions: Dwight is recruited by the CIA – A Benihana Christmas (Season 3, Episode 10) or Office supplies in the vending machine in “Booze Cruise” (Season 2, Episode 11)
The “Work From Home” Out of Office Award
“Dinner Party” (Season 4, Episode 9)
After tricking Jim and Pam into a free night, Michael plans what must be one of the most uncomfortable dinner parties of all time. The food isn’t ready, the hosts are arguing about vasectomies, the sex tape camera is still out, and there’s an extreme overuse of the word Babe. It’s Couples Only for a night filled with possibly poisoned food and terrible living room dancing. The evening comes to a close as a furious Jan throws a Dundie into Michael’s pride and joy, a tiny wall-mounted plasma TV, prompting a visit from the police. Suffice to say, we’ve never been so happy to see Dwight.
Honorable Mentions: “Beach Games” (Season 3, Episode 22); “Booze Cruise” (Season 2, Episode 11)
The “You Have Won a Tiny Dundie” Award
“Finale” (Season 9, Episode 23)
Despite uneven Seasons 8 and 9, The Office does end on a high note. The documentary has finally run and the staff can reflect on the past years along with the audience. Character arcs are moving, from Pam gaining courage to Oscar as the godfather to Angela’s son — and we dare you not to tear up when Erin finally meets her birth parents. The low point is admittedly Angela and Dwight’s wedding, but it does allow for Michael to return. Though we wish he had more to do, he’s able to get in one last “that’s what she said.” Pam ends the groundbreaking series by reminding us that there is beauty in the ordinary — and we agree. Over the years, we’ve invested in these character’s stories. We’ve celebrated with them, cringed with them, and watched them grow into well-rounded characters that remind us of ourselves on our best (and sometimes worst) days.
Now let’s all head to Poor Richard’s for the afterparty.