Tag Archives: the office

What happens to characters on “The Office”?

Yesterday, March 24, marked the 15th anniversary of the debut of “The Office” on NBC! How did I miss this? USA TODAY had a nice article about the series, how so many of its actors and writers went on to great careers, how it led to similar storytelling in other series.

Readers of this blog (yes, all five of you) know that I love that series and have written about it in the past when I binge-watched it last year. Now I catch random episodes on the Comedy Central network. It’s my go-to stress reliever show.

Lately, my obsession has led to me wondering what a reunion show might look like. What has happened to the characters in the fifteen years since it began (and in the seven years since it ended in 2013)? Screen Shot 2019-05-03 at 11.49.11 AM

I can think of a few scenarios for some of the characters, but would love to hear other fans’ ideas. Here are mine:

First, I think most, if not all, of the characters who’d moved away from Scranton would have returned by now. Their families are in Scranton, after all, and I could see them wanting to be closer to parents and grandparents as they age, especially the characters with children.

Pam and Jim:  After one of the partners in Jim’s company, Athlead, embezzles money, the business almost collapses, but is absorbed by a multinational. Jim gets a payout from the sale that allows them to move back to Scranton from Texas, which Pam is eager to do because her mother is showing signs of early onset dementia. By now, Pam has tired of being a stay-at-home mom and gotten her real estate license. She discovers she’s great at selling houses, which she often stages using artworks she’s created. Jim becomes the stay-at-home dad.

Dwight and Angela: Angela takes over the Schrute farm business and does a fantastic job running their B and B and selling Schrute Organic Produce (despite the fact that across the road from them is an agri-business farm that uses pesticides and weed killers galore). They now have five children, whom Angela homeschools with stern discipline, and two dozen cats. Dwight, meanwhile, has expanded his real estate holdings (using Pam as a Realtor) to include houses he flips for profit. He also now runs the Dunder-Mifflin Computer company. The paper business has tanked, so Dwight, helped by an investment from Nellie Bertram (who is raising her adopted child in Europe and comes to Scranton occasionally) was able to buy out the branch and reconfigure it into a computer store. He hires young college dropouts to run what he calls their Sehrschlau Bars (German for “very smart”) but who usually just end up Googling solutions to customer problems, including when they go on-site to service computers at local schools, a contract Dwight has landed.

Phyllis: Poor Phyllis is now widowed after a particularly vigorous roll in the hay with Bob Vance, her husband, resulted in him having a fatal heart attack. She now runs Vance Refrigeration and Appliances, having expanded the business to include an array of inexpensive off brands to upscale niche devices for kitchens and more. She needs more office space for her growing business and is using Pam to help her find a good location out of the office park, an activity she keeps secret from Dwight who owns the park and who she views as a competitor because she’s going to add computers to her inventory.

Those are all my thoughts so far. Haven’t figured out what Darryl, Andy, Erin, Kelly, Ryan or others would be doing! Or Michael Scott himself!

Feel free to comment with your own ideas.


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Storytelling: “The Office” and Happy Endings

For the past several weeks, I’ve been binge-watching all nine seasons of the American version of The Office, the hit comedy series that ran on NBC starting in 2005. I’d watched it when it originally aired on network TV, but seeing it again, with no week-long intermission between episodes, emphasized a theme on the show that didn’t hit me as starkly otherwise. That theme is: most people are good.

It’s strange to think of that theme when the show itself has so many cringe moments. Michael Scott, the manager of the Scranton, PA branch office of the Dunder Mifflin paper company, is selfish, cowardly, capricious, petty, and egotistical. When you watch the first episodes, you can’t help but be repulsed by his outlandish personality and sympathize with those under his thumb.

Screen Shot 2019-05-03 at 11.49.11 AMBut as you get to know him, you see something else: a fragile, shy, isolated, lonely man who just wants to be loved. Those glimpses often come, though, at the tail end of something particularly annoying.

For example, in the Season Two episode “Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” Michael shows his staff a video clip from when he, as a child, appeared on the show Fundle Bundle. 

You shake your head as he shushes people when they comment as the video rolls, he makes an inappropriate comment about the female host’s body, and he is visibly jealous when staffers recognize a local weatherman as a child on the show.

Then, the boy Michael Scott is on the video screen, ridiculously dressed in a suit, talking to a puppet about what he wants from life: “I want to be married and have a hundred kids so I would have a hundred friends and no one can say no to being my friend.”

The young girls in the room, daughters of staffers, start badgering Michael with questions: Did he get married, did he have children? The obvious conclusion is that Michael never realized his dream.

The camera pans to the staff who just a few moments before were engaged in their usual eye-rolling at his antics. Each in turn shows shock and sympathy. Michael the Fool has become transformed in their (and our) eyes to Michael, il pagliaccio, the sympathetic clown from Leoncavallo’s opera. You can almost hear the heartbreaking aria “Vesti la giubba” in your head with its clown’s soliloquy about turning one’s sorrow into laughter.

In every episode there seems to be a moment like this, where a character’s fragility or vulnerability is revealed, usually after the person has done something embarrassing, mean-spirited, dumb, or just plain bad.

Similarly, you see the other characters then finding a way to lift that poor soul up, even if they have to bite their tongues while doing it.

When I first watched The Office as it aired, I didn’t always catch this constant through the episodes as I laughed at the staff antics and nodded at the inane business practices, the know-nothing bosses, the office parties and the simmering feuds among workers.

But it shows up episode after episode, and, although many characters do get their happy endings as stories resolve, the biggest happy ending for the series itself is the theme that plays out through the nine seasons of its entire story arc: deep down, people are capable of being very good, even when they don’t particularly like each other.

And, since I’m a country music fan, below is a musical rendition of that sentiment.

Libby Sternberg is a novelist. She writes under the names Libby Malin and Libby Sternberg.

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