When's the last time you had to really brace yourself for a show's finale episode? Seinfeld? Friends? 30 Rock? For a lot of us, the next time is going to be this Thursday, when The Office says goodbye after nine seasons, seven Regional Managers, many workplace romances, a couple of gunshots, and at least one dead cat.
A lot of us have grown old alongside this show. We've tuned in year after year, even through the rocky patches (The Michael Scott Paper Company plot line, that one cameo by Jim Carrey). We're invested. Where were you when Jim proposed to Pam? How old were you on Diversity Day?
The good news: The Office has a legacy as large as its heart (and Dwight's head). It'll never really be gone, because it's changed, well, everything. It's inside us now.
That's what she said. -- Naivasha Dean
1. "That's What She Said"
As the smallest kid on the junior varsity basketball team, there were some drills I simply couldn't perform. One of them involved carrying a larger teammate while running up and down the court. Forced instead to carry a huge sack of 20 basketballs, I complained to Coach that the balls were just too much for me to handle. That's when I heard it. Without missing a beat, Coach delivered my first That's What She Said. It was 1992. Throughout my adolescence, whenever I had the opportunity to throw a That's What She Said into a conversation, I inserted it with skill, in just the right spot. It was hard, sometimes a stretch, but it was always worth it. Imagine my delight when Steve Carell began using this phrase on The Office. He delivered it expertly and repeatedly, satisfying me every time. A YouTube collection of all the That's What She Saids went viral among my friends. Although it no longer has the staying power it once enjoyed, That's What She Said has been permanently inscribed our pop culture lexicon. We had no idea it would get so huge. -- Nathan Alexander
2. The Abandonment of Dreams as a Sex Force Multiplier
Jim's competence in this show is staggering. Without exaggeration, he's surrounded on all sides by brute force idiocy. Dwight's to his left. Michael Scott or Andy is behind him. Erin flanks him on the right. A potential serial killer (Creed) and a bucket of diseases (Meredith) sit relatively unmolested in front of him.
Jim floats above it like a beautiful golden flower in the trailer park-ravaging tornado of the century that is Dunder-Mifflin. One would think, taking into account the circumstances, he would be running this measly paper company in the middle of the woods of Pennsylvania.
Again, that is what one would think. But he's repeatedly allowed others to jump him in line to appear warm and collected to the women (or woman) around him. Sure, he spent some time in Stamford chasin' the dream, then most recently in Philly chasin' a considerably better dream. (This last one involved steak.) But he always went back to Scranton to win the heart of/retain the heart of/un-piss-off the heart of Pam Beasley.
It has worked swimmingly. He's married, comfortable, and unfireable. (Dwight has twice shot a firearm at work, remember. What can Jim possibly do that's worse than that?) He got the girl, and he has recently upgraded to a Honda Accord.
In the process, he created the new American ideal: Dreams are beautiful symphonies, and quitting on them is rock and roll. -- Ben Collins
3. The Art of Wasting Time
The workplace comedy is nothing new, and we're no strangers to wasting time in the office. Heck, I'm writing this during a meeting, but The Office brought slacking to such a new level, it became an art form. Flonkerton. The Finer Things Club. Cafe Disco. Symposiums over whether Hilary Swank is hot or not. Pranks galore! When did they have any time to sell paper? Of course, with the Internet, we can both do our jobs quickly and still look busy when we're just looking at cat videos, but we can't be expected to just sit at our desk all day, so why shouldn't they be looking for distractions from the rigmarole of work? Besides, we all spend more hours with our coworkers than we do our families, so we should take Dunder Mifflin's lead and make the most of our time with our deskmates, or at least make their lives a little hellish just because we have to stare at their faces all day to make the clock go faster. -- Martin Moakler
I tell my friends at least once per week that they need to start watching Parks & Recreation. It's not for nothing that the one-liners go viral every week. But it's really the characters that link the Parks' awesomeness to its sister show, The Office. I remember the moment that Parks really got me hooked. During Season 2's "Hunting Trip," Leslie blames her womanhood for causing her to shoot Ron in the head. "I have a new bra that hooks in the front and it popped open and threw me off!" "This would not have happened if I had a penis!" "All I wanna do is have babies!" For me, this is when Amy Poehler really came into her own as Leslie. She was no longer just satirizing a boss that does embarrassing, uncomfortable things, but she was tying that in to a character who you can root for. And a smart, selfless, complex female lead at that. That's the foundation that Michael Scott laid for us, and it's the reason why Parks works. -- Janet Wood
5. Ed Helms as a Movie Star
The jump from the small screen to movie-star status is not an easy one, but Helms has not only made it to the silver screen -- he's part of a major summer franchise, the last installment of which ranked 3rd in domestic earnings in the summer of 2011. Not bad for someone who got his start as an NBC intern. Helms admits to having a lot of empathy for the characters he plays, describing them as people who "want to be better versions of themselves and just get in their own way." Doubtless, that genuine desire to be a good guy, the earnestness that makes Andy Bernard so likable even at his worst, bumped his initial 10-episode character arc into series-regular status, eventually allowing him to replace the legendary Michael Scott as Dunder Mifflin's Regional Manager. Andy Bernard's ability to take success in his stride is a large part of what's kept the show so delightful, even following Carell's departure, and Helms himself is no different. A year ago he was still long-boarding around New York, doing his own laundry. And we bet he still is. -- Katherine Rea
6. Millions of Bitterly Disappointing Workplace Romances
Listen. Just because that new colleague of yours is cute, but not TOO cute (like, in your league cute), and funny, in a conspiratorial sort of way, and has an endearingly bad haircut -- does NOT mean that your wry smiles at each other are going to evolve into a perfect, all-American romance in which your love gradually blooms like a beautiful flower despite myriad adorable misunderstandings, and you'll kiss in the rain, and get married at a ceremony within your means, and pop out perfect children, and overcome all obstacles by remembering those days when you'd smile wryly at each other across the office. No. You'll probably just make out in a conference room after a holiday party, and it will be awful and awkward the next day and you'll spend the next year taking the long way to the copy machine.--Naivasha Dean
7. Steve Carell as a Movie Star
About six or seven years ago, I remember watching an interview with Julia Louis-Dreyfus in which she was asked who the funniest comedian no one knew about was. She replied that if she had been asked that recently, she would have replied "Steve Carell," but she could no longer say that no one knew about him. Before The Office, Steve had proven himself an excellent comedic actor in projects like The Dana Carvey Show, Bruce Almighty and Anchorman. But had he not snagged the role of Michael Scott, he could have just ended up a "comedian's comedian," who would have been admired by his peers, but stopped on the street by the masses who would demand that he say he "love lamp" then walk on, having just met "that guy from that one thing." As Michael Scott, Steve created a boss who was absolutely terrifying in his inappropriate levity and desperation to be loved, but we still couldn't help but love him. Whereas we usually found David Brent (from the original British Office) repellant and mean, Michael was like a child finding his way in the world, and we wanted to see more of that, and he didn't disappoint with big, brash comedies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin. But in addition to going the blockbuster route, Steve also chose a lot of poignant, thoughtful movies like Little Miss Sunshine and Dan in Real Life that proved that not only was he the comedian's comedian, he's also the actor's actor. Oh, sure if we ever meet him, we shall demand that he say he "love lamp." But we'll walk away from him bragging about how we just met Michael Scott. -- Martin Moakler