*The Office* N00b: Day 1

I don’t mean an actual, physical office.

I mean The Office. 

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Yes, I realize I am over thirteen years late to this party. Hear me out…

A few years ago, at the peak of my anglophile days, I  decided to sit down an watch The Office – both versions. I did not know, at the time, that the first few episodes of the U.S. version were near word-for-word, shot-for-shot remakes of the British version. Being the good, Sherlock-loving gal that I was, I start with the British version.

I watched the first episode. I loved Ricky Gervais and Martin Freeman.

Then, I turned on the first episode of the U.S. version the second I finished watching the first episode of the British version. And I hated Steve Carell and John Krasinski. Because they weren’t Ricky Gervais and Martin Freeman.

I think that same night I pushed myself through the second episodes of both seasons too, also word-for-word, shot-for-shot remakes of one another, and then I threw up my hands, declared both of them to be stupid, and never attempted to watch them again.

I’d seen all the memes. I’d heard all the references. People don’t understand, a good deal of my pop culture know-how comes from references. Either, it’s stuff I’ve read about in books, or it’s stuff that is so popular and so prevalent in popular culture in general, I just can’t avoid it. It’s really easy to hide my gaps in viewing knowledge that way. I read enough EW to get by when it comes to things I don’t watch/read/play/etc. myself. Like, I can throw out a good “You know nothing, Jon Snow” and seem like one of the cool kids, but I really don’t know what I’m talking about. (I don’t have HBO! 🤷)

Anyway. I’m teaching a class on Popular Culture now, and I am forthright with my students about my gaps in knowledge. This past week, they had an assignment about fan culture, and one wrote about The Office. I admitted in my response to them (and then shared my admittance on Facebook), that I’d never actually watched the series.

My students haven’t responded. My friends…you’d think I just told them all that I’d murdered their favorite childhood pet.

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So, I decided that this was a knowledge gap I was willing to close. I poured myself a cocktail (Jameson Caskmates Stout Barrel Edition, neat), curled up on my couch, and started my day one binge…

In one sitting, I watched all six episodes of season one, and the first three episodes of season two. And then, I decided I was going to start this blog series.

What’s The Office N00b going to be? 

Really, like all my blog “series” (like “Book Thoughts”), it’s gonna be whatever it turns out to be. Basically just reaction thoughts. When I get the particular itch, it’ll probably read something like a paper I would’ve turned in for a mass comm class in undergrad.

How many episodes will each blog post cover? 

Each entry will probably cover a lot of episodes at once, though, because I’m definitely doing some lengthy binges here.

Why a blog series? 

Well, frankly, because it gives me something specific to write about regularly. I like that. I mean, I love writing about books I read too, but those take a bit longer for me to finish (especially in the case of the book I’m currently reading, which I’m reading in tandem with a friend, so we’re only doing two chapters per day…).

Spoiler Alerts?!?!

Uh, no. I am under the impression that I’m the only human being alive who hasn’t watched this show yet, so I just assume nothing I say is a “spoiler.” If you, like me, are behind the times too…well, consider this a public service I am providing you, so that you too can join in the conversations, even if you’ve never watched the show. 😉

Okay, so…what’d you think of Season 1?

How about Episodes 1-3 of Season 2? 

Truth: I spent most of Season 1 questioning the taste level, intelligence, and sanity of most of my friends.

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I will take a moment here to give a shout out to my friend Tony who did warn me on Facebook. He said, “First season is rough. Do not judge it based on that!” After five years of working together, I know Tony is not going to attempt to bullshit me (when it comes to pop culture, especially!), so I sucked it up and powered through.

Man, it’s a good thing Season 1 is only six episodes.

The sixth episode of the first season – “Hot Girl” – was actually my favorite. I shouldn’t be surprised. Mindy Kaling had the top writing credit, and it was directed by Amy Heckerling. These are women I trust, especially when it comes to comedy. Plus, bonus Amy Adams cameo! That was fun.

This was also the first episode when I recognized my first real twinges of the “Jim and Pam Fever” that I know so many people were/are afflicted by. Jenna Fischer is a pretty incredible actress, and the look on her face when Jim says he’s going on a date with Katy (Amy Adams’ cameo character) absolutely shattered me.

But, for most of Season 1, the best the show inspired from me was a smirk. Sometimes a nod and a quick “Okay, I see where they’re going with this…”

The first time I literally laughed out loud was Season 2, Episode 1 – “The Dundies.” This was also the first episode where I felt genuine emotion (aside from “ugh, you’re not Ricky Gervais, please stop…”) toward’s Steve Carell’s character Michael Scott.

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Now, I’m not a huge fan of embarrassment-based humor. I think it’s mean. It makes me sad; it doesn’t make me laugh. So I was, understandably, nervous when things started to unravel for Michael in the center of that Chili’s. But seeing the staff of Dunder-Mifflin start to rally around him, and seeing his boost in energy when he got to finish out his ridiculous award show…that was fun. That had heart. I need comedy with heart, and this episode started to show that.

The second episode, “Sexual Harassment,” just sorta passed by for me. I mean, yay, the advent of that’s what she said (which has to be one of the least-nuanced jokes ever written, but okay)… I suppose it’s nice to know where popular vernacular begins. I feel like I should dust off my old Douglas Rushkoff Media Virus book and drop some well-researched knowledge here but…I’ll save that.

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The last episode I watched in my Day One binge was “Office Olympics.” THAT episode is what made me decide (1) to keep going in this effort to watch the entire U.S. series, and (2) is what I really love about sitcoms.

Yes, it was goofy and zany and wacky and silly, but there was heart and there was real emotions and there was stinging criticism and there was character development and…just so much good stuff. I wanted to tackle-hug the character Angela when she talked about “Pam-Pong”.

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I mean, the delivery was excellent, the timing was excellent, it was the first call-out that the rest of the staff isn’t as blind as these two act/think they are… so good. SO GOOD. All the props in the world to Angela Kinsey for her performance in this entire episode.

So, that was my first day being The Office N00b. Join me again on Day 2!

 

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