Why the hell do today’s teens and pre-teens absolutely adore “The Office?” The show premiered over 16 years ago, and concluded in 2013, while most of them were still watching “Paw Patrol” or “Phineas and Ferb.” This might seem like a silly or completely meaningless question, but it keeps invading my headspace every time I look at my own 13-year-old son, and his face is glued to his tablet, watching the series straight through for the eighth time.
Eating breakfast? Watching “The Office.” Driving three hours to Kansas City to play soccer? Watching “The Office.” Playing a video game at home? Yes, also somehow — mystifyingly to me — also watching “The Office.” It is like it initiates some kind of trance in the young brain, through some sort of hidden power, with the allure of a cultish ritual. Its hold is firm, its magnetism to the adolescent attention span, all-powerful.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the show. I loved it when it was on network TV, although it took a while to grow on me. I attribute that to the inevitable comparison to the original series that it triggered in my brain. The original, which aired in the UK from 2001-2003, was written by and starred Ricky Gervais (as David Brent, the British version of U.S. main character Michael Scott) and Stephen Merchant (in a lesser role).
That little 12-episode gem remains utterly fabulous in its cringe-inducing comedy, awkward scenes and characters, and in the way it wonderfully and magically wrapped up the short series. If you have never watched it, I encourage you to do so. It is at times darker and meaner than its American cousin, diabolically funnier in some parts, and far more clinically neurotic and weird. The payoff, though, comes with all the more emotional force at the end because of these facts.
The American version of the series ran for far longer than its British namesake, and has surely been viewed millions of times more at this point (mostly by my son). It also finishes on a wonderfully genuine, delightful, and emotionally satisfying note, like the Gervais-helmed version. In fact, I would say it ranks up there as one of the best series conclusions in American TV history. It somehow gives all of the characters fitting and satisfying send-offs, completely and utterly true to how they were portrayed throughout the series. I still tear up when I watch the final episode, which I have seen probably five times. It is just great.
All of that being said, I still cannot for the life of me understand why 12 and 13-year-olds love “The Office” with such complete devotion and unfettered emotional attachment. Is it the absurdity of the comedy? Is it the mockumentary format? Are the characters somehow fanatically appealing to young minds? I have no idea. All I know is that they love it, and cannot get enough of it. I keep waiting for the spell to break, and for my son to move on from the show, or to at least only watch it a few times a week. It has yet to happen.
When I ask him what he loves about “The Office,” my son just looks at me quizzically and says, “It’s an all-around funny show, and I like that it is pretty relatable.” I guess that about sums it up. I am going to chalk this up to “meh…kids” and a shrug, and go back to enjoying experiencing it again — vicariously through my kid.
Some fun facts about “The Office:”
- The British version of “The Office” also follows the exploits of a mid-sized paper company, except set in England and with main characters David Brent (the boss), Gareth (the Dwight Schrute-like character), Tim (the Jim character), and Dawn (the Pam character).
- The British version’s opening music is a snippet of the song “Handbags and Gladrags,” by Rod Stewart, and it will stick in your brain for weeks if you watch the British version.
- The British version of “The Office” won the 2003 Golden Globe Award for Best Television series: Musical or Comedy, the first British comedy to ever win the award. Gervais also won a Best Actor Golden Globe that year for his portrayal of David Brent. The show also won a Peabody Award that year.
- The American version of “The Office” also won a Peabody Award in 2006, two Screen Actors Guild awards, a Golden Globe for Steve Carrell’s portrayal of Michael Scott, and four Emmy awards, including Best Comedy Series, in 2006.
- The town of Scranton, PA has reportedly embraced the cultural impact of the American version of the show that takes place there, and has placed a Dunder-Mifflin logo on a lamppost banner in front of Scranton City Hall.
- A spin-off series was proposed in 2008, which went on to become another series my kid loves: “Parks and Rec.” One of the co-creators of “Parks and Rec” is Michael Schur, who produced and wrote for “The Office,” created the TV show “The Good Place,” co-created “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and played Mose Schrute (one of the more delightfully weird recurring characters on the show) in the American version of “The Office.” Maybe it is that guy who is to blame for this comedy crack to which my son is addicted.
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Feature image: NBC Universal Television
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