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The Office aired from March 2005 until May 2013 on NBC.

To all appearances the Scranton office of the Dunder Mifflin paper company was an ordinary, boring modern business office, with its cubicles, copy machine and bright lighting, but the denizens were something else. Michael ( Steve Carell) was the clueless regional manager, devoted to his work , who thought he was funny ( but wasn't), cool (ditto) and inspiring to his workers ( they thought he was a joke). He was constantly saying and doing inappropriate things but never seemed to realize it ( to a new female employee: You're exotic looking. Was your dad a G.I.?"). Dwight ( Rainn Wilson) was the sycophantic assistant manager whose arrogance alternately annoyed or amused his office mates; Pam ( Jenna Fischer), the sweet young receptionist who put up with their nonsense; Jim ( John Krasinski), the lanky ,boyish sales representitive who had the hots for Pam and who, with her, played pranks on Dwight; and Ryan ( B.J. Novak), a young temp who quickly figured out the office politics and played along.

Others in sales included older, jowly black man Stanley ( Leslie David Baker) and large, stately Phyllis(Phyllis Smith). In accounting there was uptight Angela ( Angela Kinsey), impish balding Kevin ( Brian Baumgartner) and gay Hispanic Oscar ( Oscar Nufiez), the butt of many ill-advised jokes. Alcoholic Meredith ( Kate Flannery) and chatterbox Kelly( Mindy Kaling) were customer service representitives, spaced out Creed ( Creed Bratton), a former rock musician whose brains had been addled by drugs, in quality assurance, and Toby ( Paul Lieberstein), the harried but ineffectual human resources representitive who had plenty to do thanks to Michael's gaffles.

Many of the stories had to do with office romances and flirtations , including a triangle involving Jim , Pam and Pam's dense fiance Roy ( David Denman), who worked in the warehouse. The second season brought liaisons between Dwight and Angela, Kelly and Ryan and -surprisingly-Michael and his hard-driving boss at corporate, Jan ( Melora Hardin), who was both dismissive of and attracted to him. For a time it appeared that the Scranton office would be closed and folded into the Stamford, Connecticut, branch, and Jim transferred there. Instead Stamford was closed and some of its workers joined Scranton including smarmy Andy ( Ed Helms), who jockeyed with Dwight to be Michael's favorite using the technique of " personality mirroring"( whatever the boss says , repeat it back to him).

The Office had no laugh track, used some improvised dialogue , and was filled with long, awkward pauses and stares, along with characters talking directly to the camera documentary style. Critics thought this was wonderful and innovative although many viewers were less enchanted, making the show something of an aquired taste. The series was based on a British program of the same name ( 2001) created by and starring Ricky Gervais.

An Article from The New York Times

'The Office' Transfers to a New Cubicle

PLENTY is wrong with the half-hour comedy on network television. But the main problem is that it's simply not funny enough. The gang around the living room couch; the fat guy with the skinny wife; the set-up-then-joke rhythm, punctuated by peals of often preposterously overenthusiastic laughter - viewers, especially young adult viewers, are just not amused by any of that anymore. The ratings prove it.

So what will they think of "The Office," which starts on NBC this week with a special edition on Thursday night before moving to Tuesday nights?

Yes, it's an American adaptation of a British show that is already considered a classic, and that probably puts it down in the count by at least two strikes. Networks have not been very good recently at taking British shows and making them work over here ("Men Behaving Badly" and "Coupling.") Furthermore, Americans are notoriously unmoved by subtle British humor, and no show of recent vintage has been more brilliant in subtle humor than "The Office," which won a Golden Globe as best comedy. (It played on cable in the United States on BBC America, and thus went largely unseen by the broad American television audience.)

In their most honest moments, even some NBC executives have doubts that this conception can work. "The Office" is quirky, untraditional, shot on film (not tape) and has neither audience nor laugh track.

Yet a certain buzz has started to form around the show, both inside NBC and wherever else tapes have circulated. "I've gotten more positive reaction to this than anything I've ever worked on," said Greg Daniels, one of the show's executive producers, a man who has worked on some pretty fair shows, including "The Simpsons."

And at least one NBC executive, the president of entertainment, Kevin Reilly, sees in "The Office" an intriguing possibility.

"The audience has been pretty bored with what the networks have been delivering to them in comedy over the past five years," Mr. Reilly said. "Maybe this is the antidote."

He went even further, daring to use the "S" word - as in "Seinfeld."

"The institutional memory of 'Seinfeld' will live forever at NBC," Mr. Reilly said. He was making the comparison to illustrate that shows like "The Office," which break the traditional comedy mold, are often the ones that take time to break though as hits.

But he was also sending a message about "The Office": This is not "The Single Guy" or "Suddenly Susan." In his view, this is a show that belongs to the more storied area of the NBC comedy tradition.

"I think a part of the audience will really love this show," Mr. Reilly said. "Part maybe won't get it. It's a polarizing show. But I would much rather, especially in a static genre, have a polarizing response."

Polarizing? It is a show in which the lead character is a bumptious, insensitive lout, given to making racist or sexist remarks that he thinks are jokes, and even to pretending to fire the office receptionist as a gag, only to drive her to tears. He is, in every sense, the jerk of a boss that almost everyone has encountered.

That's one reason Mr. Reilly spoke with such enthusiasm about the show. "There is just such honesty to it," he said.

Still, if "The Office" does turn out to be the comedy that everyone is talking about in the next few weeks, it is likely to be because it has arrived at time when its offbeat style and rhythms are quite familiar to television viewers.

Not from comedies - from reality shows. Other recent shows have tried to borrow a bit of the look and feel of reality shows, but "The Office" is overtly made in the form of a reality show. It is, by all appearances, a documentary about life in an office populated by mostly average people whom anyone would recognize from their own lives.

Ben Silverman, another executive producer, played a central role in the British invasion of reality shows early in this decade. As an agent based in London for William Morris, Mr. Silverman put himself in the middle of deals that brought "Survivor," "Big Brother" and other shows to the United States.

He also paid attention to another British genre, the "docu-soap": a show set in some place of business, which made stars out of real-life workers. One of the first productions he was involved with was the NBC series "The Restaurant," a docu-soap.

Three years ago Mr. Silverman found himself back in London, visiting friends, when he turned on television one night and found an unusual new show, the first episode of "The Office" on the BBC.

"I thought, this is the best thing I've ever seen," Mr. Silverman said. That was a conclusion even Britons did not come to for several more weeks. Mr. Silverman jumped into action. He learned that the international rights belonged to the show's star, Ricky Gervais, and his partner, Stephen Merchant. Mr. Silverman chased Mr. Gervais until he met him in a Starbucks in London. "I walked him straight to his agent's office," Mr. Silverman said.

That's how he acquired the American rights. What he did not acquire was Mr. Gervais, whose performance as the painfully inappropriate office manager David Brent was hailed by British and American critics as one of the most brilliant comic creations in recent memory.

Mr. Silverman recruited Mr. Daniels, who said "daunting was the word" for the assignment of remaking a show he himself loved extravagantly. For the pilot, Mr. Daniels relied heavily on the first episode of the British version, though he reshaped the characters for the American setting, which has become the office of a paper products company in Scranton, Pa. The David Brent character took on the more average American name of Michael Scott.

Both Mr. Silverman and Mr. Daniels concluded that, beyond its one-of-a kind characters, the special appeal of the show was its format. Making the show part of an apparent documentary on life in an office opened the door to recreating both the look and rhythm of reality shows.

"I don't think we could have done this three years ago," Mr. Silverman said. "But now people have seen 'Growing Up Gotti' and the 'Airline' show and 'The Restaurant.'

The production even hired as its principal camera operator a veteran of the first several "Survivor" series. "We told him to follow the cast around like it was a reality show," Mr. Daniels said.

Then came the hard part: Casting an actor who could at least approximate the magic Mr. Gervais brought to the part. What American actor could play a self-deluded obnoxious loser that convincingly?

Steve Carell had been playing exactly that sort of guy for years, in movies like "Bruce Almighty" and "Anchorman," and for years as one of the outrageous faux reporters on "The Daily Show."

"I seem to play a lot of jackasses and losers and idiots," Mr. Carell said.

But he instantly realized that duplicating Mr. Gervais's classic jackass was a hopeless task. He tried to come at Michael Scott as a "a blank slate." Mr. Carell said he concluded, "This is an archetype character: the loser with an enormous blind spot."

The rest of the casting was done through improvisational sessions. Rainn Wilson, late of "Six Feet Under," became Dwight, the Americanization of the unhinged Gareth character. The romantic pair of Dawn and Tim became Pam and Jim, played by the winning young actors Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski.

With the cast in place, Mr. Daniels began adding more American touches to the pilot (like references to "The Six Million Dollar Man" and Hillary Clinton). He and the writing staff came up with original stories for the other five episodes completed for this season. One episode is devoted to a "Diversity Day," which turns into an occasion for Michael Scott to offend almost every ethnic group with his ham-handed efforts to be tolerant.

Mr. Carell said he had his own take on his character: "He is unrelenting. He will not give up. He will follow through even in the face of everyone else's contempt."

The British version, in typical British fashion, did just 12 episodes over two seasons, then walked away. NBC, not showing a lot of faith, ordered only six this season. But if even a hint of promise is discerned, the show could be back in the fall for 24 more.

Mr. Silverman said Mr. Gervais remained involved, sending ideas for stories via e-mail. But the show has become an American operation now.

In one sense, Mr. Silverman has been here before. He is the producer who imported "Coupling" from England two seasons ago, only to see it crash and burn in the high profile of NBC's Thursday night. "I thought I learned something about being on Thursday night at 9:30, and here I am again," Mr. Silverman said (though it's only for one week this time).

There is a difference, he said. "The execution of this show is just so much better," he said. "No matter what happens, I'm really proud of this show."

A Review from The New York Times

An American-Style 'Office' With a Boss From Heck

Published: March 24, 2005

There is no snobbery more insufferable than the one-upsmanship of memory.

"The London production of 'Democracy' was so much better."

"You think that's bad? I was in Fenway Park in 1978 when Bucky Dent's home run destroyed the Red Sox."

"This is a nice Sauternes. Of course, it's no Ch'teau d'Yquem."

And though it grates to admit it, the American version of "The Office" is very funny - for viewers who never saw the original series on BBC America.

Luckily for NBC, which bought the rights to the British comedy, only a relatively small number of viewers in the United States have seen the BBC version. Those happy few should try to erase every trace from their brains - Eternal Sunshine of the Digital Cable Mind - because the NBC series, though it pales in comparison, is still funnier than any other new network sitcom.

For one thing, there are no laugh tracks, musical cues or snappy one-liners. "The Office" is all deadpan humor, as dry as "Curb Your Enthusiasm," more slyly absurdist than "Arrested Development." In spirit and satirical humor, it is perhaps closest to the 1984 mock rock 'n' roll documentary "This Is Spinal Tap." The premise is that a documentary film crew has invaded a branch office of a paper supply company to study routine office life. In the British version, the Wernham Hogg outpost was in a dreary London suburb with the deliciously Dickensian name Slough. The Dunder Mufflin office is in Scranton, Pa., which is perhaps equally funny.

The Scranton regional manager, Michael Scott (Steve Carell), is a master of the malapropos joke who despite crushing evidence believes that he is a born comedian and that his employees admire him. ("I'm a friend first, boss second, probably an entertainer third," he earnestly tells an unseen interviewer.)

Ricky Gervais, who was the star and co-author with Stephen Merchant of the original "Office," played the boss with a nails-on-chalkboard boorishness that is almost impossible to duplicate. Mr. Carell ("The Daily Show" and "Anchorman") is not a match for Mr. Gervais, but he does skillfully adapt the character to his own domestic brand of heedless buffoonery, which includes impressions of the Three Stooges and Hitler.

During "diversity day," a sensitivity-training course mandated by corporate headquarters (after employees complained about Michael's rendition of an inflammatory Chris Rock routine), Michael tries to display his solicitous side to the camera crew. "Is there a term besides Mexican that you prefer?" he asks Oscar, the office's only Hispanic. "Something not so offensive?"

"The Office" is an odd, even bold fit for a network, and not just because it is politically incorrect. The humor is flinty and cold-blooded in the very best tradition of British comedy from Monty Python to "The Ali G. Show." On American television, that kind of callous wit can be found only on cable alternatives like HBO or FX. And even Larry David's corrosive "Curb Your Enthusiasm" has a few faint traces of benevolence.

So NBC executives deserve credit for preserving the original's unflinching black humor - the show's tone could so easily have been ruined by just one wrong cut-away shot or punch line. Michael's faux pas are met with blank stares and excruciatingly long, bewildered silences. Particularly when Michael says things like, "As Abe Lincoln once said: If you are a racist we will attack you from the north."

These office workers are not the kind of lovable oddballs that populate traditional sitcoms. They are almost uniformly unattractive, wan and dull - the kinds of people who go unnoticed or avoided in airport lounges and block parties. Michael's one toady is the assistant to the regional manner, Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson, "Six Feet Under"), who is tetchy, pompous and dim-witted in a very different way from the BBC series's Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) but just as amusing.

NBC's nerve buckled only once: the network chose to cast as Jim, the office's one likable sales representative, John Krasinski, an actor who is taller and much more handsome than his British model, Tim (Martin Freeman, "Love Actually"). Jim, self-aware but insecure and a lifelong underachiever, is in love with the office receptionist, Pam (Jenna Fischer), who has a fiancee and views Jim as a friend; the poignancy of Jim's wistful, awkward courtship is the series's one soft spot. Here it is slightly undermined by Mr. Krasinski's preppy good looks.

"The Office" is a desperation move by NBC, which finds itself in fourth place after years at the top with hits like "Friends" and "Frasier." Failure can be liberating, however. It drove NBC to develop and put on the air the kind of seditious, unconventional comedy that viewers say they want and that television executives insist could never draw a broad enough audience to be a network success. "The Office" has the potential to be a hit, though perhaps not overnight. It remains to be seen whether NBC finds the nerve to keep it on the air long enough to build an audience, the way "Seinfeld" did.

Of course, "Seinfeld" was much better in the original Swedish.

'The Office'

NBC, tonight at 9:30, Eastern and Pacific times; 8:30, Central time.

Ben Silverman, Greg Daniels, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Howard Klein, executive producers; Ken Kwapis, executive producer for the pilot; Larry Wilmore, Lester Lewis and Paul Lieberstein, consulting producers; Kent Zbornak, producer; Michael Schur, co-producer; B. J. Novak, executive story editor; Mindy Kaling, staff writer. From Reveille LLC in association with NBC Universal Television Studio. Based on the BBC series created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant and developed for American television by Greg Daniels.

WITH: Steve Carell (Michael Scott), Jenna Fischer (Pam Beesly), John Krasinski (Jim Halpert), B. J. Novak (Ryan Howard) and Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute).

A Review from USA TODAY

NBC copy machine misfeeds at 'The Office'
By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY

There's a great TV show out there called The Office.

This just isn't it.

Instead, what NBC is offering tonight is a passable imitation of a miles-better British original a brilliant faux-documentary starring Ricky Gervais that has attracted a small but devoted fan base from its BBC America run.

Of course, in defense of the Americanized version, most people haven't seen the original, and, as copies go, this Office at least is not the clear-the-hall disaster that was NBC's remake of the lesser Brit hit Coupling.

Still, there is something inevitably ersatz about it that you can't help but notice. I mean, even if you've never seen The Last Supper, you probably can figure out that the black-velvet versions fail to fully match the genius of the original.

Produced by Greg Daniels, our Office stars The Daily Show's Steve Carell as Michael Scott, a wildly deluded middle manager at a Scranton paper-supply company. He serves as the self-promoting tour guide for a film crew that is making an apparently epic documentary about life in this American workplace.

Though the show veers off on its own paths and scripts in later episodes, tonight's pilot is pretty much a scene-for-scene re-creation of the British opener. Michael introduces us to his employees: Pam (Jenna Fischer), the pretty but slightly gone-to-seed receptionist ("If you think she's cute now, you should have seen her a couple of years ago."); Jim (John Krasinski), an underemployed salesman with a crush on the engaged Pam; and Dwight (Rainn Wilson), Michael's irritating, suck-up assistant.

The Office is at its best in a later episode, as one of Michael's racist jokes leads the company to hold a diversity day. The outing is filled with moments that make you cringe in discomfort and recognition, as when Michael blithely asks a Mexican employee, " Is there a term besides Mexican that you prefer? Something less offensive?"

The question for NBC, which seems to have high hopes for the show, is whether people really want to cringe on a weekly basis. The Brits made only six episodes of The Office a season, which means British audiences only had to make a brief commitment to a character who can be trying over long exposure. It also allowed the show to tell a closed-end story that found romances blooming and unemployment looming.

Still, the insurmountable problem for this version may prove to be Carell himself. He's an amusing sketch comic, but he comes across as an actor doing a bit, not a person running an office. Worse, he makes the character too one-dimensionally unsympathetic. He captures Michael's delusions of grandeur but misses the poignancy in his mad dash for popularity.

But then that's what happens with copies. Inevitably, something great gets lost.

A Review from Time Magazine

The (Awkward) Pause That Refreshes
Monday, Mar. 14, 2005


Ever since NBC announced plans to remake The Office--the critically adored BBC sitcom about white collar dronesmanship--fans of the original prepared to be disappointed. Americans, they surmised, could not reproduce its discomfiting British humor.

They were right. And thank God. The Office (Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m. E.T.; preview March 24, 9:30 p.m. E.T.) keeps elements of the original, like the mockumentary format and the long, awkward pauses. But it finds a discomfiting American humor all its own.

The first dead-on choice was hiring executive producer Greg Daniels, whose animated King of the Hill is TV's most acute satire of suburban mores. The second was casting Steve Carell to reinterpret the nightmare boss originated by Ricky Gervais. Carell's Michael Scott, like Gervais' David Brent, is a paper-company middle manager who believes he's a sage, a comedian and his employees' best friend.

But like many an American reality-show subject, he's really a boor trying to impress the cameras. Introducing receptionist Pam (Jenna Fischer), Scott compliments her thusly: "Pam has been with us for--forever. Righty, Pam? You think she's cute now, you should have seen her a couple years ago! Rrawrr!" Her response--a fleeting "Wha?"--is one of many priceless moments in a comedy of subtle background reactions and self-delusions. In his office, Scott shows the off-camera interviewer his World's Best Boss coffee mug. "I think that pretty much sums it up. [Pause.] I found it at Spencer Gifts."

The pilot--largely a copy of the British one--is funny enough. But a better episode is an all-American one about diversity. After Scott offends the staff by doing Chris Rock's "black people and n______" stand-up routine, corporate holds a mandatory racial-sensitivity meeting. Scott responds by hosting his own session, in which he asks a Mexican-American staff member, "Is there a term besides Mexican that you prefer? Something less offensive?"

It's ironic that NBC's most original sitcom in years is a remake, but who cares? The Office is a daring, unflinching take on very American workplace tensions. And network TV needed this jolt like a cubicle jockey needs the morning's first cup of coffee. --By James Poniewozik

An Article from Time Magazine

Get The Office At Your Office
Monday, Jun. 26, 2006


The Office is an acutely funny workplace sitcom in which the cubicle prisoners fight wrenching boredom and dream of escape. By happy coincidence, that describes many actual offices, minus the acutely funny part. So NBC is giving real workers an escape this summer--by offering new episodes of the show to watch online, in the comfort of their own cubicles.

Starting July 13, The Office will begin streaming 10 2-min. "webisodes" through Think of them as The Office, the downsized version. The cast is smaller: the plot follows the supporting characters of the Dunder-Mifflin paper company's accounting department as they track down $3,000 missing from the books. Most important, from the network's standpoint, the budget is smaller. "I don't even know if we had a budget," says executive producer Greg Daniels. "It's more like an extra fee." Chalk up another irony for The Office: you have a big year, and the boss asks you to work overtime for peanuts. But the webisode project is less a comedown than the highest-profile example of the race at the networks to bring the small screen to the even smaller screen, fast.

How fast? Just a year ago, the big networks were debating whether it was worthwhile to sell shows on iTunes. Millions of downloads later, CBS has launched an entire broadband network, Innertube, at on which can be seen sketch comedy, reality makeovers and chat shows for superfans of Survivor and Big Brother. In June NBC Universal debuted online channels for gay programming and reruns of critics' favorite series (brilliant but ESPN, Comedy Central, MTV, Discovery, HGTV and more have broadband channels. (On Animal Planet's, you can watch Web-exclusive series Pet Trends for the latest in canine fashion and high-end doggie snacks.) Canceled shows are getting second lives online (CBS's Love Monkey), while new shows pull double duty (NBC's 30 Rock, about a sketch-comedy show, will run webisodes with skits from the show-within-a-show). NBC and CBS are even planning online-only reality shows from, respectively, record producer David Foster and Survivor honcho Mark Burnett.

Burnett's show is called Gold Rush, and that's pretty much what's going on here. NBC Universal Television Group CEO Jeff Zucker says digital ad opportunities were "all advertisers wanted to talk about" before this spring's "upfronts," where the networks announce their fall schedules to Madison Avenue. Who can blame them? According to technology-analysis firm Forrester Research, 28% of U.S. households had broadband access in 2005--and that's not counting access at work, which is prime time for online TV. (When CBS streamed NCAA basketball this spring, it included a "boss button" that fans could use to instantly hide the game under a bogus spreadsheet.) More viewers are skipping TV ads using TiVo or other recorders, whereas webisodes are usually preceded by a brief, unskippable ad. Meanwhile, the ratings of even hit shows have shrunk over the years, and some of those former viewers are having affairs with their desktops.

That's especially true of youth--one reason MTV launched MTVU Uber, an online-only channel for college students. It also goes for upscale viewers like The Office's, who downloaded the show in droves from iTunes. Still, says Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff, the more mainstream online video becomes, the more viewers of all ages and income levels use it. "It doesn't matter whether you're selling Preparation H or sports cars," he says. "Your audience is online looking at videos, so you want to be there."

The question is what to draw them with. "Online is the Wild West," says Zucker. "There are no rules yet." More precisely, online is Deadwood: a mother lode of new riches, with big companies trying to muscle in on the prospectors. (Or buy them out: Carson Daly just signed a development deal with 20-year-old YouTube comic sensation Brooke [Brookers] Brodack.) Online, the competition is not just CBS and Fox: it's college kids on MySpace and raunchy comedy sites like collegehumor com The networks can't take as many risks online--even though the FCC can't touch them there. Daniels considered letting actors swear in the Office webisodes but says he didn't think "people wanted to hear their favorite characters shouting profanities they wouldn't hear on the regular show." Advertisers sure wouldn't; one reason they're urging the networks online is not to have their mutual-fund spots run next to a home movie of a baby farting on YouTube.

Instead, networks are trying to capture the spirit of what makes the Web distinctive. Part of that, says Brian Graden, entertainment president of MTV Networks music group, is a first-person point of view. "If we do a Top 10 music-video list," he says, "it won't work as well as if we offer Snoop Dogg's list of his favorite Top 10." Short works best too--that quarterly planning meeting is in 10 minutes!--and maybe for that reason, comedy, which also relies less on impressive visuals, plays better than drama (though ABC is working on cell-phone mini-episodes of Lost).

Online shows need to be cheap, of course, because they still don't draw as many eyeballs as prime-time TV; they may get costlier, however, as actor and crew unions discover there's money in them. So they can risk seeming like low-rent, store-brand versions of "real" TV. An Office webisode screened at the upfronts was funny, highlighting the show's richly drawn supporting players, but fans of star Steve Carell will be disappointed to find he's not in any of the episodes. (His character, boss Michael Scott, is referenced, though; an accountant catches him having expensed a J. Crew receipt as "lunch.") Only a few network sites re-create the joyful weirdness of the best amateur viral video; Comedy Central's MotherLoad site, for instance, has Golden Age, a hilarious True Hollywood Story parody about the tragic lives of fictitious celebrity cartoon characters. Other sites are filled with extras that are geekily appealing (Sci Fi Network's site reveals how prop masters create futuristic beverages for Battlestar Galactica) or superfluous. (Does anyone really need to delve deeper into My Super Sweet 16 online? It's like scuba diving in a teaspoon.)

You can make the argument, though, that originality online--as on TV--isn't always the best business. Disney, for example, has resisted doing original Web video for ABC and the Disney Channel, but it's had huge success airing online reruns. Besides the popularity of Lost online, the Disney Channel's The Suite Life of Zack and Cody started getting its best TV ratings ever after airing episodes online. "This validates what we already knew: that broadband does not take away from television," says Disney--ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney.

Maybe not, but it could ultimately meld with TV. After all, if you have a cable modem, you already get your Internet and TV through the same pipe. A decade from now, there could just be longer and shorter shows from the same companies (NBCUniversalYouTube, say) that you play on your HD video wall, telepathy phone or iPod contact lens. Or, at least, online and TV could well be separate but more equal. To advertisers, who still pay for most of TV, a picture is a picture. "We're not really calling it TV anymore--it's video," says Jeff Minsky, director of emerging media platforms at advertising agency OMD Digital. Call it what you want, the future of TV is coming soon to your screen. And your other one, and your other one, and your other one.

With reporting by Reported by Jeanne McDowell/ Los Angeles, Clayton Neuman/New York

An Article from The New York Times

Office Songs in the Unhip Keys of Life and Karaoke

Published: January 25, 2007

If a song is popular now, don't expect to hear it on The Office until late next year.

This NBC comedy, which follows the employees of a paper supply company in Scranton, Pa., avoids the template most series use for their soundtracks. Currently the common approach is to tap an obscure band's material. The teenage soap opera The O.C. mastered this formula, and it is employed on everything from Grey's Anatomy to Scrubs. These series positioned themselves as arbiters of musical taste by spawning companion albums laden with underground acts like the Shins and Lady Sovereign.

But on The Office, which appears on Thursday nights, the music can't be mistaken for cutting edge. Take last month's Christmas episode: when his girlfriend leaves him, the office manager, Michael Scott (Steve Carell), salves his heartache with iTunes samples of James Blunt, who had a No. 1 pop single in the spring. Later Michael rebounds by seducing a new flame with a karaoke version of Your Body Is a Wonderland. That tender ballad was a smash for John Mayer, and it peaked in 2003.

Adding to the musical squareness, other characters belt karaoke versions of Styx's Lady and Pat Benatar's We Belong, two bombastic power ballads.

Asked why The Office uses such dated tunes, Greg Daniels, an executive producer, said: Our songs are not about the show's identity as a whole. Each song reflects personal elements of a character, or the emotions of the character at the time.

A song is almost required to reflect a specific character before it can appear in an episode. The show's central conceit that it is a documentary being taped by an unseen film crew means it uses no underscoring or music montages. Songs must come from everyday sources like radios and computers. For a new song to be heard, a character would need a reason to play it.

And few denizens of The Office, mostly middle-aged, white-collar workers, are likely to know the hottest underground bands. Mr. Daniels, 43, said: Sometimes I turn down suggestions of hipper artists because I don't know who they are. If the song is too obscure, people in the audience won't know what you're trying to say by using it.

But even casual radio listeners will probably know My Humps, which was an inescapable hit for the Black Eyed Peas in 2005. When that song was heard as Michael's cellphone ringtone in an episode late last year, it instantly communicated two things about him: He was trying to emulate the younger generation, and he was lagging about a year behind their tastes.

Jennifer Celotta, a co-executive producer of The Office, said: It seems like a more intimate relationship exists between characters and the audience because we know what we hear is what they're choosing. If it feels like a show's staff has chosen the songs to make some kind of statement, it puts a distance between you and the experience.

In some cases musicians have been affected by their connection to the series. On his blog (, Mr. Mayer wrote about the use of Your Body Is a Wonderland : One of my favorite shows on television, The Office, wanted to use my song, but it's safe to say I don't get asked to use Wonderland for strongman competitions. I get asked so that people can goof on it. I initially turned the request down, but after hearing the details on the incredibly funny sounding scene, I decided to go for it.

An Article from Time Magazine

Officeworkers Need a Springsteen Too
Thursday, May. 17, 2007


The white-collar office may be the best friend the entertainment industry has these days. The computer has erased the difference between work and play--YouTube, Web comics, online TV series--and nowhere is this symbiosis more important than in music. The iPod and iTunes, which allow you to take your music collection on your commute and to your desk, made Apple cool again. Radio stations market their online streams to cubicle jockeys. The music biz owes its digital-age existence in large part to officeworkers and their earbuds.

But somehow this love affair has never reached the creative level. We have office sitcoms, office novels and office movies, but where are the office pop songs? Rock music has never lacked for zillionaires to romanticize farmhands and factory workers. But what of the John Henrys plowing sweatily through PowerPoint presentations? White-collar employees, who make up 60% of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are largely absent from pop lyrics, except for novelty songs and minor works. (The Bangles' Manic Monday mainly proves that the songwriter Prince is more convincing on the subject of sex than commuting.) As far as songwriters are concerned, the Dilberts of the world can buy their MP3s, but they can't have noble souls and inner lives.

Except in the music of Fountains of Wayne, the New Jersey power-pop band, who are to accountants what Bruce Springsteen is to refinery workers. Their songs probe the hearts of a paper pusher stuck in traffic, a heartbreaker who works at Liberty Travel and a hungover salesman cramming for a presentation. They are very likely the only band ever to have rhymed "making the scene" with "copy machine." FOW's new album, Traffic and Weather, chronicles a flirtation with a DMV bureaucrat and a lonely-hearts tale involving a food-industry lawyer and a teen-magazine photo editor.

FOW songwriter Adam Schlesinger says there's a write-what-you-know element here: he and co-scribe Chris Collingwood spent years as temps, doing legal transcription and computer programming, respectively. "Work is just what most people do," he says. "Including us." Members of FOW don't lionize work, but they don't condemn it either. Rock bands traditionally write about white-collar work as corrupt (the Beatles' Taxman) or for suckers (Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Takin' Care of Business). FOW write about it the way country and folk singers write about manual labor: as a fact of life. Besides, Schlesinger adds, the life of a nonsuperstar rock band is not that far removed from a lot of day jobs: "We spend most of our days at computers or traveling to and from a place of work, just like everybody else."

Maybe lashing out at the corporate world doesn't work as well in American pop culture because the corporate world co-opts rebellion so well. For businesses from FedEx to there's no better way to reach white-collar workers than with ads that say white-collar workers are idiots. In the TV sitcom The Office, the lousy boss, Michael Scott (Steve Carell), is the one who walks around singing Todd Rundgren: "I don't want to work/ I want to bang on the drum all day."

The most rebellious thing of all may be to suggest that white-collar workers can be complex, sympathetic, even noble. If this idea hasn't broken through in mainstream pop, there's a market for it on the Internet, that brackish borderland between work and play. Jonathan Coulton went online to release Code Monkey, his Rick Springfield--esque single about a computer programmer who endures the taunts of a dim-witted manager because the programmer is in love with the receptionist. "It's about having an escape fantasy but being unable to act on it," Coulton, a programmer himself, says. "We spend so much time at the office, it's fertile ground for emotional content."

Somebody must agree; the song became an Internet hit, with around 1 million downloads, Coulton claims. Most of them were free, but he's successful enough that he's getting by without a day job. Let's hope that he--and any other songwriter who wants to capture how the audience really lives--remembers that many of the rest of us still have one.

An Article from USA TODAY
Published on May 29, 2007

Fischer feeling better after big fall

By William Keck, USA TODAY

Jenna Fischer, who plays lovable receptionist Pam on NBC's The Office, is in pain. A lot of pain. But she wants her fans to know that she is on the mend after breaking four bones in her back in a nasty fall May 14 at an NBC party.
"I had a rough night last night," Fischer says from the Central Park-area hotel where she has been recuperating. "I'm mostly off the meds, but I did take some last night because sleeping is probably the most uncomfortable thing right now. I just can't get comfortable."

Two weeks ago, Fischer, 33, came to New York to speak with advertisers about NBC's fall lineup. She was looking forward to letting loose with her co-stars. "It's one of my favorite parts of the year. My (summer) vacation starts then. I was ready for a lovely break no pun intended."

At around 11 p.m., one of The Office's writers encouraged her to hit the dance floor at the trendy Buddakan club. "I was going to do one dance and then get out of there," Fischer says. "The dance floor was down a long set of marble stairs. I linked arms with my friend and just missed a step. All I know is I was suddenly not on the ground anymore. My legs flipped out from underneath me, and while I was in the air, I had the thought, 'This isn't going to end well.' "

It didn't. Fischer landed hard on the stairs. The pain, she says, "was consuming and immediate. I've never felt anything like it. I was horribly nauseous and dizzy."

After being taken to a private area in the club, she lifted the back of her shirt. "It was bleeding and very swollen, so I said, 'I want an ambulance and I want to go to the hospital.' "

At her side almost immediately was co-star Angela Kinsey, who plays Angela on the show. "She was with me for over 24 hours taking care of me," Fischer says.

X-rays at St. Vincent's Hospital revealed that she had fractured four transverse vertebrae in her back and tore a ligament in her elbow. "The doctor said, 'The good news is, you have no spinal cord damage,' " Fischer recalls.

Fischer was released from the hospital the next day, and her husband, writer/director James Gunn, flew in from Los Angeles to take care of her. "I couldn't get in and out of bed myself," she says. "I couldn't walk very well. I needed constant supervision."

In another week, she should be able to travel home to Los Angeles.

She has received well-wishes from all her Office co-stars. Steve Carell (Michael) sent flowers with a funny note. John Krasinski (Jim) wrote a "lovely e-mail." Rainn Wilson (Dwight) placed a call to her room. But it was an NBC doc who really impressed her. "Zach Braff (Scrubs) was at the party when I fell. And bless his heart, the next day he sent a big tray of cupcakes to my hotel. In those first few days, all my husband and I did for pleasure was watch a Larry Sanders DVD and eat those cupcakes."

To regain her mobility, Fischer has been taking daily half-hour walks in Central Park. "My mobility," she says, "is limited only by my pain. I'm almost at the point where I can bend over. I really have a desire to wash my feet."

The most recent news: "My back doctor said it will be about 12 weeks until I'm fully recovered."

By that time she will be shooting The Office, which concluded the season with her character being asked out on a date (finally!) by Jim. "I'm assuming the writers aren't going to break my heart," Fischer says.

Fischer is grateful that her accident happened just three days after wrapping the film Walk Hard, a raunchy comedy in which she stars with John C. Reilly as warped versions of Johnny and June Carter Cash.

"We meet through our singin', then fall in love but have a very tumultuous road," Fischer says in a Southern twang.

She won't be singing any songs, though.

"I have to wear a lot of skimpy outfits for this movie, so I had to get in great shape. I trained very hard, so I had to give the singing up."

There is one possible silver lining to her unfortunate misstep. Six weeks ago, she started playing the guitar and since her fall has been writing a country song about her pain.

Says Fischer with a giggle: "Now I just have to get someone else to sing it."

An Article from The Chicago Tribune

NBC's 'The Office' supplies its worst episode yet
May 15, 2008

It has always been theoretically possible. But until May 8, I didn't believe there could be a truly terrible episode of "The Office."

I was proved wrong.

A lot of shows are hitting road bumps in their poststrike returns, but those problems haven't necessarily resulted in bad TV. "30 Rock's" May 8 finale, for example, was a little more surreal and disjointed than normal, but I still enjoyed it.

Before excoriating "The Office's" indefensible episode, I should note that, despite its ups and downs, I look forward to watching the NBC comedy each week. When it is on its game, it's terrific. But last week's outing was just awful.

It wasn't just that Michael Scott (Steve Carell) behaved like a reprehensible, sexist jerk. It wasn't just that Pam (Jenna Fischer), who has always had limits to her passivity, let him get away with his jaw-dropping treatment of her and the potential intern at the job fair.

It wasn't just that Jim (John Krasinski) and Andy (Ed Helms) were stuck in a lame, sealed-off story line about a golf game that made Jim seem like a stalkerish creep. It wasn't just that absolutely nothing happened in the story line featuring Dwight (Rainn Wilson) and Angela (Angela Kinsey) back at the office.

No, the problem was that none of those strained story lines was funny. It is annoying that after a wait of so many months, "The Office" essentially wasted one of its few poststrike episodes. Perhaps the writers don't see it that way. The episode, "Job Fair," might have helped set up what will take place in the season finale, in which a supporting character is set to leave the fictional Dunder Mifflin Inc.

Other than that, the episode served no purpose, unless it was to make me really dislike Michael. My least favorite "Office" episodes or moments generally revolve around Michael behaving in a particularly buffoonish, cartoonish way. The show works so hard to create a minutely realized version of reality, but then Michael often does something stupid that reeks of the most broad and obvious sitcom humor. I don't find that funny. I also don't find it humorous when he acts like an aggressively offensive jerk, as he did in last Thursday's episode.

"The Office" season finale (8 p.m. Thursday, WMAQ-Ch. 5) is an hour long, and I'm hoping the writers don't pad it out, as they so often do, with too many Stupid Michael Tricks. I do have some hopes for the episode, because it guest-stars the great Amy Ryan (no relation; she starred in "The Wire" and "Gone Baby Gone"). She deserves much better than the tired, poststrike mishmash that "The Office" served up last week.

To watch clips of The Office go to

For Tim's TV Showcase go to

For some Office-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to

For reviews of The Office go to

To watch the opening credits go to
Date: Mon August 22, 2005 � Filesize: 24.8kb � Dimensions: 360 x 260 �
Keywords: Office: Cast Photo


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