It's been nine seasons. In those nine seasons, we've been subject to Jim's silly camera mugging, Pam's artistry, Dwight's quirks, Creed's Creedisms, Stanley's monotone-deadpan delivery, Meredith's evolution as a drunk, Ryan's rise and steep fall as a businessman, Kelly's gossip, Erin's plucky "smile-in-the-face-of-anything" attitude, Andy's anger, and Michael's... well, basically when Michael speaks, it's not a matter of "Will he offend?" but "How many will he offend?"
This is nine seasons of The Office condensed into my favorite episodes, moments, scenes and everything in between.
Greg Daniels had a monumentally difficult task: re-creating the UK original for an American audience without tarnishing the original or outright copying it. What he did was take the UK pilot episode, re-work it for a new audience and let the incredible actors do their thing. Yes, Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer and Rainn Wilson merely had to imitate David, Tim, Dawn and Gareth, but each actor had a special spark in their earliest performances. They proved not just great impersonators but great actors. Sure, Jim and Pam's cute romantic beginnings were akin to Tim and Dawn, and Michael's inappropriate behavior served as a parallel to David Brent, but they were still able to do it so naturally, you forgot for 22 minutes that The Office was a remake and not an original tale.
I tried to pick an episode or two from the second season for this list, but it's impossible. Season 2 is flawless. Each episode is full of hilarity, heartbreak and development of these crazy characters we've come to know and love. Episode highlights include "The Dundies", in which Michael's rudeness is on full-display; "Christmas Party", a seemingly innocent tale that ends up being very integral in Season Nine; "Booze Cruise", in which Jim tells Michael his feelings for Pam, the second biggest disaster to occur on a cruise; "The Injury", in which Dwight hits his head and is temporarily nice to everyone; and "Casino Night", the culmination of 28 episodes of cute office interplay between Jim and Pam.
-It's the quiet ones you gotta watch...
One thing the writers have been able to do is take seemingly grounded, reliable characters and turn them into the craziest of the bunch. Jan Levinson (Melora Hardin) at one time was the harsh, serious boss to Michael Scott, the butt of many of Michael's best (and entirely sexist) jokes. Then Michael proves his worth wooing a client and this becomes a turn-on to Jan, who ends up sleeping with Michael. Their romance continued to the point where Jan was fired, lived with Michael and began creating a line of scented candles. A once-domineering boss turned into a crazy cougar who devours her male victims. Equally funny transformation: Toby, from the H.R. referee for the office to a long-winded bore obsessed with The Scranton Strangler.
-Merging Stamford into Scranton
At the point when it was time to merge Stamford and Scranton in Season 3, we had come to know and love (to hate) Michael Scott. We'd been subject to racism, sexism, homophobic witch hunts, fat jokes, ugly jokes, etc etc. So it could hardly come as a surprise that several new workers absorbed into Scranton quit after only days of enduring Michael Scott. The second-to-last of Stamford's employees, Karen (Rashida Jones), left at the end of the season after being caught in the middle of the no-mance between Jim and Pam, but one has to assume much of the blame is on Michael.
-The three most pivotal moments for Jim and Pam
1. Pam's speech at the end of "Beach Games": Jenna Fischer's lone Emmy nomination is for this episode (though she deserves a ton more credit than she gets) in which Pam, after walking over hot coals, feels empowered and spills her guts to the rest of her co-workers, chastising them for not attending her art show and telling Jim she misses their fun office antics and that despite calling off her wedding for him, she's still happy he's seeing someone. It's easy to say "Casino Night" is No. 1 here, but it only revealed what both had known for a while now. "Beach Games" reinforced their feelings and served as a turning point.
2. Jim and Pam's fight at the end of "Customer Loyalty": Another strong showcase for Fischer (and Krasinski as well, who has always been tops at balancing comedy and drama on the show). Jim has basically left Scranton to pursue his dreams in Pittsburgh, leaving behind Pam and their two children for weeks at a time. It drove a wedge between them and addressed what we'd known since the start of the season: Jim and Pam are falling apart.
3. “Love suffers long and is kind — it is not proud. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails and now these three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
-Michael falls for a catalog model, mourns her death
In Season 4's "Chair Model", Michael is feeling the effects of his breakup with Jan. Then he discovers a beautiful model in a catalog and wants to start dating again. A short time later, after wanting to learn more about the chair model, he discovers she died in a car crash. Michael's desperation hits an embarrassing low when he falls for a catalog model, attempts to find her then mourns her death like she's a close friend. It may verge on unbelievable if Steve Carell isn't as talented as he is.
Creed: I want to set you up with my daughter.
Jim: Oh, I'm engaged to Pam.
Creed: I thought you were gay.
Jim: Then why would you want to set me up with your daughter?
Creed: I don't know.
Michael: Okay. Ryan, you told Toby that Creed has a distinct old man smell?
Creed (to film crew): I know exactly what he's talking about. I sprout mung beans on a damp paper towel in my desk drawer. Very nutritious, but they smell like death.
Meredith: You know I once dated a couple guys from Cornell. They were really nice. They gave me a ride home.
Andy: I seriously doubt anyone from Cornell dated you.
Creed: It's pronounced "kernel" and it's the highest rank in the military.
Andy: It's pronounced "cor-nell!" It's the highest rank in the Ivy League!"
In the sixties, I made love to many, many women. Often outdoors. In the mud and the rain. And it's possible a man slipped in. There would be no way of knowing.
A lot of jazz cats are blind. But, they can play the piano like nobody's business. I'd like to put the piano in front of Pam, without her glasses and see what happens. I'd also like to see her topless.
-"That's what she said!"
As you know by now, Michael knows no boundaries. He says and does things that offends everyone. His signature catchphrase is used whenever the opportunity arises. In Season 2's "Sexual Harassment", Michael is forced not to use the phrase or any other phrase thought of as sexual in any way. Of course Jim sees the chance to torture Michael into using the phrase. Michael's orgasmic joy in saying "That's what she said!" is Carell at his best. It's all the more hilarious that the catchphrase is neither original nor recent. But that's Michael Scott.
That is, in a nutshell, why I love The Office. No doubt I am forgetting dozens of scenes, moments, one-liners and entire episodes to mention. Kevin's simple-minded confessionals, Daryl's dry wit, Robert California's "I am the lizard KING!". I could literally go on forever. But like The Office, it must come to an end. And thankfully after a few minor missteps along the way, the series is ending with dignity. Even if tonight's ending disappoints, they pulled off an impressive final season to say goodbye to characters we've known and loved for nine seasons.