HINDSIGHT 2020: Binge watching THE OFFICE

Like pretty much everyone, the 2020 pandemic granted me an abundance of time to get reacquainted with an old friend called television. While I initially devoured comfort shows like Bob’s Burgers, I figured I should check off at least one of the countless shows from my bucket list. Since The Office was leaving Netflix by the end of the year and my sister and everyone I know have been raving about it years it seemed like the obvious choice. Plus, I have no desire to subscribe to Peacock, the show’s new streaming platform home.

I’m a big fan Greg Daniels, who developed the American version of The Office, and his past comedy work for The Simpsons and Parks & Rec. Admittedly I’m not yet completely sold his latest projects, Space Force from Netflix and Upload from Amazon. Nevertheless, The Office seemed to align more to my sensibilities. Now that I’ve seen the entire series, I’m kicking myself for taking taking so long to jump on The Office bandwagon. I understand why more than a decade later the show still retains an ardent loyal fan following and why NBCUniversal shelled out $500 million to secure the streaming rights for its own service.

Through osmosis I knew enough before my 2020 binge watch to have a basic knowledge the various Office related memes that pop up around the internet, but I now have a better appreciation of them. As it happened, it was actually more fitting for me to watch The Office this year. (Dwight Schrute’s callous solution for solving overpopulation notwithstanding)

In addition to contributing to The Beat and freelance marketing work on the side, I myself do temp work (not that dissimilar Ryan Howard) for a library magazine as an extra way to help the bills. When COVID hit, I was fortunate enough to be able to work remotely for my office job and earn a regular income. Though my personal office experience isn’t nearly as entertaining as the antics at Dunder Mifflin, it certainly reached me on a different level.

Without a doubt, the character arc of Jim Halpert (played by John Krasinski), from hapless paper salesman to starting his own sports marketing company by the end of the series, particularly resonated with me and my own career journey. Much like Jim, after I got my undergraduate degree I stayed in a retail job for years although I was capable of so much more but it was simply comfortable and easy. Thankfully I eventually had an epiphany that led me to graduate school to get my master’s degree.

There’s a line from Jim in the Season 1 episode 3 episode “Health Care” that hits home for me and most likely other people who fall into the first-job trap, “Right now, this is just a job. If I advance any higher in this company, then this would be my career. And, well, if this were my career? I’d have to throw myself in front of a train.”

Much like Jim in the final season, I’ve been able to balance a day job with my true passions. In fact, I was planning to transition full-time into freelancing but once COVID hit I was no longer in a position to lose a regular and stable income. I can’t really complain since there are millions of Americans who are in much worse situations thanks to the pandemic. Hopefully once normality returns to the world I can once again get back on track on my original professional and personal goals.

Don’t get me wrong, my current office job isn’t life-sucking experience à la Mike Judge‘s Office Space. I’d go far as to say that the more I watched The Office, the more wistful I became for my own office and coworkers, foibles and all. 

It was hard especially on Halloween when just like Dunder Mifflin, we host a party and most of my coworkers actually put quite a bit of effort into their costumes. At least I had The Office to enjoy Halloween vicariously.

Regular Beat readers should already be well aware by now that I’m an unabashed fan of the late/great Dwayne McDuffie. I can’t recommend enough one of his earliest creations at Marvel, Damage Control. Essentially a sitcom within the Marvel Universe focusing on the company that specializes in the destruction caused by superhero conflicts, Damage Control is an underappreciated gem that’s starting to get some attention. Back in 2015, a Damage Control show was in development by Marvel Television for ABC. With Marvel Television shutting down in favor of Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios taking over television production, it’s safe to assume those original Damage Control TV plans are kaput. A part of me was holding out for some Damage Control news among the Marvel Studios announcements at Disney’s Investor Day event.

A Damage Control TV series seems like such a no-brainer that pretty much writes itself. After all, Marvel Studios officially introduced the concept in Spider-Man: Homecoming back in 2017 with actress Tyne Daly playing Damge Control CEO Anne Marie Hoag. Having immersed myself in the world of Dundler Mifflin, it dawned on me that McDuffie gave us The Office with Damage Control decades before The Office. Just imagine seeing the high jinks and corporate intrigue from The Office transposed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’d hate to think Homecoming is the last we’ve seen of either Hoag or Damage Control in the MCU. But if Tim Roth can reprise his role as The Abomination in the She-Hulk Disney+ original show a decade since playing the character, I’m not giving up hope yet.

Without a doubt, probably my all-time favorite Office episode has to be “Threat Level Midnight” that devoted to a screening of Michael Scott’s independent action movie. It’s a masterful ode to “so bad it’s good movies” like The Room. To my immense pleasure, not only is the entirety of the fictional Threat Level Midnight movie available on The Office’s YouTube channel, but features extended and deleted scenes.

As I mentioned before, I most identify with Jim but on any given day I oscillate between Jim, Dwight Schrute, or Ryan Howard. I like to think of them as my personal Id (Ryan), Ego (Jim), and Superego (Dwight) keeping myself in check. In terms of favorite characters Dwight is certainly up there. It’s funny, I cover the DC animated movies for The Beat so when Dwight Schrute actor Rainn Wilson was cast as the voice Lex Luthor I think that inspired casting choice went over my head a bit. Also in the running is the sweet but inept accountant Kevin Malone played by Brian Baumgartner. This BUSH’S Beans commercial with now makes a lot more sense.

The jury is out whether or not I’ll eventually succumb and become a Peacock subscriber just to get my Office fix once it leaves Netflix. I did enjoy the first episode of the new Saved by the Bell reboot I saw for free and hear amazing things. Apparently the first two seasons will be available for free while the rest is paywalled. Time will tell if it’s enough to convince me to add yet another streaming service to my litany. Hopefully if/when my own office officially reopens and normality returns, I can be less frugal with my entertainment budget.

In the meantime, I’ll have to make due with the The Office: The Complete Series DVD box set I gave my sister as a birthday present a few months ago, assuming she has no qualms about sharing.

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How I learned to love THE OFFICE

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