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Advent Calendar 2016 Box 10

The Office
Season 2 Episode 10
"Christmas Party"

Originally broadcast December 6, 2005

Yesterday I showcased one of my all time favorite shows, so I suppose it's only fitting that I give you my wife's today. She isn't that interested in most sitcoms, which is almost as disappointing as the fact that she has no interest at all in watching Star Trek. At least we have The Office, which she will watch at any time, regardless of how many times she's watched it.

What is the show?

An American remake / adaptation of the BBC show of the same name, The Office showcases the daily lives of a paper company district branch in Eastern Pennsylvania, mockumentary style. Initially the show is an examination of the socially inept branch manager Michael Scott (played definitively by Steve Carrell), but the viewer quickly discovers that the office depicted in The Office is full of equally eccentric characters.

What we get is a pretty authentic-feeling slice of office life. The sad reality (that anyone who has worked in an office would probably agree on) is that the show's writers don't really need to exaggerate things much to find entertainment. From squabbles over break room resources to the awkward (and painfully useless) company meetings, The Office has a lot of material to draw from. The documentary style and the down-to-earth setting lead to a sense of awkwardness and discomfort so thick you could cut it with a knife, which could put off some viewers. Those who power through (or find the entertainment in) those tense moments will find a lot of rewards to reap.

I think what made The Office successful (and ultimately a powerhouse of prime time television) was the ensemble nature of the show. The main cast are all heavily invested in it, serving as producers, writers, and directors on many episodes. This causes all of the characters to be that much more rich, as the actors who play them are able to sculpt them directly as the show goes on. Most of the cast is made up of perennial background players - I've seen most if not all of them show up in a lot of other shows as "guy at counter" or "lady with newspaper" type roles - and they sink their teeth into their office roles with such voracity that their eagerness and sense of fun is almost as palpable as the awkward tension. Of course, the story lines and relationship drama is very compelling, too, but what I like about the show is just how much fun everybody is clearly having (and I definitely appreciate the irony of that, given the setting).

The Office is an onion, and each layer you peel away reveals another just as juicy and savory as the one before.

What is the episode?

The Office draws heavily on its real-world setting, and few things are more cliché in an American office than the Christmas Party. In fact, I would say that the Christmas episodes of the Office became pretty legendary, becoming almost special events each year. I think that success stems directly from this, the series' first such episode. If you have never seen The Office before - I'm glad you got out of the fallout shelter - this is a great episode to start with.

Being early in the show (the first season was only a few episodes, directly remade from the British version, so the second is really where the American show took off on its own), this episode is entirely driven by Michael's misguided bumbling. In classic The Office form, Michael's efforts to win everybody over and come off like a great boss and friend only makes everybody mad and threatens to ruin everything. Buying an iPod for a $25 Secret Santa exchange is Michael in a nutshell, and the rest of the cast is well on their way to finding their own nutshells, too. The layers are as deep in this episode as any other in the series.

Keep your eyes peeled for the Homer Simpson doll, too . . .

Where can you watch it?

Once again, the show is on Netflix, and the Streaming and the DVD's are on Amazon.

I think The Office is a very rare show that will stand on its own forever. Other shows have tried to replicate the style and success, but they have all missed the secret sauce that made The Office The Office - reality. The cast wasn't just reading a script and playing a bunch of characters, they were the characters. It might be awkward at times, but only because it's so relatable.

It remained so, too . . .

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