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Advent Calendar 2016 Box 11

The Office
Season 6 Episode 13
"Secret Santa"

Originally broadcast December 10, 2009

Yeah, I'm doubling up. I'm in Chicago this weekend, so I'm too busy eating pizza to spend too much time writing about how much I love some show for being about robots and/or aliens. Moreover, jumping ahead four years is a pretty interesting juxtaposition in itself.

What is the show?

See yesterday.

I will add that the show evolved quite a bit over the years. Things got a little silly at times, and we had the usual sitcom cycle of wedding and baby episodes. However, The Office did a reasonably good job sticking with what worked - which is another side effect of the overlap between on- and off-screen talent.

What is the episode?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. What's interesting is how the show evolved from being about Michael's bumbling leadership to being about all of the crazy dynamics between all of the other characters. Michael's social ineptitude became the foundation around which the rest of the cast navigated. Much like the real world, everybody figured out how to work with Michael (perhaps in spite of him), which then became a sort of challenge for him to keep making things difficult.

As the show wore on, the creators knew the whole "bumbling, incompetent boob" shtick would only carry the show so far. We began to see that Michael wasn't completely incompetent, and his clueless-ness actually made him a pretty skilled salesman and manager. By this point in the show, Dunder Mifflin - the company everybody worked for - was basically in financial ruin, and yet our heroes in the Scranton branch were still successful. The show runners locked down the real secret to lasting, successful characters. They weren't simple, one-note archetypes - they were nuanced, three-dimensional, and had actual skills to go along with their shortcomings. People being comically bad at something might be funny for a Three Stooges routine, but it won't sustain a TV show for six years.

In this episode, Michael gets jealous of Phyllis being given the opportunity to be Santa this year. "Phyllis has uslurped my role," he says, in classic Michael form. We also get a completely different take on Secret Santa, as the writers very wisely didn't rehash jokes from their first Christmas episode. The Jim / Pam romance from earlier in the series is replace (or perhaps uslurped) by Andy and Erin, who had been introduced in the intervening years, by the way. We also get a company-wide crisis and panic, which is a great setting for all of the characters to showcase their individual brands of crazy.

It's another great episode of a great show. As you watch, in the scene early on where Kevin sits on Michael's (dressed as Santa) lap, keep your eyes on Mindy Kaling, in the background, as she tries not to laugh. Four years later, everybody is still just having fun.

Where can you watch it?

It's still on Netflix, and the DVD's and Streaming options are still on Amazon.

Here we see an example of another great Christmas trope - a perfectly normal series of events being labeled a "Christmas Miracle!" In this case, it's attributed to a recurring theme on The Office, which is the threat of everybody being fired.

Of course, it isn't the only show depicting everybody almost being fired at the Christmas party . . .

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