By Meagan Kennedy
Elm Staff Writer
Originally airing on NBC in March 2005, “The Office” is a mockumentary style sitcom detailing the day-to-day ongoings of the modern American workplace.
Cataloguing the lives of co-workers at the Dunder Mifflin paper company, the show has spanned nine seasons, becoming known as one of the many classic sitcoms of the early 2000s.
With actors like Steve Carrell, Jenna Fischer, and John Krasinski at the helm, the show has been described as a “cult favorite” by sources like the Hollywood Reporter’s Twitter back in June of 2019.
Through its time on air, “The Office” has collected a total of 42 Emmy nominations and five wins, but, according to The Washington Post reporter Sonia Rao, still feared cancellation during its initial run. The switch from weekly episodes to streamable seasons online is what gave this show the success it knows today.
However, “it wasn’t until iTunes… came to the rescue that the show gained enough of an audience to get renewed for a third season,” Rao said in 2020.
Then, when Netflix picked up the post-television run, the series gained its true following many recognize today.
Throughout its run, the success of the show was not as visible, even for actors like John Krasinski, according to U.S. Magazine. The switch from on-air television to online streaming was a surprising shift.
“We were constantly in fear of getting cancelled,” John Krasinski, known for playing Jim Halpert, told U.S. Magazine writer Zach Johnson in 2012.
Krasinski said he “remembered walking around New York and people would stop [him] on the street with buds in their ears and go ‘Oh my God!…You’re on my iPod!’”
As Netflix rose in popularity throughout the early 2010s, so did “The Office.” After the service took hold of the show when DVD rentals were still a regular form of Netflix’s identity, “The Office” was one of the first and longest available shows on Netflix, as audiences witnessed the rise of new ways to access and view television.
The Wall Street Journal reported “The Office” was the most-watched show on the service in 2019, the same year NBCUniversal announced they would be starting their own streaming service, entitled Peacock. In 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that three percent of all Netflix minutes watched in the United States was of “The Office,” totaling at nearly 52 billion minutes.
Generation Z in particular has found comfort and identity in these sitcom shows like “The Office” or “Friends”, which, through their second lives on Netflix, have become iconic among younger audiences. “The Office” fuels a feeling of nostalgia for a time when many of these fans were too young to remember, yet these fans still find similarities to themselves and their worlds through the show’s loveable characters.
“The latter-day dominance of ‘The Office’ is more than financial, though: it’s cultural,” The Ringer writer Alison Herman said. “A decade on Netflix has endeared the show to an entire generation raised on streaming, more accustomed to the numbing deluge of a binge than the comforting consistency of a weekly time slot.”
Even pop singer Billie Eilish, one of many members of Generation Z, finds comfort in watching “The Office.” She has regularly used lines from the show in her songs, including “my strange addiction”, and even opened concerts with the series’ theme song for many of her earlier performances.
While the first two seasons of the show are currently available for free on Peacock, users will need to subscribe to the service to watch the remaining seven seasons, with either the option to watch with ads for $4.99 a month or watch ad-free for $9.99 a month.
“As Netflix loses more of these comfort watches, like ‘Friends’ last year, it’ll have to rely on its in-house content to maintain its subscriber base, while also charging more so it can keep making shows,” The Verge writer Ashley Carman said.
With social distancing still in order, the service might begin to struggle to keep up with other streaming services as the backlog of pre-pandemic Netflix productions begins to dwindle.
As more services like NBC’s Peacock rise and reclaim their shows notorious with success during their time on Netflix, the future of the streaming giant’s domination over other smaller streaming services is unclear.
With original productions like “Stranger Things,” “The Crown,” “Ozark,” and many others, Netflix continues to pull in millions of subscribes across the world each year, but with a pandemic having no end in sight, these shows are slow in their production of new seasons.
Shows like “The Office” still stand as a cultural phenomenon for many Netflix users, but it’s popularity force transferring to NBC’s Peacock is unsure.
For many, “The Office,” whether streamable or not, stands as a time capsule for a transition into a new world. The characters, their lives, and their odd interactions, continue to remind fans that, season after season, life is much more fun with a good sense of humor.