‘The Office’: Characters From ‘Cheers’ and ‘M*A*S*H’ Inspired This Role on the NBC Series

Fans of The Office, rejoice! The series may have ended in May 2013 after nine seasons, but Brian Baumgartner’s new podcast, An Oral History of The Office, celebrates everything that made the show so great.

Baumgartner is on a quest to find out why Dunder Mifflin’s employees have become such a beloved part of American pop culture.

On his journey, Baumgartner has learned what inspired many of the characters on the show. Find out which character from The Office was born from characters seen in television classics like Cheers and M*A*S*H.

Cast of 'The Office'
Creed Bratton, Angela Kinsey, Phyllis Smith, Ed Helms, Jenna Fischer, Brian Baumgartner, Oscar Nunez, Catherine Tate, Ellie Kemper, Leslie David Baker, Kate Flannery, Paul Lieberstein | Tyler Golden/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal

Brian Baumgartner is on a mission 

Baumgartner, who played Kevin Malone on the beloved series, is giving fans behind-the-scenes access with his podcast. Mostly, he wants to figure out why The Office is even more popular today than when it was airing on television — especially amongst fans who haven’t yet reached their teens. 

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Baumgartner asked showrunners, producers, and even some of the iconic cast to help him figure out the reason for the show’s popularity. Fortunately for fans, several other interesting facts are being revealed along the way.

In the first episode of the podcast, aptly titled “OK, Here’s the Pitch,” Baumgartner dissects how the American version of the series came about. He primarily speaks with Ben Silverman and Stephen Merchant in episode 1, the executive producer and co-writer/director, respectively.

‘Cheers’ inspired the sense of family found in ‘The Office’ 

The American version of The Office is based on the source material of the same name. Still, that doesn’t mean that was the only piece of inspiration for the show’s creators. 

While they knew they were building a show around the “World’s Greatest Boss” Michael Scott, showrunners needed to fill an office of employees for Michael to manage. One of those employees was inspired by Merchant’s appreciation of American comedies. In casting the show, Merchant tapped into his love of TV shows like Cheers

For Merchant, “…the idea of the Cheers bar and this kind of surrogate family” inspired the crew on The Office. For many viewers, the co-workers of Dunder Mifflin became the “surrogate family” Merchant had found in Cheers

The role of Jim was based on Norm from ‘Cheers’ 

In the original British series, Jim Halpert is Tim Canterbury. Both versions of the character used self-deprecating and ironic humor because they greatly disliked their job. “[On Cheers,] Norm had some kind of vague job, and he didn’t really like it but he also had a kind of sharp, dry sense of humor,” Merchant recalled on the podcast. 

The writers referred to Norm’s character a lot when putting together Jim/Tim’s role. This was especially true in Jim/Tim’s use of “humor to get through life.” 

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Cheers wasn’t the only source for Jim/Tim’s character. Hawkeye Pierce from the TV series M*A*S*H also served as inspiration for the show’s creators.

Thanks to Baumgartner, fans of The Office can look forward to 11 episodes of behind-the-scenes information about their favorite series.