How ‘The Office’ Cast Helped Save the NBC Series From Cancellation
The Office may be one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time, but the NBC series almost faced cancellation following its first season. The network had little faith the series would survive after receiving low ratings for the first six episodes. But as the show entered its second season, the team switched up its strategy, which included The Office cast diving headfirst into social media to find their audience.
‘The Office’ was almost canceled after season 1
NBC did not want to commit to The Office and the comedy series was nearly canceled after its first season in 2005. Viewers didn’t seem to connect with the story and the ratings continued to decline. Meanwhile, the network didn’t give the show a full season order, leaving season 1 with a mere six episodes.
Nevertheless, then NBC President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly and executive producer Ben Silverman vouched for the series. The Office was renewed for a second season — but at a cost. According to actor Brian Baumgartner’s An Oral History of The Office podcast published on July 21, the network ordered another six episodes for season 2. However, the show’s budget was cut in half.
How ‘The Office’ cast used social media to connect with the audience
The booming success of The Office during its second season cannot be attributed to one thing. During the An Oral History of The Office episode, Baumgartner, who played Kevin Malone on the show, discussed what went right at the time, which included Steve Carell’s role in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and his Golden Globe win in 2006. Meanwhile, The Office came on after My Name Is Earl, which garnered more attention. Then everything changed after the “Christmas Party” episode.
When The Office Season 2 Episode 10 was released, Apple unveiled iTunes and the first video iPod. The company also struck up a deal with Universal, which allowed “Christmas Party” to become the most-watched show on iTunes at the time. When speaking with Baumgartner on An Oral History of The Office, Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute) explained how this moment shifted NBC’s view of the show’s audience.
“It was young people, with iPods, who knew how to set up an iTunes account because their parents didn’t,” Wilson said. “And that was the amazing thing. I think that blindsided everyone, including NBC, that we would be so popular with young people.”
Baumgartner added, “The network really started paying attention because, for the first time, people were paying to watch our show.”
The Office cast also took note and contributed in their own way on social media.
“As cast members, we were doing everything we could to reach viewers,” Baumgartner said. “Some of us created Myspace pages for our characters and we interacted with our fans from our desks. And because Dwight would be above all of that, Rainn created Schrute-Space.”
Then Wilson shared he actually wrote Dwight’s blog posts on Schrute-Space. He said:
The Office had its own website … So Dwight did a blog for NBC.com. In a lot of them, I would write when I was doing background work on The Office. I would be writing Dwight’s blog that I would send to the NBC online team. And I think it was the first time that someone did a blog in character on a TV’s website. So fans really liked finding Dwight’s blogs and reading them and getting to know the character that way.
As The Office audience began to grow, the cast and crew began to feel more confident in the NBC series. Then when “Booze Cruise” was released in January 2006, the ratings started to pick up. Recurring roles at the time — such as Baumgartner, Phyllis Smith, Leslie David Baker, Kate Flannery, Oscar Nunez, and Angela Kinsey — were also upped to series regulars. Meanwhile, Carell’s Golden Globe win solidified the show’s success.
“It was both a validation of what we were doing and also the spotlight we needed to keep doing it,” Baumgartner said on his podcast. “At this point, NBC finally got behind the show. They put up giant billboards for us, they gave us the rest of the episodes for season 2, and then — just a couple of weeks later — ordered an entire season 3.”
He continued, “It was like all of these things really did come together. We went from believing we would be canceled to, ‘I think we might be around for a while.’”
Check out Showbiz Cheat Sheet on Facebook!