‘The Office’: Fans Have Steve Carell to Thank for This Iconic Episode

It’s no secret that the cast of The Office enjoyed their time working on the hit comedy. To this day, the actors are constantly talking about how talented and friendly everyone on the show was and many of them are still in touch. Furthermore, The Office was truly a collaborative environment. Actors often had the opportunity to improvise during scenes and they even provided writers with ideas for episodes, character arcs, and storylines.

The Office cast member Steve Carell on set of Threat Level Midnight
Steve Carell | Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

In fact, the idea for a fan-favorite episode of The Office actually came from Steve Carell. In a 2011 interview with Office Tally, B.J. Novak, who wrote for the show and was a member of the cast, shared that Carell had the initial idea for the episode “Threat Level Midnight” which was, of course, the episode about Michael Scott’s infamous eponymous film.

Steve Carell came up with the idea for ‘The Office’ episode ‘Threat Level Midnight’

“We had always liked Threat Level Midnight as part of Michael’s back story — as his show business dream that he still hadn’t let go of — but it hadn’t occurred to us to show the movie in an episode,” Novak shared about the memorable episode of The Office. “It was Steve’s idea to focus an episode on the completed movie, and once we heard it, we all wanted to do it.”

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Once the writers were on board with Carell’s ideas, Novak sat down to pen the script for the iconic episode. According to Novak, he didn’t want to take the easy way out and make an episode about Michael being bad at making movies. Fans of The Office will recall that Michael proved a few times over the years that he had a knack for filming and editing various film projects. A good example of this came in Season 4’s “Local Ad” episode. Instead, Novak felt the joke should be about how much time, money, and resources Michael wasted in order to make his film.

Cast member, B.J. Novak shares how he approached writing the episode

“We didn’t want the joke of the episode to be how bad he was at filmmaking, which we felt would be a little easy and actually a little out of character; we wanted it to be more about how he actually did a heartbreakingly good and diligent job on something completely ridiculous,” The Office writer revealed about how he chose to approach writing the episode.

Once the episode was written and the cast knew how their characters fit into the movie, there was the challenge of deciding the movie to episode ratio for “Threat Level Midnight.” When that was decided, it became a question of how to visually differentiate between The Office episode and the movie within in. Fortunately, there was collaboration behind-the-scenes as well to ensure that the two projects were distinguished from one another.

Distinguishing between two versions of ‘Threat Level Midnight’

“Tucker Gates, who directed the episode, and Matt Sohn, our director of photography, were careful to use different shooting styles for Michael’s movie and for the show itself,’ Novak revealed about how the beloved episode of The Office was thoughtfully shot. “For example, no handheld, and no zooms except in isolated and poorly-executed instances, and we changed the coloring in post-production as well to reflect the cheaper cameras that Michael would have used.”

Clearly, a lot of thought went into creating both versions of “Threat Level Midnight.” We’re sure fans of The Office will agree that it was well worth it and are pleased that Carell had the idea to make it happen.