Some people think The Office is a show about the fictional mid-sized paper company Dunder Mifflin. Other viewers believe the comedy is about the “world’s best boss” Michael Scott (Steve Carell). But in reality, the show focuses on another Dunder Mifflin employee entirely.
‘The Office’ isn’t a documentary — it’s a love story
From the beginning, showrunner Greg Daniels wanted The Office to be a love story.
Editor Clare Scanlon explained how Daniels injected elements from his own love story into the show on Office actor Brian Baumgartner’s podcast, An Oral History of The Office.
When Daniels was stuck on a scene involving Pam, he considered his wife, Suzanne Daniels. Scanlon said he would ask himself “‘What would Suzanne do here?'”
Scanlon called The Office “the best love letter” Daniels could have sent to his wife. Essentially, Pam embodied everything Daniels loves about his wife.
Daniels always gravitated toward writing for Pam. Behind the scenes, he was the one speaking up for Pam because so much of his own heart was being projected through her character.
‘The Office’ is a show about Pam Beesly
Yes, The Office is about Michael Scott and Dunder Mifflin as a whole. But the show is primarily about Pam Beesly — or, as Scanlon refers to her: “The moral compass. The person you want to be as good as, or be good enough to be with if you’re Jim.”
Scanlon thinks the entire series is about growing up. The show didn’t end when Michael Scott left — it ended when Pam left.
‘The Office’ tells the ‘journey of a girl becoming a woman’ through Pam Beesly
“It’s not lost on me that when Pam was ready to break free, the show ended,” Fischer explained. For her, The Office was “the journey of a girl becoming a woman, finding herself, and going out into the world.”
“When we meet [Pam], she’s trapped behind this desk and she sort of slowly moves to sales and then finds the man she loves and starts this family,” Fischer continued. “She really fights against leaving and then when she’s ready to go, it’s all over. It’s not really a documentary about Michael Scott. They decided to stop making the documentary when Pam leaves.”
In her final talking head of the series, Pam celebrated her growth as a person. This reinforced how The Office truly was a show about her.
“I didn’t watch the whole documentary,” Pam says. “After a few episodes, it was too painful. I kept wanting to scream at Pam. It took me so long to do so many important things. It’s just hard to accept that I spent so many years being less happy than I could have been.”
Then, Pam reveals what Scanlon thinks is the most essential message of the series: “It would just make my heart soar if someone out there saw this and she said to herself ‘be strong, trust yourself, love yourself.’ Conquer your fears. Just go after what you want and act fast, because life just isn’t that long.”
Relaying that powerful message from one woman to an audience of countless generations of women is part of what makes The Office such a special series.