‘The Office’: The 1 Thing Stephen Merchant Believes the Characters Did to Make the Show Successful
The Office star Brian Baumgartner has made it his objective to figure out why people loved the series so much when it was on. But he also wants to find out why audiences continue to love the series today. During a conversation with Stephen Merchant, co-writer and co-director of the British version of the series, Baumgartner discovered the one thing The Office characters did that helped make the show so successful.
‘The Office’ ends with a quote from Pam Beesly: ‘Theres a lot of beauty in ordinary things’
The final scene of The Office is a talking head featuring Pam Beesly-Halpert (Jenna Fischer). “I thought it was weird when you picked us to make a documentary,” she says directly to the camera. “But, all in all, I think an ordinary paper company like Dunder Mifflin was a great subject for a documentary. There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”
Baumgartner asked Merchant if he liked how the American version of The Office ended on The Office Deep Dive podcast. “I thought it was wonderful,” Merchant said. “I thought it was really lovely and satisfying.”
People love ‘The Office’ characters because they feel familiar
For Merchant, American television is at it’s best when shows become “like soap operas with laughs.” The Office achieved that by creating characters that were entertaining but relatable.
“You are so invested in the characters [in The Office],” he explained to Baumgartner. He cited how easy it is for viewers to find similarities between the characters on the show and people in their everyday lives. From a brother-in-law to a former boss, each role on The Office felt familiar to many viewers.
“You care about [the characters] and love them and want the best for them,” Merchant added. “By the time the show leaves the air, it’s like these friends of yours have all moved away.” For many fans, that’s exactly how the conclusion of The Office felt.
‘The Office’ characters are beloved because they make the audience feel less alone
Growing up, Merchant was a fan of American television series like Friends. During his conversation with Baumgartner, Merchant said he was honored to be part of a series that reached a Friends level of success in the United States.
In Merchant’s opinion, art should connect the people that it reaches. “The shared experience of laughter is unifying,” he explained. That’s the reason people go to the movies or comedy clubs — to experience something funny together. That feeling of unity is why people loved — and continue to love — The Office so much.
“That’s what [The Office] does,” he continued. “[The viewers] relate to the characters. They see a version of themselves or a version of the person they could have been.” Relating to the characters in the series allowed viewers to recognize how other people might think or see the world as they do. “It makes you feel less alone,” Merchant concluded.
That feeling of belonging appealed to fans when The Office was on television. But the comfort that sense of inclusion provides is what keeps fans coming back to stream the show over again.