‘The Office’: The Genius Ways the Show Made Jim and Pam 1 of the Most Iconic Couples in TV History
There’s a reason why The Office fans thought that Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski were a real-life couple — they seemed so real as Jim and Pam. On an episode of An Oral History of The Office podcast, host Brian Baumgartner did a deep dive into all the ways that the actors, writers, and creative team behind the show made Jim and Pam an iconic couple.
Jim and Pam’s relationship grew in small ways but wasn’t the main focus
During the July 28 episode of An Oral History of The Office podcast, Fischer said that people couldn’t understand how she and Krasinski weren’t a real couple. Jim and Pam’s romance, Baumgartner explained, was “the heart of the show” for many fans.
During the episode, Baumgartner talked to people involved in the series to give a behind-the-scenes look at how the show “created one of the most iconic couples in TV history.”
The Pam and Jim love story evolved, but in small, quiet ways, which is a departure from the typical TV comedy formula. Writer Mike Schur explained how turning that formula on its head made such a huge impact.
“Almost every show in history has had a formula, and the formula is the center of the show is a ‘will they, won’t they’ Sam and Diane romance,” Schur explained. “And off in the corner is a wacky boss. And occasionally the wacky boss comes in, does something wacky and funny and gets big laughs and then leaves. And very simply the British Office inverted it.”
He continued, “The wacky boss is the main part of the show — and shoved into the corner is this ‘will they won’t they’ romance.” That allowed the show to have the boss become “a viable character worthy of introspection and layering and dimension” that’s not usually seen.
Second, Schur explained, “It also means that when you shove the romance into the corners and it becomes this very delicate gossamer spider web of glances and tiny little moments in the… getting someone a candy bar from the vending machine becomes an enormous emotional moment, right? Then you have fundamentally changed the way audiences relate to romance, which is, they’re like, they’re like on the edge of their seat, like, ‘Oh, I’ve only got eight seconds of the romance this week, I want more.'”
Viewers felt like they were stealing glimpses at Jim and Pam
Creatively, the writers and the whole team had to determine how to give a little bit of Jim and Pam’s story every episode. Their goal was to “strike the perfect balance” of a comedy “with this subtle love story unfolding, just at the edge of the frame,” Baumgartner said.
The documentary format allowed them to give viewers a feeling like they were “stealing glimpses” of the couple.
Krasinski explained, “Because that’s real life. I think when you’re in love with someone, especially someone at work, you very much look forward to those interactions at work but that means that when you go home… you will not see that person, so you are sort of tantalized by the idea that ‘when I get that moment, I’ll savor it.'”
The pacing made their relationship feel grounded
An interesting aspect of the show’s approach to Jim and Pam’s evolving romance and how the relationship “feels so grounded” is the pacing, as “many of the biggest Jim-Pam moments happen off the beat,” Baumgartner noted.
Krasinski explained the way they accidentally kissed at the Dundies was an example of that type of unexpected moment. “That’s real life. Whereas a regular television show would have a big huge kiss scene. Like they finally got together. And it was, I remember reading that script and being like, man, that is so smart,” Krasinski explained.
He added, “I felt like, oh my God, I thought we were going to do some huge kiss scene. And instead, she just did it at the Dundies and you’re like, oh my God. I would have stewed on that for months. And been like, was that a thing?”
“Was she just drunk? Like, rather than if it was a big kiss scene where I took her out back and made some huge overture, you’d be like, oh good, I’m being entertained by this moment but I don’t feel anything. I’m not connected,” the actor noted.