‘The Office’: This Was Supposed To Be the First Episode of the Series
The Office is based on the British version of the series. Many fans thought it made sense that the first episode of The Office was almost identical to the British version. But ironically, the pilot of The Office was supposed to look a lot different.
Brian Baumgartner is talking about episodes of ‘The Office’ on his new podcast
Brian Baumgartner played accountant Kevin Malone on The Office. In 2020, Baumgartner gave The Office fans a look behind-the-scenes in his podcast An Oral History of The Office.
Now, Baumgartner is back with another podcast — The Office Deep Dive. Per the show’s description: “[Baumgartner] is taking you even deeper inside the show, releasing his full-length, in-depth conversations with the cast and crew of The Office. Every week, Brian will sit down with one of his old coworkers to talk about their best job ever: The Office.”
Showrunner Greg Daniels was a guest on Baumgartner’s podcast, where they discussed the pilot episode of the American version of The Office.
Greg Daniels wanted the first episode of ‘The Office’ to be the ‘Dundies’ episode from season 2
Season 2 opens with Dunder Mifflin’s annual “Dundie Awards.” The episode is best known for Pam (Jenna Fischer) getting drunk, kissing Jim (John Krasinski), and falling off a barstool. Initially, Daniels had plans for that to be the pilot episode of The Office.
“I went back and forth,” Daniels explained. “I had a bunch of stories [and] was going to do a completely original story.” Daniels spoke about his childhood and having a dad who was a businessman with many performative interests, including standup.
Every year, Daniels’ father would host a manager meeting for his company. Wearing the Johnny Carson-inspired Carnac hat, his father would perform jokes Daniels’ had written to his colleagues.
Later, during his time working on King of the Hill, Daniels would host “The Swampies.” Like “The Dundies,” the award ceremony was a time for Daniels to recognize his colleagues. Winners received the plastic businessman trophies just as they did in The Office.
There are many reasons Daniels’ wanted to make “The Dundies” the pilot. But mostly he wanted that to be the pilot because it made sense. In this setting, Daniels thought viewers would get to meet the characters and learn a bit more about them.
The first episode of ‘The Office’ mirrors the British version
Ultimately, Daniels decided the first episode should align with the original series — with a few additional touches to make it Americanized.
“I started to get worried,” Daniels admitted. He didn’t want the executives at NBC to pick apart an original script, especially with it being the pilot episode. “I felt like [the challenge with the pilot] was, ‘Can we do something that feels like The Office and not like Will & Grace and not blow it?'” he added.
Daniels did make a few changes, like advancing the romance between Jim and Pam so audiences understood what was going on in the new version of the show. Ironically, many of Daniels’ changes were cut during the 23 edits they made to the pilot.
Regardless of what episode aired first, most fans of The Office wouldn’t care either way.