‘The Office’: Why Young Children Enjoy a Series About Working Middle-Aged Adults
The Office might be over, but the love lives on. In fact, The Office fan base continues to grow. Actor Brian Baumgartner noticed this continued growth, especially amongst fans under the age of 10. Find out what kids enjoy most about The Office, a series about working middle-aged adults.
Brian Baumgartner spoke to the cast and crew of ‘The Office’ to uncover what makes the show special
Baumgartner played accountant Kevin Malone on the NBC comedy series. More recently, he hosted the podcast An Oral History of The Office. His goal was to understand how the show has continued to entertain audiences old and new, even now.
During the 12-episode podcast, Baumgartner spoke to his fellow cast and crew about what made the show so unique. One of the biggest questions Baumgartner sought to have answered was: “Why do children — literal children — love this tv show about middle-aged office workers?”
‘The Office’ has a rhythm and predictability that speaks to children
From high school and college students to elementary school-aged children, kids of all ages love The Office.
“I have friends who tell me their kids watch it,” Amy Ryan admitted to Baumgartner in the “Beauty In Ordinary Things” episode. “If they’re having a bad day, they go and pop in The Office and it lifts them,” she said. Ryan, who played Holly Flax, said the show has a soothing effect about it.
Television critic Emily VanDerWerff mentioned talking to a 12-year-old fan who enjoyed the rhythm and “quietude” of the series.
“It’s like watching one of those little clappers go back and forth — you finish an episode of The Office, another one starts, and there’s a predictability to it,” she explained. “There’s a rhythm to each day in the office that plays out the same way. Every character is always themselves.”
That rhythm and predictability make The Office appealing for anyone — especially children.
Kate Flannery thinks ‘The Office’ feels like being in school for kids
“Being in an office like Dunder Mifflin is much like being in a classroom,” Kate Flannery explained to Baumgartner. Flannery played Meredith Palmer, the office drunk, on the series. “I think kids can always relate to having to sit next to someone they didn’t necessarily pick, but that they got stuck with for years [in school].”
Baumgartner discussed the notion of being “trapped,” both as actors on set and as characters in The Office narrative, with director Ken Kwapis. They both agreed it was eerily similar to the way many kids feel in school.
Kids relate to the ‘identity issues’ the employees of Dunder Mifflin face throughout ‘The Office’
Claire Scanlon, an editor who worked on The Office, pointed out how kids enjoy the show because they find versions of themselves in Dunder Mifflin’s employees.
“Nine-year-olds love Dwight and then they grow into it and then they want to be Jim and Pam” Scanlon said. “It’s like role-playing, too. You see the dynamics of kids in school. There’s a bully, there’s someone who stands up to the little guy — it’s all played out on The Office.”
Script supervisor Veda Semarne said kids can relate because they’re misfits with identity issues, just like the employees of Dunder Mifflin.
“[The cast] are kind of misfits — I think that’s what kids can relate to,” Semarne said. “They’re all dealing with identity issues, being part of things or being left out of things. All those issues are important to kids.”