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‘The Office’ Writers Followed 1 Rule That Was the ‘Signature of The Office at Its Best’

Some of The Office's best episodes were based on a simple idea that became a mantra in the writers' room, Jenna Fischer shared on the Office Ladies podcast. "Small, real, relatable," was a slogan written in the writers' room as a reminder that not much had to happen in an episode to be good TV.

The Office writing was perfection, with plenty of cringey and awkward moments combined with a lot of heart. The comedy was golden but there were sweet moments as well — and the writers discovered a simple mantra to follow to produce the best episodes.

'The Office' cast poses in character amid piles of paper.
‘The Office’ cast | Mitchell Haaseth/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

‘The Office’ had a writers’ room mantra

Some of the best storytelling on The Office was actually quite simple — and that’s by design, even if it meant that not a lot happened in an episode.

While discussing the season 4 episode “Did I Stutter?” on the April 14 Office Ladies podcast, hosts Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey revealed that there was a slogan posted in the writers’ room as a reminder to keep things simple with the storytelling.

Fischer explained that they had been in contact with one of the episode’s writers, Brent Forrester, who told her that it was exciting to write the episode “because it was the biggest Stanley story he had ever done at that point.”

“It was really the first time that Stanley had ever been the sole antagonist in a Michael story,” Fischer added. In the episode, Stanley pushes back at Michael in a meeting, rudely telling him, “Did I stutter?” As a result, Michael has to deal with Stanley’s insubordination.

Forrester also told Fischer that “this episode produced a mantra for the writers’ room and a standard for which all episodes would now be held.”

“Here were the three words that applied to this episode that they believed make a great Office episode: small, real, relatable,” Fischer shared. “Brent said by normal TV standards, almost nothing happens in this episode. Stanley insults Michael. Michael doesn’t know how to respond.”

“He said on any other show this would have been considered a totally insufficient plot for 30 minutes of TV,” she continued. “But he said at this point in the series, they were so confident in the characters and their dynamics that they fully committed to this very subtle interpersonal story, and they wrote this slogan in the writers room: small, real, relatable.”

“And he said that he believes that this is the signature of The Office at its best,” she added.


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The last line of ‘The Office’ reflected another show mantra

During the Sept. 15, 2020 episode of An Oral History of The Office podcast, writer and producer Mike Schur shared how Daniels had another mantra for the entire series: “truth and beauty.”

Schur said that Daniels shared “phrases that were sort of the mantras early on” for the show, adding, “The number one most repeated one was ‘truth and beauty.’”

Daniels provided an analogy about the beauty of a dandelion growing through a crack in a paved parking lot. “That’s what the show is … finding that tiny little tiny glimmer of truth and beauty and happiness in an aggressively unbeautiful landscape,” Schur recalled Daniels telling the writers.

Daniels wrote the last line of the series that Pam delivered and it really reflected that idea of “truth and beauty.”

“I thought it was weird when you picked us to make a documentary,” Pam says in the series finale. “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?”