The Surprising Reason This Is the Most Popular Episode of ‘The Office’

Finding the greatest episodes of The Office on streaming isn’t too hard to do, even though all episodes containing Steve Carell as regular are usually preferable. When his Michael Scott character left the show, things were never quite the same. Not that the other cast members didn’t help carve out a devoted audience tracking the eventual employee escape from Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.

While most episodes hold up, it’s still fun to look back at the sometimes hilariously miserable situations they had to go through. Having The Office on Netflix for a while allowed fans to go back and visit some of the more popular episodes.

Eleven years ago, the most popular episode in the show’s history aired. Despite being helped along by the Super Bowl as a lead-in, the episode itself is arguably its greatest ever.

How many viewers did ‘Stress Relief’ receive?

February 1, 2009, was a major milestone date for The Office after being on the air for five seasons by this point. Some might remember the episode Stress Relief airing after the Super Bowl that year, one of the great lead-ins for any existing series.

Thanks to the 2009 Super Bowl being one of the most-watched up to the time, it made the ratings soar for The Office. According to official reports, it had 22.91 million viewers, a number no TV show can reach nowadays.

Of course, this was in a time when most streaming services had yet to become mainstream in our media culture. One could even say it was the last time there was such a thing as communal television where everyone watched one thing at the same time.

Not that there still aren’t possibilities for this now, outside of even the Super Bowl and the Olympics likely having viewers through streaming outlets rather than TV. For sitcoms, there probably won’t be another event like this episode enjoyed when The Office was at its true peak.

‘Stress Relief’ is also a comedy classic

Steve Carell
Steve Carell as Michael Scott | Justin Lubin/NBCU Photo Bank

Some might remember that this episode was done in two parts in 60 minutes, first as a wild mock fire drill that gives Stanley a heart attack. Then, in the second half, Michael holds a company roast for himself as payback for initially stressing out Stanley.

Just about every fan of the series says this is the most quintessential episode with laughs nearly every minute. It’s also the best of Carell and his Michael Scott character, not including a chance for everyone else in the cast to shine. Rainn Wilson’s Dwight is equally demented in trying to make the fire drill like a real-life scenario, leading to the usual unnecessary panic throughout the office.

Then there are a few classic romantic interludes with Jim and Pam. Overall, it’s the best example of sitcom comedy writing within a one-hour structure arguably ever seen on television.

If those character situations above are still remembered now, the episode also became a classic in another, unexpected way.

CPR classes have never been the same since ‘The Office’

Remember another segment of this episode where the staff also holds a CPR class? Yes, it’s here where the famous medical technique of doing CPR chest compressions to The Bee Gees’ Staying Alive first hit the mainstream.

Back then, it was considered a joke, yet it’s now become standard procedure in the CPR technique. Probably nothing stuck in memory anyway considering Dwight destroys the CPR dummy in a fit of rage, another uproarious element to this episode.

No wonder the show received ten Emmy nominations later in the year, including winning two for this episode (directing and editing). Episodes like this are also why so many want The Office to reboot, outside of the reality they can’t recreate the magic they had a decade ago.

The real thrill of this episode was the knowledge these employees were truly stuck in jobs they didn’t love. Having them come back to such a scenario wouldn’t bring much of anything believable if faced with similar circumstances.