The 10 Most Over-the-Top Moments in Office History

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Before I start what is probably going to sound like an anti-Office tirade, let me be clear. The Office is one of my favorite shows ever, I love it dearly and will continue to do so even if they kill off all the characters except Creed and Kelly. But it’s because I love it so much that I feel I must comment on when I see it’s losing its edge.

Seasons one, two and most of three were models of comedic writing, timing and acting, but now as we stretch into season five, I fear that wit and subtlety may be going by the wayside to make for more ridiculous and over the top plotlines with little regard for the show’s original dry humor roots.

Here are ten prime examples which I consider mistakes the show will learn from:

10) Michael and Jan’s Explosive Dinner Party

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Season 4 – Dinner Party

This was an incredibly divisive episode. Some loved it, and some thought it was one of the worst ones ever. I fall into the latter group as you can see. I always though Michael and Jan’s relationship was a bit too much outside the realm of reality, but I tolerated it for as long as I had to. But to have them literally screaming and breaking electronic devices? Unfortunate. Just let awkwardness play out without resorting to actual violence. For example, the charades part of that episode was great, the dinner? Not so much.

Also, there is one joke in that episode that to me says a lot about how the show has changed. Michael’s giving a tour of the house and when they enter the bedroom there’s a camera set up on a tripod pointing at the bed. Now subtlety says that’s a nice subtle little visual gag and should have been left at that, but “new” Office philosophy dictates that Jan go “Oh my look at that! I told you we really should clean up better! Ha ha!” beating us over the head with it just in case we couldn’t get it the first time. Well I suppose we are watching NBC.

9) Michael Kisses Oscar

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Season 3 – Gay Witch Hunt

I’ll tell you now that this is the earliest moment on this list, as I thought the first two seasons didn’t have any terribly unbalanced sequences in them. But the season three premiere brought a dark omen of things to come.

The entire Gay Witch Hunt episode was a good exercise in awkward. Michael accidentally outing Oscar, good. Dwight looking at gay porn for “research,” good.  But then physical molestation of an employee by his boss? Whoa there cowboy. Sure it achieved it’s goal of making the audience squirm, but so would Dwight honking Pam’s boob, and that doesn’t mean it should happen.

8 ) Michael Forages in the Woods

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Season 4 – Survivorman

Sometimes the entire episode is based around one ridiculous premise, and Survivorman is one such example. Ryan snubbing Michael to go on a camping trip was fine, but to react by going out into the woods all day to prove you’re a real man? Come on. All that resulted was a cut up suit and a not very funny episode.

7) Michael Almost Jumps Off a Building

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Season 3 – Safety Training

One minute Michael is giving safety instructions, the next he’s up on a rooftop attempting to jump onto a moonbounce to illustrate….what, exactly? Michael behaves like either A) a  delusional child or B) a psychopath and it’s hard to believe anyone would actually do anything this chronically stupid. Either that or it was just about the darkest moment The Office has ever had, if Michael was seriously contemplating jumping because he wasn’t getting any respect from anyone.

6) Meredith’s Hair Catches Fire

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Season 5 – Moroccan  Christmas

The Office has always had great Christmas episodes, but Moroccan Christmas was not one of them as Meredith gets really drunk and somehow catches on fire. I’m alright with her flashing her boobs after a long night of partying, but really? Setting herself on fire? Between that and the bat, Meredith has pretty bad hair luck. Almost as bad was when Michael was chasing her around the rehab parking lot. I was half surprised they weren’t playing Benny Hill music while it was happening.

5) Mustache Covert Ops

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Season 4 – Branch Wars

This was a good episode for many reasons, the best being Jim and Karen’s awkward reunion, but the reason they were there? Dressed up as mustachioed warehouse workers to steal their rival branch’s printer? Sigh. It seemed like a plotline out of a different show entirely, and thankfully most of Michael’s other covert schemes (intel gathering on Prince Family Paper), haven’t been quite as absurd.

4) Michael Visits the Chair Model’s Grave

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Season 4 – The Chair Model

I actually thought it was amusing that Michael fell in love with a girl from the office supplies catalog, but the episode went a step too far when upon learning of her death (which was bad enough) he and Dwight went to her actual grave.  Though to be fair, I really did like the song they sang.

3) Michael Plants “Drugs” in Toby’s Desk

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Season 5 – Frame Toby

I mean come on, even the episode is called “Frame Toby.” Sure, they weren’t actual drugs (basil, specifically), but the point is, Michael thought they were real and could have actually gotten his coworker sent to jail. That goes beyond mean spirited and into being an actual felony and unfunny sociopathic behavior. Drug Testing was a good example of how to handle illegal behavior in The Office, this episode, three seasons later, was way, way too over the top.

2) Dwight Sets the Office on Fire

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Season 5 – Stress Relief

Dwight has flirted between likeably odd and dangerously psychotic in the past, but this ordeal just pushed him over the edge. Setting a fire then causing a mass panic in the office to prove a point about safety instructions? Get real. To see the entire office running around, breaking glass and falling through ceilings may have been a gut laugh, but it’s really a sign of how much the show is relying more on slapstick than clever writing these days.

1) Michael Drives His Car into a Lake

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Season 4 – Dunder Mifflin Infinity

This was the moment for me that transformed Michael from clueless sap to a full blown moronic cartoon character. I really liked the whole Michael vs. technology aspect of this episode, but having him drive into a lake because his GPS told him to is simply not believeable. He can see he’s going in the water, yet keeps accelerating to what, prove a point? The whole sequence doesn’t even make logical sense. Since early season four Michael has had many more brushes with the absurd, as you can see, and to me they’ve always been the low points of each episode.

I truly hope that The Office can remember that it was subtlety and wit that has made the show great for so many seasons, and I’ll probably make a more upbeat list about the show’s best moments shortly. Physical comedy is a nice gag every so often, but the fundamental focus has to be on the writing, which I feel has been slowly slipping away since season three. All this being said, a bad episode of The Office is better than 90% of other TV shows on right now, and I will watch it until one of us dies.

Where the hell did Ryan go?

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17 Comments

  1. Agreed. (except for the Dinner Party and Gay Hunt)

    Michael/Dwight being socially awkward and clueless about some things (including pronunciation of words) = FUNNY. (example is Dwight asking how much David Wallace’s house costs at the party)

    Michael/Dwight being STUPID and doing stupid things because they don’t seem to be remotely intelligent at that moment = STUPID HUMOR. (example is Dwight going up onto the roof of David Wallace’s house to kick the chimney)

  2. Maybe the reason it has lost it’s edge is that Seasons 1 and 2 were just copies of the masterful English show. Of course they ran out of ideas after that, cos all the ideas came from the English version that ran for just 12 episodes

  3. The whole driving into the lake thing was funny simply because it was plausible… People have driven off the road because of their navigation systems all the time, so it’s not really a stretch to imagine bumbling Michael Scott doing the exact same thing. I do feel that Season 5 has slumped a little, but being over-the-top is far from my list of complaints about The Office.

  4. @Robert

    You are wrong. Only the first episode of the American Office was a copy. All the other episodes were original ideas and didnt take plot ideas from the British version.

  5. You could have at least got a picture of the REAL Survivorman. Bear Grylls is a pansy. “Ooh, I hang out in the bush with a whole freaking camera crew and pretend to be a badass.” Les Stroud was not only totally alone for every episode (which spanned a WEEK in the wilderness), but he tackled just about every possible survival environment including deserts, mountains, the Arctic, and the jungle, and he did it while lugging around two sets of film equipment. At least Michael Scott knew a badass when he watched his TV show.

  6. i think these are all funny and the show is still great, i admit some are over the top, but when micheal and dwight are trying to steal the industrial copier( i think thats what it is) i lauughed really hard

  7. 1st off, The office IS an over-the-top show. That’s the point and that’s why it’s funny.
    Joe- The Office is not a cartoon strip of Dilbert, sorry to dissapoint. The show does small subtle idiosycransies and has them get less and less subtle to the point where you do believe that the character really would do that. That is why the show is so funny.
    Brian- (see above, and sorry that bothered you so. I can give you a list of counseling centers if you need any)
    Robert- Are you kidding me? The two variations of the show have two different types of humor(which is why they shouldn’t use Richard to replace Steve). And the show continues to make me actually laugh out loud which not many shows do these days. Scott’s tots. Andy’s cell phone incident. Beach day. The entire wedding episode. All great episodes. Enough said.
    Ryan- Agreed. Except where you think season 5 went slumps. And the only real complaint of The Office is that it is only a 30min show.
    All Politics Aside- When was Michael Scott NOT a real version of Homer Simpson? Another reason for him being a great character.
    Drop LBS- Not sure what you mean but you can build a building and jump off of it. Boom Roasted!
    Churble- Agreed. When the ice melts, it is like second drink.
    Wrong- Thank you.
    Bert- Stick to the topic. (But dude, I totally agree. Les does his own camera shots and everything.)
    xXBurekxX- Fo Sho.
    John- You suck! (Sorry man, I can’t be bias in this so I need to bash a fellow Office lover to seem fair) ; )

  8. @ Bert…..he has a camera crew following him because he’s trying to get out of the wild, not stay there like Les. Also, do you ever see Les risking his life as much as Bear does for his show? (perhaps you can say that when he goes into harsher environments, but other than that, NO) Do you expect Bear to set up a camera to scale a cliff or get down a 300 foot rivine???? The shows are completely different, therefore, are made completely differently. Don’t just throw out bullshit reasons, like him having a camera crew following him. If it was a life and death situation, I’m putting my money on the guy that shows us what to do to get out of a situation, not the one that basically has a vacation in the woods. And don’t say Bear is fake because him and his crew stayed at a hotel for one shoot….you really can’t fake the stuff he does in front of the camera, even if some of the situations are presented to him beforehand so he can better explain how to survive in that situation. I do like both shows, believe it or not. In fact i started out liking Survivorman first but then realized how boring the guy is. I just want to see him do some of the stuff Bear does, while doing his camerawork, but probably not, because it’ll be a video of him killing himself.

    The office list – I agree with one of the comments that say, “the office is all about being OVER THE TOP”. Michael’s over-the-top idiocy has been a staple of the show throughout it, and is the reason I watch the show. It’s always been about stupid humor coming from Michael and Dwight, Jim and Pam bringing some levity to the situation and the support cast filling in the other holes. To me Michael is and always was a cartoon character, and I never really imagined that a person like him could be real. To be upset about him becoming more cartoonish, is, in my view completely missing the point of his character. I don’t think I ever saw the tagline “based of a true story”, anywhere in the show’s intro or credit sequence. With some of these scenes/episodes, by the time i’m done reading your explanation or reasoning for their selection, I’m thinking “Well, wtf did you expect”!?!? I personally think the show hasn’t changed much except for the switch from season 1 to 2 and then Pam and Jim getting together and eventually married. I just try not take this show too serious, but after reading this list, I have a feeling you do without even noticing it. Everyone has their own opinion and that’s mine. Sorry for the length of the comment.

  9. I actually disagree with quite a few of these. I understand the frustration with the show’s metamorphisis from realistic examinations of an office lorded over by a deluded and selfish, though deep down good, dolt of a man, into a wacky-time comedy hour of quirky goons. I still love the show despite this, in a different way from what made me fall in love with it to begin with, but that is neither here nor there. I don’t feel it’s fair to attribute some of these examples to the show’s transformation.

    For one, Michael didn’t want to actually die because of the disrespect. He and Dwight were just too stupid to realize how unsafe his plan was.

    The drug planting situation was the one that made me feel the show was jumping a shark and really making Michael into an unredeemable character taking his bizarrely over the top and irrational, and hence funny, disdain for Toby to a unlikeable level. But he somewhat redeems himself by seeing the reality of the situation, and willingly shouting that the drugs are his so that he can take the blame before the salad reveal. This made it passable for me.

    Dwight setting the fire was a total Dwight thing to do and I didn’t bat an eyelash. But, when it turned into the Goof-Troop Comedy Show with Angel throwing her cat into the ceiling and all that crap, that’s when I was kind of “uhh, what is this show now” about it. That really annoyed me, but Dwight nearly saved it on his own standing there shouting safety trivia in a calm manner.

    And finally, I’ve never understood the rage against Michael for driving in the lake. I always thought it was perfectly clear this was a self fulfilling prophecy on his part. He was getting angrier and angrier at technology, and then took this deluded opportunity to prove, at his own cost, that technology is faulty by driving into a lake just because he was convinced the GPS told him to, and hence could then spend the rest of the episode yelling about what his GPS did to him, as if he didn’t know any better. Michael could be a very spiteful man, and this is just one of the more self-defeating examples of that.

  10. I feel that, entering into season four, the producers realized that The Office was going to be a ratings smash and, thus, decided to make this ridiculous plots. I remember watching “Fun Run”, expecting the trademark humor of the first two seasons, but all I got was an empty feeling. This continued throughout the whole season: Michael holding a pizza boy hostage? Driving his car into a lake? The dinner party? Really? The show has consistently died down since then, but season two is still amazingly funny.

    I feel that around season four is when characters went from realistic to cartoon. Jan went from a professional, albeit sad, woman to a total wreck of a human being in a matter of episodes. Kevin went from slow and quiet to faster and stupid (I actually prefer the episodes where Kevin talks extremely slow and low, when Kevin started talking “faster”, that’s when the series started to suck). Andy went from a dumb psychopath (Hilarious!) to Michael Lite (See, Season 8). Dwight went from nerd oddball to Bond villain, and Pam and Jim went from underdogs to just dogs (although I still love them).

    I though Season 7 was really strong at bringing back older elements of the show and making the character development realistic. Then came along Season 8 and that was all shot to hell.

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