I’ve been re-watching The Office on DVD this summer in hopes of reminding me how good the series once was. I’ve accomplished that completely, but with TVS in mind, I’m always thinking about how I transfer what I’m watching into some sort of post or feature or whatever else. If you follow me on Twitter — and obviously, you should — you know I’ve been tweeting about doing a ranked list of the series 115 episodes (hour-long/extended episodes count as one). Well, here it is.
This first post is somewhat of a makeshift introduction to the list, but also includes the first/bottom tier of episodes. What do I mean by tier? Man, I’m so glad you asked!
I poured over the list of episodes and tried to determine if I could do this list like my list of Lost episodes, starting from the bottom and going episode by episode to the top. But then I fully realized that comedy is so different from drama in the sense that there are even terrible episodes of The Office that include a few salvageable scenes. Usually when a drama misses, it ruins most of the running time or at least features a structure that is dependent on all the elements being successful. I had trouble separating the enjoyment of teasers or buttons from my enjoyment of episodes as a whole.
Moreover, comedy is so much more subjective, even to a person, and depends on so many other factors. When I watched season four of the series live, I remember being disappointed, but on DVD, it holds up very, very well. Some days, when I’m feeling sentimental, Pam and Jim’s story is the most important element of the series. Other days, I’d rather watch the Nard Dawg do something kind of pathetic. It’s just too difficult to fully equate quality and make totally specific rankings of every. single. episode.
Thus, I’ve decided to implement a tiered system for this list. There are 115 episodes of The Office, so I’ve divided them all into five tiers of 23 episodes. The bottom tier of 23 episode is the group of worst efforts and then I’ll move upward across five posts. And within the tier, the episodes won’t be ranked in any particular order until we get to the very top tier of 23. It’s too difficult and strenuous to decide battles like “Baby Shower” vs. “Job Fair” across 115 episodes.
Finally, I’ve tried to be cognizant of how the series has changed over time while not being completely biased to seasons that have the most sentimental value for most of us — most notably seasons two and three — because that’s when we’d consider The Office to be at its height. Yes, there are a lot of season six episodes in the bottom tier, but I tried not to forget that in the midst of greatness, there were still a few junkers back in ’06 and ’07.
To review: Five tiers of 23, not ranked within the individual tiers except for the top tier. Tried to be as objective as possible in an arena built on subjectivity. Got it? Great!
Tier 5 (in no particular order)
115. “The Banker” (S6): Okay, this one might be in a particular order. A CLIP SHOW? C’mon, do not insult me.
114. “Pilot” (S1): Greg Daniels did his best to adapt the British hit for American audiences, but this one offers little but table setting.
113. “Survivor Man” (S4): This Steve Carell-penned episode develops too slowly and then too quickly to be truly anything substantial. One of the series’ plots that could have been surprisingly better served by a super-sized edition.
112. “Prince Family Paper” (S5): I still remember how much I hated Michael and Dwight after this episode. Ugh.
111. “Mafia” (S6): If it weren’t for the banker, this might just be the worst episode in the series’ history. Lesson learned: we need Pam and Jim around to keep the crazies from running wild.
110. “Phyllis’ Wedding” (S3): Certainly one of the most uncomfortable episodes ever thanks to Michael’s constant and too-selfish shenanigans. Also sucky: Pam and Roy getting back together.
109. “The Carpet” (S2): We all love season two, but this is another effort that sees Michael act like an ignorant, childish fool. No thanks.
108. “Scott’s Tots” (S6): Just…so uncomfortable.
107. “Whistleblower” (S6): An extremely disappointing ending to an extremely disappointing season. Remember when The Office finales actually meant something?
106. “Moroccan Christmas” (S5): Bitchy and dictator-ly doesn’t fit Phyllis and the plot with Meredith’s drinking ruined the heart that used to fill Office Christmases.
105. “Baby Shower” (S5): By this time, I think we were all ready for Michael to move on and for Jan to go away for a while. Though we got our wish, this episode wasn’t that great aside from Dwight’s testing of the stroller.
104. “Frame Toby” (S5): Listen, I kind of hate Toby too and loved Michael’s “NOOOOOOOOOO!” when he first saw his least favorite human back in the office, but framing him for drug possession? And then not even looking at the clearly-not-weed salad in the bag? Get with it, Mike.
103. “Product Recall” (S3): Andy’s high school girlfriend was humorous and Michael’s apology was money, but this episode lacked much subtly.
102. “Job Fair” (S4)”: There’s nothing overly wrong with this episode. But there’s nothing overly right about it either.
101. “The Chump” (S6): Michael’s response to learning that he was a mistress just didn’t work for me, despite a few enjoyable moments in this penultimate effort.
100. “New Leads” (S6): Let’s give everyone on the sales team an excuse to act like a smug jerk! And let’s also use horrible city dump CGI!
99. “The Surplus” (S5): You know how critics have complained about Pam being more of a bitch in the last two seasons? I think that chatter started with this one.
98. “Diwali” (S3): Oh, Michael.
97. “Did I Stutter?” (S4): I liked that Michael stood up for himself in the end, but the crying, moping and lack of confidence in himself that came beforehand wasn’t for me.
96. “Valentine’s Day” (S2): Sorry, Pam.
95. “Sabre” (S6): This episode brings us yet another S6 storyline that could have had so much promise but was executed so poorly or moved away from so quickly that it doesn’t have any lasting effecting on the season.
94. “Grief Counseling” (S3): The Jim-Karen search for chips is cute, but again, Michael feels too cartoony here for the episode to be as hefty as it could be.
93. “Shareholder Meeting” (S6): This episode is funny, but the fact that Michael’s move isn’t fully addressed later is such a crime.
Season totals so far:
Season 1 –> 1 Season 2 –> 2 Season 3 –> 4 Season 4 –> 3 Season 5 –> 5 Season 6 –> 8
Your thoughts on the first part of my list?