The premise of The Office—borrowed from its original U.K. counterpart—is as simple as a blank sheet of paper. A documentary crew decides to follow the employees of the Dunder Mifflin paper company (Scranton branch) for eight straight years, for reasons that are never made quite clear. But man, the things their cameras captured.
We got to watch a doofy-haired salesman named Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) fall in love with the engaged receptionist Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) five feet away. We watched the Regional Manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell) grow from a childish buffoon to a slightly less childish man, and then to an ever-so-slightly less childish husband to HR representative Holly Flax (Amy Ryan). The crew followed an unstable beet farmer called Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson), chronicled the descent into douchebaggery of a young temp named Ryan Howard (B.J. Novak), and even—once in a rare blue moon—caught Stanley Hudson (Leslie David Baker) voluntarily standing up from his chair.
Yes, The Office’s low points are well-documented. You may notice the list below doesn’t contain a single entry from Season 8, a season whose sole bright spot was James Spader declaring himself the “fucking Lizard King.” But like any 9-to-5 job that you come to begrudgingly love and that eventually changes your life for the better, you accept the lows because the highs are worth it. At its best—and there really was so much more good than bad—The Office strode the line better than anything else on TV between earnestly heartfelt and painfully uncomfortable. It was able to take the dull greys of a conference room and the sounds of clock too-slowly ticking to 5 and turn them into a home. “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things,” Pam says in the series’ final line. “Isn’t that the point?
So, naturally, narrowing this show’s entire run down to 50 episodes was a process as hard as it was long. There were times when I almost pulled out. Honestly, I didn’t think I could fit everything in to such a small space. Eventually, though, after a lot of effort, I was finally satisfied.*