Last week marked the fifteen anniversary of the pilot episode of The Office. I’ve watched this series all the way through at least five times and can’t wait to give you the definitive character power ranking.
Bit Characters that Just Didn’t Work
#8,721 - Pete and Tom Halpert — In their most memorable scene, Pete and Tom strike up a conversation with Pam during what should be a celebratory lunch before Jim arrives. They want to prank him and are sure they’ve got the most hilarious idea ever. Their idea: to make fun of Pam’s low earning potential after art school. It’s about as funny for the audience as it is for Jim.
#5,412 - Broccoli Rob — He steals Andy’s nickname and his solo, trying to relive his college a cappella glory days. Nobody cares.
#923 - Nellie Bertram — Obviously, the show faced a tremendous challenge with Michael’s departure. But Nellie’s time at the helm is painful. No one in this category stood much of a chance, but these were 2 especially excruciating seasons without Michael.
#892-889 - Four famous actors who are probably too big (and they knew it) for temporary management roles on this show.
Deangelo Vickers— In particular, this is probably the worst Will Ferrell performance of all time. The writing for the character is sloppy, the comedic style doesn’t fit the rest of the show, and he just doesn’t mesh well with the core characters. His disdain for Cici Halpert borders on the criminal.
Recurring Characters who Fall Flat
#564 - AJ — Put it this way: I’m glad Michael poured salad dressing all over the Woody doll that AJ gave to Holly.
#406 - Katy — Jim’s three episode girlfriend in season 1 starts flirting with Roy on the Booze Cruise. Really? Roy over Jim? Not convincing.
#303 - Dwight’s super awkward friends — They end up in one too many episodes, and there aren’t enough jokes to keep things going.
#191 - Gabe — Gabe didn’t have enough substance (pun!) to justify over 30 episode appearances. Erin hates him from the start, and their relationship lasts way too long.
Heat Checks - Characters who make their limited screen time count
#150 - Rory Flenderson — Toby wants Michael to meet up with his brother Rory once he moves to Colorado, and Toby Skypes Rory to tell him Michael his coming. Rory plans to make a gift basket for Michael full of what? Preserves!
#130 - Pizza Delivery Boy who gets kidnapped by Michael — The eye rolls. The double birds as he leaves the office. The over the top sarcasm. Running away with the pizza as Michael screams at him about how stupid things are about to get up in here. A perfect two minutes.
#111 - Captain Jack on the Booze Cruise — The disgust Captain Jack shows when Dwight volunteers to hold his stick is topped by offering Dwight a fake role steering the ship. He tries one too many deep threes when he offers to marry Roy and Pam on the spot.
#105 - Meredith’s Son — We go years without seeing Jake until he shows up as the stripper at Angela’s bachelorette party. His mom is there; he goes for it anyway and strips to Big and Rich. That’s a three from almost half court.
#100 - Dwight’s Babysitter — Dwight needs a date to go to Michael and Jan’s dinner party. Who else but his childhood babysitter! Look at the size of those wine pours!
#99 - Todd Packer — Packer wins the award for “What’s Aged the Worst” to use Bill Simmons’ terminology. This character just doesn’t work as we’ve learned more about some of the appalling abuses and harassment in corporate work-place culture. Sorry to be a downer.
#25 - David Wallace — I remember David fondly for the company dinner where he shoots hoops with Him, and his speechlessness when he would get yet another emergency call from Michael was perfect. But turning his character into the unemployed dad sitting at home coming up with terrible inventions just didn’t really work.
#24 - Roy Anderson — Roy helps every boyfriend ever look better. This scene is way over the top:
#23 - Karen Filippelli — She’s become a great actress but this character annoys me, probably because I wanted Jim to be with Pam the whole time. She would have been a hit at GT in 2006 though.
#22 - Bob Vance — Bob Vance never lacked for self-confidence and never doubted his vocational calling. I just can’t remember the name of his company.
Michael’s Love Life
#221 - Pam’s Mom — Her ranking is out of order, but this is my power ranking. Pam’s Mom isn’t great for Michael or for the show, but this arc brings out a side of Pam we’ve never seen before.
#18 - Carol Stills — Michael’s real-life wife shows her stuff on Casino Night where she beats out Jan, showing us her wit and her chemistry with Michael. She earns her pay with her “can’t believe this guy” responses when Michael proposes at Diwali after 9 dates and then crops himself into an old family ski photo. She turns down Sandals with Michael so things with Jan can really heat up.
#17 - Holly — She and Michael are absolutely perfect for each other. But her logic about why they can’t date long distance while on the drive to Nashua doesn’t hold up. And she can’t hold a candle to the mania Jan brings to this show.
#16 - Jan — She’s only in about a quarter of the episodes, but she makes them count. The dinner party is the best episode in the entire series, and it wouldn’t work without her.
#15 - Erin — I was shocked that Erin is credited in over 100 episodes of the Office. She dates Gabe for way too long, and she puts up with way too much from Andy.
#14 - Creed — There was enough Creed material for about 20 funny scenes, but he appears in 180 episodes; his character is too thin to support that kind of workload. I mean, this would never happen:
#13 - Meredith — Similar to Creed, the foibles that Meredith undertakes are funny for a few seasons, but they grow stale. There’s no evolution in her character to bring us through 187 appearances.
#12 - Darryl — Darryl’s character eventually falls flat; the Athlead story line is great for him professionally but doesn’t take his character anywhere interesting. I miss warehouse Darryl.
#11 - Phyllis — As is becoming a theme, Phyllis had some early season highlights, but doesn’t develop enough, especially in the seasons without Michael. A favorite memory: Karen is ignorant of Bob Vance’s preeminence in Scranton and earns this devastating welcome from Phyllis:
#10 - Kelly — Unlike many of the previously mentioned characters, Kelly starts slow but comes into her own. She brings home an unbelievably uncomfortable scene in a late season here:
#9 Toby — Between his unreciprocated love for Pam, the never-ending ire of Michael, and the botched attempt to get Nellie to entertain his Scranton Strangler conspiracy theories, Toby fails to get what he wants throughout this series. But he entertains to no end Toby’s self-confidence and efficacy are catastrophically low, but his comedy quotient is all the better for it.
#8 Ryan Howard — BJ Novak made a name for himself writing for the earlier episodes of the office, but his acting quickly caught up and gave us the uncomfortable gift of Ryan. Smug, selfish, and convinced he’s better than all of them, Ryan reflects the ridiculousness of his office mates back to them on a regular basis.
#7 Accounting: Kevin, Oscar, and Angela — Like a three-legged stool, take out any of the three of them and accounting falls apart. I give Kevin the slight overall edge.
#6 Stanley Hudson — From the very beginnings of season one, Stanley’s impatience and disdain for Michael simmer underneath every conference room meeting and ill-fated memo. The stage is set in the early Diversity Days episode when Michael thinks that delicious Southern fare is called “colored greens” and Stanley lets him know otherwise. But this scene is one of the three most epic in the whole series:
5. Pam Halpert — Pam’s got a lot of haters, but she is the emotional anchor of the show. From her initial misery with Roy, to the unbridled joy of new love with Jim, to the painful challenges of early marriage and parenting, all the way through to the peaceful denouement of the show, Pam takes us deep into her own heart and the heart of The Office.
“There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”
4. Andy Bernard — When Andy enters the office, his presence is felt - from name repetition to inviting himself to hang out with people who don’t like him to earning himself a trip to anger management.
When Andy leaves the office, his absence is felt. He leaves us with this powerful reminder to enjoy the good gifts of the present that we are in:
3. Dwight Schrute — The Office probably doesn’t get picked up without Dwight. He’s the one character I think needs ten minutes of clips to appreciate the depth of feeling and humor that he brought to this show:
But he doesn’t win this power ranking, because in some of the best scenes of the show, he is bested by two of his colleagues.
2. Jim Halpert — The cold opens of Jim pranking Dwight are the thing that got me into this show during its second season. In the best one of them all, he beats Dwight at his own game:
And his farewell to Michael is just spectacular:
- Michael Scott — Why? The show doesn’t work while he’s gone. He wins the best scene in the best episode.
And he pulls off the best ending of a TV comedy I’ve ever seen.
Not gonna lie, I teared up the first 5 times I watched this episode.
I love The Office. In my view, it’s the second best comedy series of all time (power rankings for the best coming next week!). On this fifteenth anniversary of the show’s premier, I hope you had as much fun as I did remembering the breadth and depth of character brilliance that made this show what it was.