When it comes to The Office, I’m a little unusual; that’s because I’ve seen a few episodes of the UK version, but I’ve seen all of the US ones.
To give you an idea of how much time I’ve spent with the characters, the antics at Wernham Hogg ran to 12 episodes (and a couple of Christmas specials) while Dunder Mifflin came in at 201.
When we started chatting about The Office here at Euroffice towers, in particular whether people might be able to spot the characters in their own real-life workplaces, I said that the US version was a much better place to look. Because it ran for so long, they had to make use of all the actors, not just the leads.
(Because everyone was important, all the actors had to stay on set during filming. So when you watch the US version and see people at their desk typing, they actually are using computers, checking email and browsing the Web).
So, I’ve taken my fond memories of the US version of The Office, coupled them with my scattered knowledge of the UK one, and tried to imagine which of their characters you might find in your, real, office.
The Useless Boss
David Brent / Michael Scott
Depending on your location, you could be cursed with a Brent or annoyed with a Scott. For me, Brent comes across as combination of incompetence and neediness – as Gervais has said, ‘he confused respect with popularity‘. (And he lost both when he started dancing.)
I think he’s the kind of the boss that would constantly try to one-up his workers and make himself look good at their expense, all the while imagining that he’s actually being friendly.
Michael Scott also thinks he’s funny when he isn’t, and is a bit of a coward to boot, but he genuinely appears to care for his employees and their well-being. He’d be the boss that can’t get anything right, is constantly annoying – but who you can’t help but feel some affection for, even though he’s ruining your day.
The Karate Kidder
Gareth Keenan / Dwight Schrute
‘Yeah, so on Wednesdays I do Krav Maga, but that’s just to help me in the TA’. The karate kidder reckons he’s the hardest man in the office, but he won’t ever demonstrate his skills against a live opponent. You might see him jumping around the corridor and doing kata, but he’s all mouth and no trousers.
Unfortunately this imagined deadliness is often conflated with a sense of self-importance and belief that his ‘training’ somehow makes him a natural leader, responsible for enforcing petty rules in the office. As highly as he rates himself (unaware that other people are awarding him nul point) , he would never challenge the position of his true commanding officer, The Useless Boss.
The Lovely Receptionist
Dawn Tinsley / Pam Beesly
Yours might be a man or a woman, but every office has a lovely receptionist. The backbone of the business – always helping and organising – but perhaps not getting the recognition they deserve. They’ve got dreams of doing different things and you might find them trying to bring home talents to bear in the office, like drawing and painting.
For each lovely receptionist there’ll also a colleague who’s feeling pangs of unrequited love. The trick is to observe both parties in the wild and see if you can spot lingering looks of longing coming from either of them. Unfortunately lovely receptionists are always coupled up – but could they be with the wrong person?
The Nice Guy
Tim Canterbury / Jim Halpert
Showing the greatest difference between the Offices, here in the UK Tim is a nice, average guy. He’s diffident with a hint of the underdog. In the US, Jim is taller, better looking and a lot cooler. But whether in Wernham Hogg or Dunder Mifflin, the NG has a prankish sense of humour. Either way, you can still find the nice guy in the office quite easily – just keep an eye out for the person looking longingly at the receptionist.
The Grumpy Eater
Malcolm-ish/ Stanley Hudson
One of the older people in the office, the Grumpy Eater is Stanley Hudson of Dunder Mifflin. Wernham Hogg doesn’t have a direct equivalent, though Malcolm comes close in terms of age. Malcolm doesn’t have a high opinion of his boss and is perpetually anxious about his future in the company (he didn’t make it to the second series).
The grumpy eater is a middle-aged co-worker who clocks in, clocks off and chows down. He prefers to be left alone to get on with work that he doesn’t care about, but he which needs to do to pay the bills. And he knows he won’t get a job elsewhere, having spent too long at the firm already.
Come lunchtime you might see him with colleagues, but his priority will always be his sandwich. He may be tempted into conversation if people bring in sweets and cakes.
The Any-Excuse-For-A Snifter
A rum-soaked sponge/ Meredith Palmer
The AEFAS seems to have a never-ending list of drunken stories to share and always comes up with an excuse to go to the pub at lunchtime. Or pop to the off-licence during the afternoon to celebrate something (‘It’s Wednesday! Bottoms up!’)
Digging through the AEFAS’ desk drawer you might find a can of super-strength lager (for medicinal purposes) or a mini-bottle of spirits. Emboldened by alcohol, they might fancy themselves a bit and then proposition co-workers – advances that are always turned down.
Despite their reputation for partying and coming in a little hungover, the AEFAS is always on-point when it comes to their duties, if not their sense of decorum.
The Cat Lady
Loneliness Personified / Angela Martin
A desk covered in craft knick-knacks and a kitten-in-a-basket screensaver, The Cat Lady’s curated cute and penchant for pink hides a deep loneliness. She often wears her heart on her sleeve, and pins her hopes on unattainable colleagues.
Referring to her pets as ‘furbabies’ and talking about them as if they were actual humans (‘we had dinner last night. I made meatballs, he coughed up a furball’), she’s clearly a loving person, but needs a person to love.
Do you think you can spot any of The Office personalities in your own office?
Of course, like any TV series, the character’s failures and foibles are turned all the way up, but I’m sure we’ve all caught a glimpse of cat lady now and then. In fact, she’s probably me – I’ve got a photo of my cat as my phone’s background…
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Previously on The Euroffice Blog…