Everyone has their default show–the show that they watch when they just need something to fall asleep to. Everyone has a show that's so damn enjoyable and eminently re-watchable that it's stopped you from getting your teeth into the latest slow-burn HBO drama that everyone's been telling you to check out.
It's often a bit of a guilty pleasure. It's a show that you might not want to publicly confess to watching religiously–a "Friends" or a "Family Guy"–but in the last few years for me, it's been a classic: The US version of "The Office". Night after night, I have watched it, always in bed. It's always playing on my phone, orientation lock turned on so that I can lie on my side and watch it at the correct angle in a duvet cocoon.
Firstly, it is just a f*cking great show. Comedies and comedic performances are so often held in lower esteem than dramas, but, in my opinion, "The Office" US should be considered in the same bracket as "The Sopranos" and "The Wire".
It's crazy that it's taken serious roles in "Foxcatcher" and "The Big Short" for Steve Carell's talent to be properly noticed when, in "The Office", he's given an unbelievably nuanced performance. Forget Walter White, Michael Scott is the ultimate anti-hero–at times, a cruel, inconsiderate, misogynistic, and ignorant character that you ultimately end up rooting for. You just want to give him a hug and tell him that he's a good man. Carell is supported by a cast with impeccable timing and understanding of their characters and a fearsome writing team.
The gag hit-rate in "The Office" is just phenomenal. There are roughly 25,000 episodes a season and yet there isn't a dud among them, something that contributes to the whole re-watchability thing. When there are this many episodes (the show ran for nine seasons) and high-quality jokes, it's impossible to remember them all. They still take you by surprise, from Michael's ever-memed non-sequitur "Dwight, you ignorant slut" to Dwight's classic "It is your birthday" conference room banner.
More than that, "The Office" packs a real emotional punch, although maybe "jab" is a more appropriate term, as you don't always see them coming and they're heartbreaking in their fleetingness. I'm thinking of Michael showing up to Pam's art show and telling her that he's proud of her or Jim occasionally letting on that, for all the sh*t he gives Dwight, he cares for him deep down. This all builds to a soul-wrenching climax that perfectly encapsulates the underlying beauty of the show's ostensibly boring environment. I think it's this boring environment, the endless mundanity of the office space and its bubbling water coolers and misfiring photocopiers, that is at the heart of the show's appeal as a source of comfort.
There's so much to love–Jim and Dwight's pranks, Michael's hate towards Toby the HR rep, the Angela and Oscar friendship, and, oddly enough, Pam and Dwight's awesome friendship that developed throughout the show. When you're feeling sh*tty, the last thing you want to watch is "Entourage" or something of similar ilk, shoving an unattainable perma-ecstatic lifestyle in your face. It's reassuring that at Dunder Mifflin, a.) nothing changes, b.) life has a certain verisimilitude that can't be found in boastful Instagrams, and c.) people are muddling through their day-to-day life, knowing that they can and should be doing better, but also that it isn't going to happen overnight.
When any given day has beaten me down, that intentionally stock credits montage and theme tune (sorry, housemates who have had to hear it down the hall so many times) has such an ameliorating effect, and the show can help reset your expectations in such a competitive world. As Pam sums up at the series' close, "There's a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn't that kind of the point?"