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"The Office": Reality, Trivia, and Facts That Will Blow Your Mind

John Bridges is a published author of history, and politics. His doctorate is in criminal justice. He is a huge fan of The Office


The Reality Factor

Fans of The Office know there is something unique about the show, but have a hard time identifying exactly what that is. The characters are all easy to relate to, and they often have a child-like quality which makes them likable. What people do not immediately notice is what is known as the reality factor.

The film crew for The Office were recruited from Survivor. This was a first for a situation comedy. The director gave the film crew a great deal of freedom in how they shot the scenes. The crew would be aware of what was going to happen in a scene and where they should focus their attention, but they were allowed to film in a style similar to reality shows. Fans who pay close attention will also notice that there are times when the cameras are not clearly focused. This was the first step in making the show a unique hybrid of situation comedy and reality TV.

Most television shows are filmed in a studio with sets. The first season of The Office was not. Although not located in Scranton, the show was filmed in an actual office. The computers were later hooked up to the Internet in order for the actors in the background to appear busy. Many of the actors used this time to e-mail friends and family or shop online. The exception was Merideth's computer screen, which always shows a game of solitaire in progress. Later seasons were filmed in a studio in Van Nuys, California.

Actors were also encouraged to bring personal items from home, including framed photographs. Although the show was not shot in Scranton, the opening credits were. John Krasinski (Jim Halpert) went to Scranton and filmed the footage for the opening credits himself. The theme song itself was chosen by the cast members from a choice of four versions.

Despite the attempts to make the physical office a real environment, there is one thing that was fake; the window in Michael's office.

The Office Trivia Challenge Pt. 1

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What was the name of the show that Michael was on as a kid?
    • Fun Bunch
    • Fundle Bundle
    • Cats Meow
    • On the Block
  2. Where did Pam and Jim Honeymoon?
    • Niagara Falls
    • Winnepeg
    • Cancun
    • Puerto Rico
  3. What is Gabe's middle name?
    • Wills
    • Susan
    • Martin
    • Wayne
  4. What was the name of Kevin's dog?
    • Stacy
    • Spot
    • Alice
    • Ruby
  5. What is Pam's middle name?
    • Marie
    • Morgan
    • Maureen
    • She doesnt have one
  6. What s Tobys Brother (who lives in Denver's) name?
    • Remy
    • Rory
    • Timmy
    • Tommy
  7. What type of car does Dwight Drive?
    • Firebird
    • IROC-Z
    • Camaro
    • Corvette
  8. Michael gave Kevin the job in accounting but it was not what Kevin applied for. What position did Kevin apply for?
    • Receptionist
    • Sales
    • Corporate Trainer
    • Warehouse Worker
  9. If Jans baby turned out to be a boy, what was his name to be?
    • Charlie
    • Chuckie
    • Chevy
    • Chance

Answer Key

  1. Fundle Bundle
  2. Puerto Rico
  3. Susan
  4. Ruby
  5. Morgan
  6. Rory
  7. Firebird
  8. Warehouse Worker
  9. Chevy

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 2 correct answers: You Schruted it

If you got between 3 and 5 correct answers: Karen from behind

If you got between 6 and 7 correct answers: ratta tot toot toot Broccoli Rob

If you got 8 correct answers: Assistant to the Regional Manager....Assistant Regional Manager

If you got 9 correct answers: World's Greatest Boss


Cast Connections and Past Connections

Gathering a stellar cast can be a monumental task. The Office cast has a few hidden connections that helped make the task a little easier.

Paul Leiberstein (Toby) was more than just an actor on the show, he was a producer and writer as well. His sister, Susanne, is married to director Greg Daniels. His brother, Warren Leiberstein, was a writer on the show and until 2010 was married to Angela Kinsey (Angela).

Ed Helms (Andy) and Brian Baumgartner (Kevin) were both born in Atlanta and attended the same high school (Westminster). Although not in the same class, they did attend at the same time.

John Krasinski and B.J. Novak (Ryan Howard) were both born in Newton, Massachusetts, and attended Newton South High School. Krasinski's first stage experience was in a school show written by Novak. Meanwhile, in the adjoining city of Cambridge, Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapur) was born. On the show, Kelly and Ryan had an on-again, off-again romantic relationship. At the same time offscreen, Novak and Kaling had the same relationship, although Kaling was also dating three other men at the same time. Novak and Kaling remain very close friends and Novak is the godfather of Kaling's daughter.

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Just up the road in Concord, Massachusetts, Steve Carell (Micheal Scott) was born. Carell's wife Nancy played Michael's onscreen love interest, Carol. Her name was derived from the couple's real last name. Nancy and Steve Carell own a historic general store in which Steve sometimes works, surprising shoppers.

Many of the cast members also participated in the comedy troupe, Upright Citizens Brigade. This includes Ellie Kemper (Erin), Zack Woods (Gabe) and Ed Helms.

The Office Trivia Challenge Pt. 2

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What country was Oscar Nunez (Oscar) born in?
    • USA
    • Mexico
    • Cuba
    • Canada
  2. The actor who played this role was raised in Jakarta and is fluent in Indonesian
    • Angela
    • Nellie
    • Kelly
    • Gabe
  3. The actor who played this role is the only cast member born in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia to be exact)
    • Darryl
    • Merideth
    • Creed
    • Roy
  4. The actor who played this role was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana
    • Toby
    • Jan
    • Pam
    • Erin
  5. The actor who played this role was a music teacher in Indiana
    • Pam
    • Darryl
    • Andy
    • Dwight
  6. Jenna Fischer's (Pam) real name is not Jenna, what is it?
    • Jennifer
    • Gertrude
    • Regina
    • Susan
  7. The actor who played this character graduated both Princeton and Oxford Universities
    • Erin Hannon
    • Andy Bernard
    • Angela Martin (Lipton, Schrute)
    • David Wallace
  8. On the show, Phyllis claims she and Michael are the same age. The truth is...
    • the actors are the same age and share a birthday
    • Carell is a year older
    • Phyllis (Smith) is a year older
    • Phyllis (Smith) is more than 10 years older
  9. Kevin's first band, Scrantonicity, a Police cover band, was formerly...
    • Lucy in the Sky, a Beatles cover band
    • Tiny Dancer, an Elton John cover band
    • Jokers and Tokers, a Steve Miller cover band
    • Satisfraction, A Rolling Stones cover band
  10. Rainn Wilson (Dwight) was born in...
    • Albany
    • Chicago
    • Topeka
    • Seattle

Answer Key

  1. Cuba
  2. Angela
  3. Merideth
  4. Pam
  5. Darryl
  6. Regina
  7. Erin Hannon
  8. Phyllis (Smith) is more than 10 years older
  9. Jokers and Tokers, a Steve Miller cover band
  10. Seattle

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 3 correct answers: Someone dipped into Merideth's vodka

If you got between 4 and 6 correct answers: Someone took the slow train to Philly

If you got between 7 and 8 correct answers: Better than a burnt cheesy pita

If you got 9 correct answers: You saved the branch

If you got 10 correct answers: You win Slum-Dunder Millionaire


Hiccups and Challenges

If everything ran smoothly on the show, it probably would not be very interesting for the viewers. The same is true behind the scenes where cast members had to cope with many changes.

The biggest change of course was Steve Carell's departure. His character was so central to the show that it brought doubt upon many that the show could continue. So what happened? Initially, like any new show, the longevity and success is a major unknown. Steve Carell was a rising star who was rising higher each year. In order to secure him, the network had to gamble by offering him a severn-year contract as opposed to a more traditional one or two-year contract for the initial seasons. He was also initially making close to 10 times the amount his costars earned for each episode; their names were less recognizable at the time. Despite a seemingly unlimited amount of offers for other projects, Carell had initially been willing to stay on for season 8. Unfortunately, in the real world, changes were occurring at the network. NBC was in the midst of a leadership change from Jeff Zucker to Bob Greenblatt, and nobody ever responded to Carell's offer. The well-bonded cast was devastated. There was uncertainty if fans would even continue to watch.

Enter Will Ferrell (DeAngelo Vickers). Ferrell was a big fan of The Office, a close friend of Carell, and had worked with other cast members. He was a huge talent at the time and when he approached the producers of the show to do a cameo, they were thrilled by the offer and asked him to take on a full role. He had so many commitments at the time that everyone involved knew it would not last more than a couple episodes, but it was the band-aid they needed to keep fans engaged and raise the sinking morale of the cast.

Fans did return to watch the next season. They had high hopes for the ever-funny Ferrell. Many fans were disappointed though, as Ferrell did not do well in the role. He was simply too busy at the time to invest in the show, but he was doing the show a favor by luring in fans for the new season. Despite the lackluster performance, Ferrell deserves credit for saving the show.

The ensemble cast had also become much more valuable and needed to be retained. Most situation comedies do not make the big bucks until popular shows enter the rerun stage. While salary increases were involved, high pay across the board would have made the show too costly to produce. Negotiations became more creative. The cast were given moderate pay increases but they were given some unheard of opportunities as well. They were allowed to extend their portfolios through producing, writing, and directing opportunities as well as a profit share once the shows went into reruns.

Greg Daniels, the long time director for the show, also left at the time, so allowing cast to spread their wings into directing was a win-win for the show. As it turned out, many top directors in Hollywood were also fans of the show and took turns directing specific episodes of The Office. This included J.J. Abrams, of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Lost fame, and Bryan Cranston, who was still heavily involved in the making of Breaking Bad at the time but loaned his genius to direct the Work Bus episode.

As most fans will reluctantly admit, the final two seasons of The Office were not as good as the rest of the series. The writers had difficulties continuing to write once one of the central characters departed and left a void in scripts that were already in preparation. Some scripts could be adapted, others had to be discarded, and a far greater amount of time was needed to create scripts that were admittedly subpar.

Another challenge for the show was character development and changes. Fans enjoyed watching Pam and Jim's failed attempts to get together in the initial seaons but their characters became less interesting one they progressed beyond that stage and became a rather boring family. Most of the other characters never developed at all, they just remained the same and followed the script. When the Michael Scott character left, there was nobody whose character had developed enough to fill the void.

When shows become stagnant, the usual solution is to bring in new characters; which is why Cousin Oliver was introduced on the Brady Bunch, or a newborn baby at the end of a season returns as a mischievous preschooler the next season. The Office was not any different. Enter Jo Bennett (Kathy Bates), Robert California (James Spader), Nellie Bertram (Catherine Tate), Ellie Kemper (Erin Hannon), and a myriad of others who lasted an episode or two. All of these characters felt fake and inserted into the well-bonded original cast and were rejected by many if not all fans of the show. An additional attempt was made to raise the importance of Ed Helms' role as Andy. The writers did not take into account that Andy is polarizing at best and unlikable at worst.

The Office Trivia Challenge Pt.3

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What is Michael's favorite pizza restaurant in New York City?
    • Famous Ray's Pizza
    • Sbarro
    • Pizza by Alfredo
    • Hooters
  2. Does Jim have siblings?
    • None
    • Sister(s)
    • Brother(s)
    • Both
  3. Does Kevin have siblings?
    • None
    • Sister(s)
    • Brother(s)
    • Both
  4. Does Michael have siblings?
    • None
    • Sister(s)
    • Brother(s)
    • Both
  5. Does Dwight have siblings?
    • None
    • Sister(s)
    • Brother(s)
    • Both
  6. Who did not attend Jim and Pam''s wedding?
    • Kelly
    • Dwight
    • Michael
    • Darryl
  7. How many children does Merideth have?
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  8. What was Dwights babysitters name?
    • Melvina
    • Murtle
    • Minnerva
    • Mamie
  9. Which of the following were actually used as a filming location
    • Gettysburg Memorial (DMGB)
    • Lake Scranton (Beach Day)
    • Lake Wallenpaupack (Booze Cruise)
    • None of the Above
  10. What was the name of the boat on the Lake Wallenpaupack booze cruise
    • Spirit of Scranton
    • Princess
    • Jack's Dream
    • Lake Wallenpaupack 2

Answer Key

  1. Sbarro
  2. Brother(s)
  3. Both
  4. Sister(s)
  5. Both
  6. Darryl
  7. 2
  8. Melvina
  9. None of the Above
  10. Princess

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 3 correct answers: Poop is raining from the ceiling....Poop

If you got between 4 and 6 correct answers: You have made my downsizing problem a thing of the past.

If you got between 7 and 8 correct answers: I bet you think the Sweeney Todd episode was the best one.

If you got 9 correct answers: Always put the best beets on top, they are the money beets

If you got 10 correct answers: Save Bandit


The Office That Almost Was

Imagining other actors playing a favorite character on The Office may be difficult, but as with all movies and television shows, many actors line up to audition. Things could have been quite different for The Office.

Steve Carell was always the first choice to play the role of Michael Scott, but he was initially not available, so the casting team auditioned others. One of the actors they auditioned as Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul/Breaking Bad). Odenkirk was actually cast for the role first, but when Carell became available, Odenkirk was replaced. He did make a cameo appearance late in the series. Odenkirk would no doubt have done an amazing job in this role, but the world would have been robbed of his amazing performance as Saul Goodman.

Adam Scott (Ben on Parks and Recreation) auditioned for the role of Jim Halpert. He reportedly did a great job but thankfully Krasinski had an indefinable quality that pushed him slightly into the lead to be awarded the role. Ironically, Ellie Kemper auditioned for a role on Parks and Recreation, and while she did well, she did not get the part but was offered her role on The Office as a result of that audition. John Cho (Sulu on Star Trek Beyond) also auditioned for this role, which also served as inspiration for the "Asian Jim" opening scene.

Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) auditioned for the role of Kevin Malone. Brian Baumgartner beat him out for the role. It is hard to image Kevin being played by anyone else but it is equally difficult to imagine the role of Cameron Tucker on Modern Family being played by anyone other than Stonestreet. This casting decision was a win for all viewers.

Rainn Wilson beat out many seasoned actors for the role of Dwight Schrute. Seth Rogan (Superbad) and Patton Oswald (King of Queens) both auditioned for the role. While both actors are quirky and funny, it is hard to imagine anyone but Rainn Wilson playing this iconic role.

The Office Trivia Challenge Pt. 4

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. The casting team originally wanted who to audition for the role of Dwight?
    • John Krasinski (Jim)
    • Ed Helms (Andy)
    • Zach Woods (Gabe)
    • David Koechner (Packer)
  2. What is the exclusive club that Pam, Oscar, and Toby Flenderson established?
    • The Elite Club
    • The Finer Things Club
    • The Superlative Club
    • The Group
  3. Rainn Wilson did not originally audition for the part of Dwight Schrute, what part did he audition for?
    • Todd Packer
    • Jim Halpert
    • Toby Flenderson
    • Michael Scott
  4. What’s the name of Dwight’s porcupine?
    • Henrietta
    • Elouise
    • Martha
    • Harriet
  5. At Jim and Pam’s wedding what was Kevin wearing on his feet?
    • Shoes
    • Socks
    • Tissue Boxes
    • Nothing
  6. The Stamford branch members play what video game with each other?
    • Doom
    • Call of Duty
    • Fall Out
    • Fortnite
  7. What is Toby’s daughter’s name?
    • Abby
    • Susan
    • Sasha
    • Jenna
  8. What is Michael’s username for the online dating website?
    • Michael Scarn
    • Little Kid Lover
    • Scorpio Cross
    • He left it blank
  9. Who gave Michael his “World’s Best Boss” mug?
    • Jan
    • David Wallace
    • Dwight
    • He bought it for himself
  10. Jenna Fischer kept what after the series wrapped up?
    • The Jelly Bean Dispenser
    • Pam's Engagement Ring
    • The family Photo Dwight took of Jim, Pam and Cece
    • Pam's Snoopy Coffee Mug

Answer Key

  1. John Krasinski (Jim)
  2. The Finer Things Club
  3. Michael Scott
  4. Henrietta
  5. Tissue Boxes
  6. Call of Duty
  7. Sasha
  8. Little Kid Lover
  9. He bought it for himself
  10. Pam's Engagement Ring

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 3 correct answers: Are you sure you aren't watching Seinfeld?

If you got between 4 and 6 correct answers: Pee Pee Halpert is laughing

If you got between 7 and 8 correct answers: Kevin says Ni-iiiiii-cccc-e

If you got 9 correct answers: You a Schrute Buck

If you got 10 correct answers: You are HIRED!!!!

A Parting Gift for True Fans

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with friends and on social media. One of the questions fans often face in trivia contests involves the middle names of characters on The Office. Some names are mentioned often, sometimes only once, and other times they are only seen in writing by those who pay very close attention. Below is my most comprehensive list of middle names.

Michael - GARY
Dwight - KURT
Erin - ERIN
Angela - NOELLE
Gabe - SUSAN
Stanley - JAMES
Meredith - ELIZABETH
Darryl - MATHIAS
Kevin - JAY
Phyllis - MARGARET
Toby - WYATT
Roy - ALAN
Nellie - DONNA
Todd - FINCH

© 2021 Dr John Bridges

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