'The Office' Finale: Six Surprising Ways the Series Morphed Along the Way

"Finale" Episode 924/925 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kate Flannery as Meredith Palmer, John Krasinski as Jim Halpert, Angela Kinsey as Angela Martin, Oscar Nunez as Oscar Martinez, Phyllis Smith as Phyllis Vance, Jenna Fischer as Pam Beesly Halpert, Jake Lacy as Pete, Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute

"The Office," which wraps on May 16, debuted on March 24, 2005 -- roughly eight long years ago.

Like many good TV shows, the series evolved. Unlike other TV shows, "The Office" evolved a lot (and not always for the better).

To look back at the Ricky Gervais-aped pilot and other early-season efforts is to visit another planet. And not just because Steve Carell's around, Ed Helms isn't, and B.J. Novak's Ryan Howard is only on the first of his many personas.

Here are some of the jarring differences between "The Office," the prehistoric years, and "The Office," the one we're saying goodbye to:

1. The lighting

There is nothing more striking about the first six episodes that made up the show's brief first season than the lighting: It. Is. Dim. How dim is it? So dim that it seems as if producers cribbed more from the old Soviet Union than the comparatively sunny Gervais version for the BBC. By Season 2, the sun arrives, and the contrast is as mind-blowing as the first and second seasons of "Happy Days" with everything that followed. (Single-camera format?! No studio-audience applause when the Fonz enters Arnold's?! Attention paid to period detail?!)

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2. The drabness

Obviously this goes with lighting (such as it was), and just as obviously this goes with the spirit (such as it was) of the U.K. "Office." But when you've henceforth come to expect the occasional chuckle from Stanley (Leslie David Baker), it's a shock to see everyone, but everyone, save Carell's Michael Scott, who excels at entertaining himself, so somber.

3. Hopeless Pam

Even knowing that Jenna Fisher's Dunder Mifflin self ends up in a happy place, it is excruciating to watch Ms. Beasley stick out a dead-end job with a dead-end fiancé. At first it's just sad. Then around the time Roy (David Denman) talks her out of pursuing art training on the corporation's dime, you want to knock sense into her with a two-by-four. (Really, even Pam's U.K. counterpart, Dawn Tinsley, was less beaten down.) Could smart, funny Pam have ever been that dense? Yes, yes, she could have been. (And maybe you were once, too.)

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4. Dianne Feinstein-stylin' Kelly

Since Mindy Kaling spent nearly all her "Office" years acting like a Valley Girl -- when she wasn't writing and producing, natch -- you may have forgotten that her character originally dressed like the senior U.S. senator from California: all serious blouses and bows. More than one "Office" character loosened up along the way (while some, frustratingly, became cartoons), but Kelly's journey-slash-regression was especially breathtaking. (Blame it on Season 2's "booze cruise.")

5. Brilliant Kevin

OK, well, no, Brian Baumgartner's character was never a rocket scientist, but in the beginning he was nowhere as dumb as he became -- in fact, he was actually somewhat perceptive.

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6. The others

Early in the second season, when Michael is ordered to downsize the office, he does so by cutting a background guy we'd never heard from before (a Devon Somebody). And that was the thing about the early "Office" -- there were others who populated the office, not just the lovable characters who had lines. As things turned out, Scranton didn't miss Devon Somebody, and neither did we.