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The Office may have closed its doors in 2013, but the employees of Dunder-Mifflin’s Scranton branch have never really gone away. The long-running NBC comedy — based on the groundbreaking British series created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant — has remained one of the most-streamed series for years, first on Netflix and now in its new home on Peacock. Given the show’s continued popularity, The Office seems like a prime candidate for the reboot treatment, especially given the fact that NBC Universal’s streaming service has already revived past TV favorites like Saved by the Bell and Punky Brewster.
But none other than series star Steve Carell has preemptively poured cold water on that idea, speculating that the show — and his problematic boss, Michael Scott — wouldn’t fly in today’s climate. “It might be impossible to do that show today and have people accept it the way it was accepted,” the actor told Esquire in 2018. “The whole idea of that character, Michael Scott, so much of it was predicated on inappropriate behavior. But I just don’t know how that would fly now. There’s a very high awareness of offensive things today — which is good, for sure. But at the same time, when you take a character like that too literally, it doesn’t really work.”
Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment, the cast and creator of The Office sounded similarly uncertain about how a potential reboot would work. For example, Oscar Nunez — who played accountant Oscar Martinez on the show — echoed his former boss about bringing the show back in today’s climate. “I don’t know if it’d be as edgy,” Nunez muses. “A lot of people say, ‘Can you do it now?’ and I used to say, ‘Of course we can.’ But now I’m not sure.” (Watch our video interviews above.)
Leaving aside the political correctness of it all, Nunez also says that a lot has changed in the workplace since the show premiered in 2005. “I don’t see how you can keep politics out of it, because politics is everywhere now,” he notes. “And even at the time we were pushing it with a paper company. It would have to be something else, some tech company.”
Besides Michael Scott, other characters would have to be reimagined for current times as well. Kate Flannery says that her Dunder-Mifflin alter ego, Meredith Palmer, likely couldn’t be the raging alcoholic that fans know and love. “Is playing a drunk still funny?” she asks. “Maybe I have to change that. Maybe I can’t be a drunk.” So what would be Meredith’s addiction instead? “Oxycontin!” Flannery jokes, before instantly changing her mind. “No, I can’t go there. It’s a terrible thing, being addicted to drugs!”
Ultimately, any reboot would have to go through executive producer Greg Daniels, who shepherded the U.S. version to the small screen, and remained closely involved until its series finale. “To me, the central conceit and the thing that was so unique about [The Office] was that it was a mockumentary, and very truthful to being a mockumentary,” the showrunner explains. “So I think you’d say to yourself, ‘If I was a documentary crew and I wanted to do something about life in an office, what is the new thing I’d want to explore?’ That would be the path we’d go down.”
Daniels also admits that Michael Scott likely wouldn’t be the personality put in charge of a modern-day Dunder-Mifflin. “The thing with Michael was that he was pretty insensitive, but the show wasn’t,” he explains. “The show was trying to point out that wasn’t the way to be. I think it raised peoples’ sensitivities... but I also think that peoples sensitivities are raised now, and it isn’t as necessary to tell those stories.”
On the other hand, the show’s streaming success indicates that fans are perfectly willing to watch those stories again and again. “It’s weird, because sometimes you think that maybe the show wouldn’t be as successful if it were on today, but it’s been quite successful on Netflix [and Peacock],” Daniels says, speaking from personal experience. “I know that my daughters’ friends watch it, and I don’t think they were aware that the show was never not on Netflix!”
The Office is currently streaming on Peacock.
—Video produced by Jon San and edited by Jason Fitzpatrick
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