NBC’s ‘The Office’ series finale: From Steve Carell onward, our five favorite episodes

The OfficeIn the modern age of heavy competition, multiple options, and of cynical audiences, it’s hard to get a comedy to work. Having a 2.0 rating in the demo is considered to be a hit (ask “New Girl”), and a few off episodes is considered a sign to start burying a show and proclaim it to be “dead” for people to walk by and mock.

The beauty of “The Office” is that it wasn’t just a hit, it also was a show that brought us through some real tender moments. For the first two years, its quality was the only thing that saved it from cancellation. Episodes like “Diversity Day,” “The Injury,” and “Casino Night” took us to unexpected places, and proved that this was something that could not be turned away. Then, it went through a rough patch for most of last year. How often do you hear James Spader’s Robert California mentioned a defining character? Heck, how often do you even hear him mentioned on the show at all?

Thursday night brings us the culmination of everything, including a possible return from Steve Carell’s Michael Scott to the wedding of Dwight and Angela. Major thanks to NBC for allowing this show to go out with dignity, and even on its own terms. What we want to do now is share the episodes that made us laugh, cry, or just feel something different than we typically do with a comedy series: That we actually care about these people.

5. “A.A.R.M.” (season 9) – We’re not going very far with this, but last week was almost as perfect as a post-Carell episode can be. There were great moments for the characters (the proposal), a classic prank on Dwight, and yet still a sign that the entire Dunder-Miffling branch cared about him becoming their new Regional Manager.

4. “Niagara” (season 6) – Jim and Pam’s wedding episode brought us everything that an event-themed hour of “The Office” could, including the surprising way in which the two characters said “I do.” Somehow, the show managed to not make it seem crazy that all of these people would be in attendance for a wedding.

3. “Gay Witch Hunt” (season 3) – For whatever reason, “The Office” was almost always at its best when Michael was given an opportunity to offend a good chunk of his audience, and this entire investigation into Oscar’s sexuality, complete with an improvised kiss and Michael’s pronunciation of “Queer As Folk,” was hysterical. Plus, this was the first sight of Andy Bernard back when he was more of a sensible character. (There is still a major part of us that thinks his arc should have ended with him entering anger management.)

2. “Diversity Day” (season 1) – Another great “Michael offends all” episode, and it slightly edges the also-great “Basketball” as the best of the show’s first season. The scene involving the index cards may to this day be one of the most-watched clips of the show ever, and it established the Scott character as strong straight out of the gate.

1. “The Injury” (season 2) – You may have seen this coming based on what we said earlier, but this is really proof that trying to come up with a top 5 episodes is almost impossible. We could list off a number of other season 2 episodes on here, whether it be “The Dundies,” “The Fire,” “Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” the first Christmas special, or the finale “Casino Night.” This was the show’s strongest season, and this episode is something we could watch until we’re blue in the face, almost passed out on the floor in laughter. “You can’t fire me; I don’t work in this van” may be the best one-liner ever.

What was your favorite episode of “The Office,” and are there any particular episodes that you love the most? We have plenty more ways in which to prepare for the finale at this link, including some video reflections from cast members.

Photo: NBC

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