Thrillist: What do you think made The Office the hit it is today?
Andy Greene: A lot of it comes down to the amazing team that Greg Daniels and casting director Allison Jones put together. Daniels recruited fresh talent like Mindy Kaling, B.J. Novak, Michael Schur, Lee Eisenberg, and Gene Stupnitsky that had never written for a sitcom before. They broke free from the hokey, cheesy shows of the era and made something totally fresh and relatable. Jones put together this amazing cast that were also largely unknown. Steve Carell was the most famous one and he was a former The Daily Show correspondent that kept getting cast on failing sitcoms.
This giant cast of writers and performers, many of whom have gone onto amazing careers in Hollywood, made a show that somehow felt grounded even though many elements of it were absurd. Viewers could relate to the boredom and frustration of life at a dead-end job. They could relate to dealing with a moronic boss and irritating co-workers all day. It felt like real life in a way no other sitcom of the era did. Most important, it was really, really funny.
From reading the book, about all the unexpected peaks and pitfalls, it makes me think that the best hits happen organically. Do you think it's possible for a network to predict the success of a show?
Greene: It's very hard for networks to predict hits. That's why they have this crazy system where they produce this giant number of costly pilots every single year. Many don't even air a single time and others are cancelled after just one or two broadcasts. It's basically this giant bonfire of money. The hope is to get a single blockbuster like Friends or Seinfeld, but often it produces nothing of any value. The streaming platforms have a better system where they hire talented people and let them work freely. The results speak for themselves.
Naturally, there's always going to be talk about a reboot. In the book, you close it with such discussion. How do you think The Office would be different if it were made in 2020?
Greene: When [executive producer] Ben Silverman shopped around The Office, there was just the four major networks and a handful of cable companies to pitch. There wasn't even YouTube, let alone streaming like we know it today. If he was pitching The Office today, it would probably land on a streaming platform. They wouldn't have been afraid to cast someone edgier like Bob Odenkirk as the lead in that context. They also wouldn't have had to churn out upwards of 26 episodes a year. That's a crazy number when you think about it. Working at that pace burned out the writers and many key ones left after just a few seasons. It burned the cast out. It meant there were some bad episodes even in the best seasons. On Hulu, they could do 10 a year and maybe go 18 months between seasons. It would have been a very, very different show.
If they make a reboot now, however, I think it would probably be terrible. You can't recreate that magic. You'll never get those writers all in a room together again, let alone that cast back onto the set. And even if you somehow did, what would it be? Michael Scott is now happily married to Holly and he has children. His dreams came true. He no longer needs the workers at the office to be his surrogate family. Without that, you simply do not have a show. They proved that in Season 8 and 9. As writer Owen Ellickson told me, Michael Scott was a "load-bearing" character. You remove him and the entire show falls down.
I'm sure they will be tempted to bring it back at some point, but I think they should leave it alone. You cannot go home again, and you can't recreate the magic of those early seasons.