The Lasting Influence of The Office

How the NBC mockumentary is responsible for the poverty, malice, and bigotry in today’s society

Parker Ballantyne
6 min readApr 3, 2021


Michael Scott (portrayed by Steve Carell), a lead character from The Office sits at a desk with a bobblehead of Dwight Schrute (portrayed by Rainn Wilson) with the words “the office” across the photo
Michael Scott (portrayed by Steve Carell)

The mid-2000’s was a simpler time. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, the book, not the movie, was released. Facebook was just an infant, and Amazon Prime was barely being introduced. “Yeah” by usher and “hero” by Enrique Iglesias ruled school dances. People still shopped at malls. Redditors hadn’t taken over wall street, in fact reddit was barely starting. The movie theater industry was thriving, boasting films such as the Notebook and Batman Begins. All of this simplicity and innocence changed in 2005.

In March of 2005 the sitcom Committed, which, itself was an NBC midseason replacement, failed to impress audience, critics, or the powers that be at NBC and was canceled, giving way to another yet another midseason replacement, The Office. When the mockumentary premiered, it did so completely void of any creativity or originality, as it was a carbon copy of a British television show of the same name. The series, which self identifies as a comedy, was a remake attempting to fill a void already filled by its predecessor. It was a solution to a problem that didn’t exist, the second round of a fight that was over, the extra helping that nobody asked for.

Running only five additional episodes after the poorly received pilot, the first season ended with moderately positive reviews and somehow earned a second season. The show peaked quickly as the second episode ever aired is widely considered the best and most successful. Despite that, The Office, on an apparent downhill slope, still aired another 199 episodes and somehow never reached the heights they did on only the second episode.

It’s no coincidence that just two years after the debut, in December of 2007, disaster struck. The Great Recession annihilated the American economy and crippled its middle class. Millions of Americans, forced out of work and unable to afford education or travel, found themselves with nothing do to other than watching reruns of The Office. The American people were trapped and relegated to watching The Office instead of going out and doing something productive. Although it is unclear to what extent The Office helped trigger the chain of events it, this certainly could have been a driving force in the extension and slowed recovery of the Great Recession.

In 2009, two years into the recession, The Office, now on its fifth season, saw the first of four global pandemics during its time. Swine Flu disrupted life in a major way. While Americans panicked and lived in fear, The Office brazenly continued. The Swine Flu crisis was dealt with and faded away only to be followed by Ebola, Zika and of course Covid-19.

2020, with the covid-19 pandemic, which unleashed an economic crash and lockdowns accompanied by unseen level of panic and fear marked a low point for many Americans and the nation at large, but for The Office, it marked a poster year. The Office, opportunistically pounced on the vulnerable nation and in an act of shameless gluttony and posted record numbers of viewership. While Americans took to the streets to voice their concerns and while the capitol was invaded, and while frontline workers labored against an invisible threat, The Office took advantage and its popularity soared. Although unproven, it has been speculated that NBC had a hand in causing confusion around Coronavirus and promulgating misinformation about the disease in order to instill fear in an attempt to get people to stay home to boost viewership ahead of the launch of Peacock, its own exclusive streaming service.

Much of the disastrous derailing of American culture remains in question, and although many catastrophic events do indeed coincide with the release of The Office, some experts find that it may be presumptive to assign blame to The Office without proving causation rather that correlation and that while overrated, The Office may not actually be the lead cause of community or individual suffering. Some even argue that, indeed, American life isn't coming apart at the seams and that it is merely an example of recency bias to assume that the recent years have been especially more turbulent that others.

Without a doubt, Human Beings, and especially Americans, are uniquely good at problem solving. America also boasts a long list of achievements. Among her great accomplishments are inventions such as the internet, the cell phone, the automobile and the nuclear reactor. The United States also won two world wars, defeating the Nazis in the process. She also took flight in 1903, put a man on the moon just 66 years later, and redefined engineering possibilities by creating the Panama Canal, providing naval passage between the Atlantic and Pacific. America had reduced disease and workplace discrimination, while expanding the right to vote and access to clean water.

The one thing these achievements and innovations all have in common is that they all took place before the dreaded premier of The Office in April of 2005.

Additionally, Daft Punk broke up a total of zero times in their 12 years together before The Office debuted, yet that number jumped to one, just eight years after the premier. 100% of polio vaccines were created before the emergence of The Office. X Games gold medals won by Tony Hawk before 2005? 10. X Games Gold Medals won by Tony Hawk after 2005? 0. Furthermore, when The Office first premiered in the United States, the average cost of a four-year degree from a public university was just $11,246. After the nine-season onslaught, the price of that same degree soared to well over $20,000.

One possible explanation for this chaos and unraveling of American society is the sheer amount of time people waste watching The Office. An estimated 5.69 million people tuned in for the season finale in 2013. Assuming all those people had watched the rest of the episodes leading up to the finale as well, that turned out to be a total of at least 563,310,000 hours wasted on the sitcom during its course. That’s before equating in time spent rewatching the show on reruns, DVDs, Netflix and of course Peacock. Some people have admitted to watching the show all the way through as many as 15 times in that case that’s 1,485 hours or 61 days wasted by a single person. In 2020 alone, Netflix reportedly streamed 952,166,666 hours of The Office. Between the just the very first run on NBC and the final year on Netflix, The Office took 1.5 billion hours of humanity’s time. It’s impossible to determine just how much time has been wasted watching the show in the entirety of its run time, but best estimates put the total well over 10.1 billion hours. That’s over 125,000 years of combine time watching The Office.

If mankind would have collectively decided to dedicate that same amount of time to something productive, such as advancing healthcare, eradicating world hunger, eliminating systemic inequity within our communities or pursuing an end to war and violence, there is no telling the accomplishments that would have come from achieving those goals. Greater things have been done in less time. It is estimated that constructing the Great Pyramids of Giza took only 1.2 billion man-hours. The invention and creation of one of the most influential computers ever, the Apple II took only an estimated 2.8 million and it’s estimated that the Apollo project resulting in landing on the moon in 1969 used up just over 3.6 billion man-hours.

Mankind is capable of mighty and fantastic things when it dares to pursue them. Time and again mankind has shown that the only thing in its way is its own reluctance to be great. When mankind decides to do something and unleashes the full potential of human ingenuity, grit, perseverance and creativity, it has seldom failed. Yet, now for decades, mankind has wasted its most precious recourses, time and attention, on a mediocre sitcom remake during a time of unmatched opportunity. The technology passed down from advances before 2005 leaves mankind in a unique position poised for greatness, while pressing needs such as civil unrest, inequality, and global threats beg for mankind’s attention and attempts to coax mankind into an unrivaled state of advancement. The limitless potential for accelerated progress is halted only by mankind’s refusal to let itself realize its own potential. Distraction is the vice at the heart of mankind’s refusal to realize its own potential, and the pinnacle of human distraction is NBC’s The Office and the over 10.1 billion hours humanity has wasted watching it.



Parker Ballantyne

Kind of a nerd. Very observant, overly analytical, and a bit sarcastic. Romantic about baseball.