For a sitcom with as many classic installments as The Office — the Dundies! Office Olympics! basically every Christmas episode! — you’d think that, over nine seasons, most great or wild ideas to come up in the writers’ room would eventually find their way into an episode. But as author Andy Greene reveals in his hilarious and fascinating new oral history, quite a few (potential) gems never made it to air. In this exclusive excerpt, the scribes behind the Emmy-winning series reveal the story lines that came oh-so-close to becoming reality — only to get the Dunder Mifflin paper-shredder treatment.
JUSTIN SPITZER: There was one whole episode in season one that Greg [Daniels] wrote that they never shot. We always would talk about it as our “break the glass episode” that we’d do if we ever were totally in trouble. It was called “Pet Day,” where everyone took their pets to the office. I can’t remember much about it, but it was funny. I think Michael had a parrot named Jim Carrey. There was a moment at some point in the run where we realized, “Okay, the characters and their situations have changed so much now that we can never, ever do ‘Pet Day.’ The show has changed too much now. It wouldn’t play.” There were a few seasons where we were like, “There’s always ‘Pet Day’!” whenever we’d get into trouble.
HALSTED SULLIVAN: We talked about maybe there’s another company that moves into the building. They had done [the meeting of the office-park leaders] the five families [in the fourth-season episode “Chair Model”] before, but it was like, “What if there’s a rebel in the building?” We had tried to break what it could be. Is it like a high-end stationery company or something like that? But it just didn’t really gain that much traction.
WARREN LIEBERSTEIN: We thought of one called “Premonition.” It was really an interesting story about someone having a dream that someone died on the way home from work and no one wanted to leave the office because they started to believe that it was going to come true. So everyone kind of stayed late, but we never figured it out.
JEN CELOTTA: I wanted to do an episode where it started at the beginning of the lunch break and everybody just went off and we followed everyone, what they did for lunch. It would almost be a real-time episode. I wanted to see them outside — I mean, we do see them outside of the office, going on a job-related mission, or at a party, but I wanted to see the reality of the everyday lunch.
AARON SHURE: I had a crazy pitch that never got in but I kept pitching. It was that Michael Scott gets accidentally crucified. I had a whole thing where he was playing basketball at his house with Jim and the garage door opens up in such a way that his shirt gets caught in it and he gets pulled up by the garage door, underneath the basketball hoop, which is like the crown of thorns. And no one notices and they leave him there overnight, so he comes into work feeling Christlike because he spent the night kind of, somewhat crucified. But obviously no one ever took that one on.
CELOTTA: Another one that I was a little bit passionate about in an annoying way, because I kept pushing it, was Phyllis goes through menopause. I really wanted to tell that story. I remember thinking that Phyllis made it so cold in the office that it led to thermostat debates that every office has. And maybe Angela actually freezes at her desk for a tiny bit. Maybe that was a little bit broad. Oh, and I was always fascinated with the idea of Michael coming down with ennui. Some stories are hard to tell, but you take a main character and he’s in a funk and he didn’t understand what it is and he couldn’t point to the thing causing it. He’s just very lackadaisical and just kind of blah. I imagined the office having to deal with a blah Michael and getting everybody else involved in putting a focus on why he felt kind of blah that day. Then maybe it would get into a philosophical area of, what’s the point of all this?
OWEN ELLICKSON: I wrote an episode called “Here Comes Treble” about Andy’s old a cappella group and [Stephen] Colbert ended up playing his friend Broccoli Rob. Early on, Carrie Kemper and a couple other writers and I were talking about Andy’s old buddies coming back and him sort of bragging and peacocking around all smirky with his guys again. Then they mention that one guy who was in the group died when they were in school, and it becomes clear to Andy that he and his friends killed that guy, but Andy was so drunk that he didn’t remember it. Basically, Andy unwittingly had been part of sort of a murder silence pact. I always wanted to find something that Michael didn’t do, and that certainly fit the bill for me. [“Here Comes Treble” aired in season 9, minus the murder-pact subplot.]
FROM THE OFFICE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE GREATEST SITCOM OF THE 2000S, BY ANDY GREENE, TO BE PUBLISHED MARCH 24, 2020, BY DUTTON, AN IMPRINT OF THE PENGUIN PUBLISHING GROUP, A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, LLC. COPYRIGHT © 2020 BY ANDY GREENE
Illustrations by Kagan McLeod for EW