Never underestimate good ol’ Kevin! The Office remains one of the most streamed shows of all time. And now, one of its biggest stars is getting to the bottom of the comedy’s enduring appeal. In his new book, Brian Baumgartner, best known by the show’s fans as Kevin Malone, explores what makes The Office so eternally binge-worthy in “Welcome to Dunder Mifflin.”
Teaming up with Ben Silverman, the 48-year-old actor asks the question, “Why is The Office different?” But answering it is hardly the point. Instead, Baumgartner views the work as a chance for in-depth exploration, inviting the reader to examine the show’s popularity alongside some of the beloved show’s most prominent players.
Here’s what to know about his approach to the book, some behind-the-scenes tidbits, and if he considers this mystery solved.
Baumgartner Conducted Hundreds of Hours of Interviews
Baumgartner says ‘Welcome to Dunder Mifflin’ is not so much a nostalgic recap, but instead, well-informed detectives on the case. In an interview with The Washington Post, he explained, “Instead of why is this person missing or who killed this person or whatever, the mystery is: Why is this show now more watched than anything else?”
Baumgartner talked with everyone from creator Greg Daniels, Steve Carell, and Ricky Gervais to people like cinematographer Matt Sohn, hairstylist Kim Ferry. First, he took excerpts from podcasts like “An Oral History of The Office” and “The Office Deep Dive” and opened up those candid conversations even more.
There was a substantial conversation early on about who should conduct these interviews. Should we get a real journalist in here to do this? And I very quickly arrived at [the conclusion] that I may not be a journalist, and I may not know exactly the right questions to ask, but what I did know was that I was going to get people to open up in a unique way. It doesn’t mean better, it doesn’t mean worse. But I thought, ‘If I do these interviews … we’re going to be able to share stories that are unique and different.’The Washington Post
The more he talked with people who knew Dunder Mifflin best, the more Baumgartner became convinced that one series swap had a big hand in making the American adaptation of The Office so successful.
Repositioning The Central Love Story Changed Everything
One of the most gripping aspects of the show continues to be Jim and Pam’s love story. Many critics, fans, and other actors have called it “the greatest love story on television.” Michael’s antics proved to be just as important to the show’s spark but interwoven how those two aspects proved to be everything.
During the show’s development, the actor turned author says that one of the most interesting show-shifting decisions happened when Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais decided to do something they’d never done before.
They inverted the love story between Jim and Pam [Tim and Dawn in the U.K. version]. As opposed to it being central — which it is on every other television show — they inverted that into the background. Yet, that is an iconic love story that people are still talking about today. But it existed in the corner, and they brought the buffoon [Carell’s Michael Scott] forward. For me, that exploration is vital, as opposed to just, “Oh, when we were shooting this scene, this is something that happened behind the scenes.”The Washington Post
While getting those aspects right proved crucial, he believes there’s way more to the show’s popularity than that swap.
Baumgartner’s “Real Discovery” About ‘The Office’
So what makes the award-winning comedy so different? According to Brian Baumgartner, what truly sets The Office apart is simple. In a nutshell, it’s never not relatable.
Well, we were making a show for people who were in offices and could relate to that, and we were never talking about a show for young people. That was never a conversation we were having. But my real discovery through this were the parallels between an unreasonable boss, who makes his employees do unreasonable things, sitting next to people that they don’t choose to sit next to day after day, and an unreasonable teacher, who makes their students do unreasonable things, sitting next to people day after day and year after year, that they don’t necessarily choose to. I think that’s the answer. That and Ben Silverman saying, “Well, it’s just [expletive] funny.”The Washington Post
If you can’t wait to crack open ‘Welcome to Dunder Mifflin,’ you’re in luck! This unique behind-the-scenes book drops on November 16, 2021.