Over the past week we’ve been celebrating the 15th anniversary of The Office, which premiered way back in March 2005. It was just one of those all-time great sitcoms that hit its stride early and never really overstayed its welcome, as so many TV shows do.
But… what if it had ended by breaking up Jim and Pam? Would we still be looking back with such reverence??
Video: John Krasinski & Steve Carell Reunite On YouTube
Well, believe it or not, that very nearly happened. According to Andy Greene‘s book The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, showrunner Greg Daniels‘ original plan for the 9th and final season was to break up one of TV’s most beloved couples. And it was John Krasinski who was the plot twist’s biggest champion! Krasinski recalls in the book:
“My whole pitch to Greg was that we’ve done so much with Jim and Pam, and now, after marriage and kids, there was a bit of a lull there, I think, for them about what they wanted to do… For me it was, ‘Can you have this perfect relationship go through a split and keep it the same?’ which of course you can’t. And I said to Greg, ‘It would be really interesting to see how that split will affect two people that you know so well.’”
Wow, John. Wow. That is dark as hell. Suddenly that whole move to directing A Quiet Place makes a lot more sense.
So how were they going to do it? Remember Brian? The boom operator for the documentary we were all watching, as revealed in Season 9?
The idea was to have Brian be revealed as this unseen guy she was talking to all this time while she told the audience everything. Writer Warren Lieberstein says:
“ was something that came up in season five, I think. It was a pitch. I think Mindy was the first or one of the first champions of it. The idea was to introduce some romantic triangle with Jim when they were such soul mates that you had to say, ‘How could she possibly be interested in somebody else?’ You think to yourself, ‘Well, I wouldn’t believe it if I just was introduced to the character.’ You had to see it happening from scratch. What if that character had been secretly there the entire time and predated the relationship with Jim and had been a shoulder that she cried on for years?’ It just seemed very intriguing.”
Et tu, Mindy??
While Jim and Pam were going through their stress as he was working out of town, Brian was going to be, you know, there for her. Ick.
Ultimately the plan was to fully break up Jim and Pam and then, like the British office, do one last episode that was a followup to the documentary series airing, one that caught up with the characters months, maybe years, later. During that reunion episode they would let romance win and get the now divorced (or possibly still separated) Jim and Pam back together one last time. And they were really going to do it!
However, the audience saw what the show was doing and HATED it. Even Krasinski pulled a complete 180; writer Brent Forester remembers:
“We had to pull the ripcord on it because it was so painful to the fans of the show. John Krasinski said to me, ‘Brent, this final season is for the ultra fans of the show. They’re the only ones really still left watching, right? This is for them. Jim and Pam splitting up is too painful for them to sustain all the way to the reunion. We have to get them back together immediately.’ I was like, ‘Wow, we can’t allow this beautiful couple to be really like on the verge of divorce. It’s too awful for them.”
The writers threw out the storyline and rewrote everything on the fly. They even re-edited episodes that had already been finished! Writer Owen Ellickson explains:
“The episode that really spun people on a dime is one that I wrote where Brian the boom guy heroically saves Pam from an attack from a warehouse guy. People just absolutely did not like that. They were bothered that there might be some triangle that Pam and Jim would be involved in and even more insulted that we thought they might believe that. That’s how it felt to me. Greg absolutely turned on a dime after that and we pivoted away, I think pretty skillfully given how quickly we had to do that. It involved decently sized edits to the next two episodes, if I recall.”
Instead the Season 9 storyline just became about a couple getting through a difficult, stressful time and NOT going through an actual separation. Thank goodness!
Would YOU still love The Office if they had broken up Jim and Pam like that??
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