'The Office's' Unofficial Record For Awkwardness Was Just Broken By 'Succession'
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Ahh, The Office, a sitcom famed for existing as the sole personality trait for millions of millennials, inspiring amateur chefs to undercook their onions while making chili (which they hopefully won't tragically spill on their office carpet, a la Kevin Malone in one of the show's most heartbreaking moments) and for being TV's premiere purveyor of awkward silences – well, that is until a premium dramedy surrounding a family of rich media moguls psychologically torturing each other in pursuit of sweet, sweet power came along.
Yep, just a few short weeks ago, Succession – a.k.a. the HBO masterpiece that blessed the world with the greatest news corporation slogan of all time, “We Hear For You" – managed to beat The Office at its own game, airing an awkward silence that was even longer than Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly's famous relationship-catalyzing 27-second pause, Mashable reported. During “Lion in the Meadow," the fourth episode of the drama's highly-anticipated third season, the series included an uncomfortable pause longer than any in The Office, featuring 48-seconds of painful, painful quiet between Logan Roy, the founder and CEO of fictional media conglomerate Waystar Royco/the titular person everyone is vying to succeed on Succession, and his eldest son Kendall Roy.
Now for those of you who aren't wagering four figures on which Roy/Hirsch/Wambsgans will come out on top (if you're betting on Tom, I'm wholeheartedly judging you), this father-son moment was particularly tense as during Succession's season two finale, Kendall went rogue, claiming that his father was both aware of and attempted to conceal some alarming ongoings in the company's cruise division roughly two decades earlier -- sexual assault, sexual harassment, and possibly even murder -- during a press conference, a betrayal that potentially primed him to take over the media giant.
The newer episode in question marks the first time the father-son duo have seen each other in the flesh since the fiasco, speaking without their respective armies of attorneys/lower-rank-but-still-c-suite execs, a reunion catalyzed by billionaire investor, Josh Aaronson. Portrayed by actor Adrien-Brody, Aaronson seemingly took time out of his busy schedule of taking ice baths and not sleeping or eating, as billionaires apparently do, to help smooth the father-son feud, a move that may help keep Waystar Royco in the family ahead of a decisive board meeting about the company's leadership. Although earlier in the episode Aaronson leaves the Roys alone, prompting 23 seconds of quiet, the pair sit in a stalemate for nearly a full minute later in the installment – 48 seconds, to be exact -- as the presumably disgustingly overpriced spread of seafood before them grows slightly-less-extremely-fresh.
“When Josh leaves the room the painful silence is hard to bear and neither man wants to break the silence,” wrote WhatToWatch's Emma Fraser of the affair, adding that after Aaronson cracks a joke about the discomfort upon his return, “Logan’s mouth might be smiling but his eyes are throwing daggers.”
Yet just like all record-smashing TV moments, it seems The Office blazed this trail of awkwardness, walking so that Succession could run, or, well, as much as 80-something Logan Roy can run. Back in 2006, the sitcom's resident lovebirds, Jim and Pam, found themselves away from their respective partners, marinating in 27-seconds of tension-filled hesitation during season two's “Booze Cruise,” a moment which seemingly catalyzed their relationship. Although it is unclear whether the moment held the title for the longest awkward pause in TV history, it definitely made an impact, noted by critics and fans alike. Yet even with this positive feedback, the decision to include this moment was not easy.
“There was a lot of urge to trim that up. That's an awful long time to not have people talk,” Greg Daniels, one of The Office's showrunners, told stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey while appearing as a guest on the actresses' Office Ladies podcast last year. "That was part of, I think, what made the show so special and so different from what was on TV," Daniels explained, noting that those tense "moments of behavior were really important, more so than jokes and setups and punchlines and lines and stuff."
So, folks, here's to The Office – if anyone should take over Waystar Royco, it's the fine employees of the Dunder Mifflin paper company (well, them and like, literally anyone but Tom, come on now).
Top Image: HBO/NBC