The final season of The Office famously featured a major twist – not the revelation that the characters were all dead, and Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch just a purgatorial afterlife trapping them for all eternity, but the first glimpse of the crew filming the Office gang. While other mockumentary shows merely used the format as a narrative device, in the ninth season of The Office, we find out that the show is a literal PBS documentary being crewed by a suspiciously handsome boom guy.

NBC Universal

While this conceit was controversial at the time, if the show were to be made in the real world of today, we’re pretty sure that most of the characters’ lives would have been ruined. Why? After years of financial instability and political attacks, public television seems even less likely to greenlight a TV series that is in production for nearly a decade without airing a single episode. Which would mean that, in the world of The Office, the documentary would undoubtedly air week-to-week, and presumably be more of a reality show.

And just imagine how this would have affected its subjects; sure, some characters may have been able to capitalize on their celebrity; Ryan would be a problematic crush, for example. Oscar could become a gay icon on social media, and Phyllis’ wholesomeness would immediately be embraced/memed. Hell, Kevin could probably mass-market his famous chilli.

But Michael Scott, on the other hand – one can imagine a world in which his casual workplace racism gets dragged into the larger culture wars, and before long he’s doing “That’s what she said” jokes on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Meanwhile, Jim and Pam’s relationship would almost certainly have been ruined by fan shipping – who wants to read on a daily basis that their husband should have stayed with Karen? We even got a taste of the creepy fandom that their relationship would create in the series finale. 

NBC Universal

NBC Universal

NBC Universal

And because documentaries about the paper business may not be huge moneymakers, it seems highly-likely that once the “Scranton Strangler” began killing, the series would have pivoted to become a true crime show – and online detectives, like in the real world, would have probably theorized that Toby was the real killer, effectively destroying that poor man’s life. 

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Thumbnail: NBC Universal

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