THE OFFICE. “Christmas Party”, or how the first Christmas episode of the series turned out to be salutary
Christmas episodes are standard in many sitcoms – it’s no different in the case of The Office US. The first such episode – simply titled Christmas Party – was prepared by the creators in the second season and we will focus on it today.
The plot revolves around the titular party prepared in the office on the occasion of Christmas. Employees show up at the party with gifts for people they have previously drawn. Michael receives a hand-made oven mitt from Phyllis during a gift-giving and, to put it mildly, isn’t thrilled, so he comes up with the idea that his subordinates will exchange gifts or draw new ones. This creates an embarrassing situation, because most gifts were bought with a specific person in mind. Jim is especially unhappy because he has prepared a special, personal gift for Pam…
iPod, Apple and salvation
Written by Michael Schur, the episode is a very good cross-section of the relationship between employees at the Scranton branch and perfectly summarizes the characters and their personalities at this stage of the series. Michael Scott, played flawlessly by Steve Carrell, in the first seasons of The Office could be – to put it bluntly – terrible. Later, there were also moments when you looked at his actions with pity, but there was already some charm in it; however, before Michael underwent this gradual inner transformation, he was an extremely difficult and toxic person, which is also evidenced in Christmas Party. Even if his idea of “fun” with the exchange of gifts is seemingly dictated by the desire to spice up the whole situation, it is only because he was annoyed by a gift from Phylis, made from the heart and with the best intentions. Michael himself sums it up with one of the most famous quotes from the series: “Happy birthday, Jesus. Sorry your party is so lame.” What’s more, Michael is the only member of the branch to receive a bonus ($3,000) and is also the only one to significantly overspend on a gift by buying Ryan an Apple iPod (which becomes a valuable commodity in the subsequent gift exchange).
Apple in a way turned out to be savior for the creators of the series, because a week later Christmas Party appeared on the iTunes store, which in turn resulted in increased interest in The Office among young people. The cast later began to be more active online, and the series itself finally got its breakthrough – it was from this episode that the creators stopped worrying that The Office would soon be canceled, as Brian Baumgartner (Kevin on the series) and Angela Kinsey (Angela) recently explained. “We knew we had found our audience,” the actress stated. The series was therefore able to develop further, and with it the stories of specific characters, with particular emphasis on Jim and Pam.
Jim, Pam and the teapot
The teapot plot is one of the most famous of this beloved pair of characters – and it’s no wonder, because it has a lot of charm. The vessel Jim wants to give Pam contains items that run through their relationship, such as a picture of him from high school that made her laugh at an earlier party – which is why Halpert is so keen that his friend actually receives a gift. There’s also a note, which Pam doesn’t get a chance to read because Jim ends up taking it; Pam does it only in the final, ninth season. Jenna Fischer, who plays Pam, recalled that over the years fans have asked her about the content of the message. It was actually a heart note written to Fischer by John Krasinski; its exact content, therefore, we have never known. The teapot itself visible in the episode Krasinski kept as a souvenir (fun fact: the color of the vessel was chosen by Fischer, and she did it based on the taste of her then-husband – James Gunn). The gift plot is also another opportunity to confront Jim’s attitude with how Pam is treated by her fiancé Roy, and reinforce the viewers’ belief that her current relationship is not a successful one.
The plots of the other characters of The Office are not developed in this episode as much as Jim and Pam’s, but – as I mentioned above – even short fragments combined with what gifts they give and receive are enough for Michael Schur to perfectly convey their disposition. For example, Creed gives Jim his old shirt and makes no secret of it, and Kevin gives a gift to himself (and then realizes he could have exchanged it for an iPod). Angela, on the other hand, is distraught at the change of plans previously set by the party committee, and then an incident involving Dwight and Kelly brings her to a boil. Little things, but perfectly fitting the characteristics of the characters – the creators of The Office were excellent in this type of treatment, sometimes turning single scenes into real script gems that use the full potential of the perfect cast.
Fifteen bottles of vodka
After the gift-exchange fiasco, Michael decides to break a top-down order from the board and buys fifteen bottles of vodka for the party (while asking the clerk if they can get twenty people plastered). This idea – despite Toby’s objections – turns out to be successful, because the atmosphere loosens up and the employees of the office start to really enjoy themselves. During the event, Michael takes photos with his digital camera – interestingly, Carrell actually photographed the cast during the episode, and the effects of his work can be seen online today, for example here: CLICK. It’s also during the party that Phyllis introduces her partner Bob Vance to the others, who tends to mention to everyone that he represents Vance Refrigerators – his brief interaction with Ryan is comedy gold. As if these characters weren’t enough, Michael’s buddy Todd Packer also makes an appearance. Like the rest of the characters, creators sum him up perfectly in a few dozen seconds of screen time.
The episode ends with a scene in which Meredith – eagerly using alcohol at a party – stands in front of Michael and shows him her breasts. This situation was inspired by a true story from the life of the father of series co-creator Greg Daniels, who after one of the Christmas parties at his workplace came across a stain on the couch and called it the “wrong ending” of the party. I don’t know exactly what Michael Scott was thinking in the scene with Meredith, but his reaction is exactly what we would expect from this character.
Christmas Party not only turned out to be a very important episode in the context of the entire series, but was also appreciated with Emmy nominations for editing and writing. This is a very successful installment of The Office, proving how well the writers of this series operate with characters, how excellent the cast is and how unforced, but excellent humor the series represents. The next Christmas episodes were supposed to show that this circumstance is very useful for the screenwriters.