Characters of “The Office (U.S.)”- Ranked

While at some point, I may feel prepared enough to undertake a review of The Office as a whole, that seems like a task that I could not yet do justice.  For now, I have decided to do a brief rundown on the aspect of The Office that sets it the apart the most from other current sitcoms: its ensemble cast.  This list will tackle anyone who has been listed in the opening credits at any point in the show’s run (from a show-long centerpiece like Dwight to the brief but memorable Roy) as well as a few characters who were never officially listed as part of the main cast, but whose impact and episode count was enough to justify it.  It should go without saying, but this list is wholly subjective and it is statistically very unlikely someone will agree with it 100%

Without further ado:

Office Cast

(From left to right): Phyllis Smith as Phyllis Lapin-Vance, Paul Lieberstein as Toby Flenderson, John Krasinski as Jim Halpert, Oscar Nunez as Oscar Martinez, Jenna Fischer as Pam Beesley, Angela Kinsey as Angela Martin, Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor, BJ Novak as Ryan Howard, Creed Bratton as Creed Bratton, Steve Carell as Michael Scott, Brian Baumgartner as Kevin Malone, Kate Flannery as Meredith Palmer, Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, Melora Hardin as Jan Levinson, and Leslie David Baker as Stanley Hudson

*Spoiler Warning*

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29) Todd Packer

Portrayed by  David Koechner (Recurring Seasons 1-3, 6-9)

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“What’s up, Halpert? Still queer?”- Season 2, Episode 2 (Sexual Harassment)

Technically, Packer’s first appearance was a voice cameo in the Pilot episode, but he didn’t officially appear on-screen until the second episode of the show’s sophomore season.  Played by Steve Carell’s  Anchorman co-star David Koechner, Todd Packer is the outside sales rep for Dunder Mifflin and is meant to represent of the flip side of Michael’s coin.  He dispenses all the sexist, homophobic, and degrading humor that Michael is capable of (albeit intentionally, whereas Michael’s is more out of obliviousness, and to a much more vulgar degree) without any of Michael’s redeeming qualities.  Part of Michael’s character arc is him slowly growing out his reverence for Packer and realizing how immature and cruel he really is.  Packer is suupposed to be unlikeable, and Koechner succeeds in the regard, perhaps too well given Packer’s bottom-of-the-barrel placement here. The character’s routine grew stale after a while and I completely forgot about him for the three seasons he was gone.

28) Jo Bennett

Portrayed by Kathy Bates (Recurring Seasons 6-7)

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“You don’t get to be the most powerful woman in Tallahassee by slacking off. You get there by working hard or marrying rich, and I did both.”- S6, Ep. 19 (St. Patrick’s Day)

As the Sabre CEO who saves Dunder Mifflin from bankruptcy, Bates’ Bennett was more of a plot device than a fully fleshed-out character, which is a shame since the Oscar-winning actress was probably the show’s highest profile guest star.  She did have a nice banter with Dwight when he challenged her authority, leading to a mutual respect between the two.  Other than these specific character interactions, it was a largely thankless role, and the show wasn’t really affected by losing the character when Bates left the cast for her own show.

27) Nellie Bertram

Portrayed by Catherine Tate (Guest Season 7, Starring Seasons 8-9)

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“Fire the employee, yes, but not the man.  You may not cancel his soul”- S8, Ep. 18 (Last Day in Florida)

British comedienne Tate was originally brought in as one of the plethora of guest stars (including Jim Carrey and Ricky Gervais in-character as David Brent) interviewing for Michael’s job as Regional Manager in the Season 7 finale.  Tate was one of the few guest stars who was seriously being considered for said job (alongside Will Arnett and James Spader).  While the character may have been written differently had Tate have gotten the job, it is probably a good thing they went with James Spader given how Nellie was written when she later reappeared halfway through the penultimate season.  This is now slight against Tate because she is a talented performer and did the best with what they gave her, it’s just that what they gave her wasn’t great regardless of how well it was played.  She showed promise with her cameo in Season 7 where she talked about a zen office and other strange business practices, but the character’s arc was downright annoying in Season 8.  Andy was not a great manager to begin with (as we will see later in the list), but the fact that Nellie thought she could just walk into his office, sit as his desk, and start performing his job was irksome, ludicrous and tainted the credibility of what was otherwise a realistic show.  The character’s personality improved in Season 9, but it’s hard to remember a single line or action she had outside of her adoption subplot.

26) Karen Filippelli

Portrayed by Rashida Jones (Starring Season 3, Guest Seasons 4, 5, and 7)

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“Dementors? Like in Harry Potter?”- S3, Ep. 9 (The Convict)

Although she was technically listed as a guest star in Season 3, Jones appeared in every episode of the season, so it seemed fair to include her.  Karen is a perfectly adequate character, and Karen imbues her with the same deadpan qualities that she would later put to use as the “straight-man” Ann on fellow NBC sitcom  Parks and Recreation.  But that’s just it.  Jones’ stint on The Office was simply a pit stop on her way to stardom with her later role.  Her time as Karen didn’t go to waste however, as she had pitch-perfect chemistry with Ed Helms (Andy), John Krasinski (Jim), and Jenna Fischer (Pam), the three characters whom she interacted the most with.  She mastered the Jim-patented camera stare and became Pam’s sole girl friend in the office whilst driving a wedge between her and Jim.  Jones could’ve simply gone on autopilot and just filled her role as a road block on the path to Jim and Pam getting together, but she imbued the character with a personality that made  said path more interesting to watch.

25) Gabe Lewis

Portrayed by Zach Woods (Recurring Season 6, Starring Seasons 7-8, Guest Season 9)

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“Jo, they’re creating a hostile work environment!”- S7, Ep. 1 (Nepotism)

At times, Gabe seemed like a composite character, taking personality traits from established fan-favorites (Dwight’s stick-in-the-mud, Toby’s sad sack, etc.) and morphing them into one role.  However, the whole was ultimately less than the sum of it’s parts.  Much like the aforementioned Nellie, Gabe came in near the end of the show, when the ensemble was reaching maximum capacity, and it was hard for him the stick out amongst characters who had already been around for years.  Woods did succeed at physical comedy relating to his lanky frame, but his relationship with Erin seemed to come completely out of nowhere and seemed to serve little purpose outside of being a roadblock between her and Andy (aka Jim-and-Pam-lite).  Near the end, it became downright creepy.  Gabe inexplicably disappeared between seasons 8 and 9, but it didn’t really make much of an impact.

23 and 24) Pete “Plop” Miller and Clark Green

Pete: Portrayed by Jake Lacy (Starring Season 9)

Clark: Portrayed by Clark Duke (Starring Season 9)

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Pete: “This next one goes to Darryl for pocket-dialing a customer while having sex.”- S9, Ep. 8 (The Target)

Clark: “It was… like a swarm of bees.  Bees that find something wrong with every hotel room.”- S9, Ep. 11 (Suit Warehouse)

Lacy’s Pete and Duke’s Clark are introduced as a duo in the Season 9 premiere.  In the context of their roles in the company, Pete they are replacements for Mindy Kaling’s Kelly, the former customer service representative.  In the context of the show, they were meant to be a younger counterparts to Jim (because John Krasinski had a somewhat smaller role in the final season) and Dwight (because Rainn Wilson was expected to leave for a Dwight spin-off halfway through the season).  Much like their predecessors, Lacy and Duke had a natural rapport. While we are first led to believe that, unlike Jim and Dwight, they are friends, it is later shown that they are at odds with each other, perhaps even more so than the original duo.  It would’ve been nice if these two had come in a bit before the end, so they would’ve had a chance to evolve, but they did fine the way it played out.

While at first, Lacy struggled to find a personality for his character that differed from Jim’s, he soon became a welcome member of the ensemble.   Although he was strait-laced a lot of the time, he did occasionally get to engage in some Jim-like shenanigans (such as in the aforementioned “The Target”). It was also refreshing to see an on-and-off romance that ended on an off when Erin ended up with Pete instead of Andy.  He treated her far better than Andy did, and it was ultimately the right call, in my opinion. And, as a plus, he memorized the entire script to Die Hard, so that definitely earns a few points.

Duke interacted with Wilson a lot more and to better success than Lacy did with Krasinski.  Nowhere is this better illustrated than in “Suit Warehouse” where they play a rather convincing father/son duo and develop a good banter that it would’ve been nice to see go somewhere.

 22) David Wallace

Portrayed by Andy Buckley (Recurring Seasons 2-6, 8-9)

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“*David glares at Michael*”- S3, Ep. 23 (The Job)

David Wallace was never officially a main character of the show, and although he showed little promise outside of just being a guy from corporate in his Season 2 debut, he quickly became like a member of the Office family.  David almost seemed like the man Jim could’ve become in fifteen years time, with his looks at the camera and exasperation at Michael’s antics.  He was always fun to watch in scenes with Steve Carell, usually acting as a straight-man, except for in “Sabre”  (S6, Ep. 15) in which their roles are reversed and Buckley really gets a chance to let loose as Carell’s Michael stares in confusion. The “Suck It!” song was definitely a highlight of said episode and was fun as a returning gag in the Season 6 finale. In addition to his comedic acting, Buckley also did well with serious fare, such as Season 4 highlight “The Deposition” in which Buckley subtly shows the struggle of staying true to the company while trying not to throw Michael under the bus. While it would be a stretch to say the show suffered without him in Season 7, it certainly always was nice when he was around.

21) Robert California

Portrayed by James Spader (Guest Season 7, Starring Season 8)

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“Life is long. Opinions change.  Winners, prove me right.  Losers, prove me wrong.”- S8, Ep. 1 (The List)

Of all the A-list guest stars who appeared as applicants for the Regional Manager position at the end of Season 7,  Spader was without a doubt the funniest.  So it makes perfect sense that he ended up filling the role and becoming a series regular in Season 8.  For the first few episodes, he kept up the momentum with quirky “-isms” and the gravitas that Spader is known for.  But about halfway through the season, the character runs out of mileage, and even saying he made it that long is a bit generous.  The fault does not lie with Spader’s performance, however.  I simply think that the writers just bit off more than they could chew with the character and realized they couldn’t sustain the quotability and comedic value the character brought in his debut.  So for the rest of the season, they had Robert switch between roles and contradict himself.  He went from kind mentor to unsympathetic corporate suit and from “just one of the guys” to an  air of superiority and back again.  Even his exit seemed out-of-place, with the explanation of him leaving to train gymnasts in Europe giving off the vibe of “it’s funny because it’s random and quirky” that permeated so much of his dialogue.

20) Meredith Palmer

Portrayed by Kate Flannery (Starring Seasons 1-9)

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“I’m excited about doing the ad, but I’m not really used to doing videos with so many people around.”- S4, Ep. 5 (Local Ad)

For the first few seasons of the show, Meredith was easily my least favorite character.  I didn’t think she contributed any funny lines, and was simply there to flash people and be the butt of alcoholism jokes. Lather, rinse, repeat.  Her only really funny moment was when she got hit by the car in “Fun Run” (S4, Ep. 1) and that was more just because of the situation she was placed in, not because of anything she did.  But gradually, I began the see the appeal of the character.  Every office has a drunk archetype and a promiscuous staff member, and she embodied both of those perfectly.  Not every character’s line has be laugh-out-loud funny, and Meredith showed this.  There was never any one season or episode where she stood out, but she was consistently funny in a supporting role and would occasionally shine through.

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19) Roy Anderson

Portrayed by David Denman (Starring Seasons 1-3, Guest Seasons 5, 7, 9)

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“I am going to kill Jim Halpert.”- S3, Ep. 17 (Cocktails)

While not one of the most comedic characters on the show, Roy is higher up on the list because of his story purpose and serious acting.  In the first two seasons, Roy was PPam’s fiance who clearly did not treat her well but was seemingly oblivious to his imperfections.  Denman did a good job of portraying Roy’s cocky attitude, but he didn’t reach his peak until Season 3.  Pam and Roy had broken up between Seasons 2 and 3, and Roy is now shown to be a much more somber man.  Through his physical acting, Denman shows that Roy is broken and lost without Pam and leaves the viewers guessing as to whether this is genuine or simply a ploy to get her back.  It is shown to be the latter when Pam goes back to him about halfway through the season, and after a few seasons of his same old pattern, things finally come to a head in “Cocktails”. As Pam talks about a fresh start and no secrets,  Roy’s expression goes from confusion to anger as he realizes what Pam is implying.  He then proceeds to wreck the bar and we get a glimpse at the rage beneath the surface as “Carry On Wayward Son” plays in the background. Not to mention his episode-closing line (see above), which is utterly chilling.  This is all resolved swiftly in the next episode when he attempts to attack Jim but is pepper-sprayed by Dwight and subsequently fired.  His later guest appearances didn’t really add anyhting to the character, however.

18) Phyllis Lapin-Vance

Portrayed by Phyllis Smith (Starring Seasons 1-9)

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“I’m glad Michael’s getting help.  He has a lot of issues. And he’s stupid.”- S7, Ep. 2 (Counseling)

Even though Phyllis was one of the less prominent female characters, she still had moments to shine.  A lot of the humor of her character revolves around her saying shocking or surprisingly crass things out of the blue and that seem out of character given her normally timid and “office mom”-like personality.  Her character really began to evolve and show more sides of her personality during  the 5th season, partially due to her discovering Angela and Dwight’s affair.  This gave her leverage and, finally, the upper hand in her long-standing feud with Angela.  With this new power though, she could occasionally be too catty or come off as somewhat condescending.  For the most part, Phyllis wasn’t a bad character.  She just isn’t as memorable as some of the others.

17) Erin Hannon

Portrayed by Ellie Kemper (Recurring Season 5, Starring Seasons 6-9)

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“Disposable cameras are fun, but they seem a little wasteful.  You never get to see your pictures.”- S7, Ep. 2 (Counseling)

Erin was introduced as a replacement receptionist for Pam near the end of Season 5, and at times she did feel like just that: A younger, stripped down Pam.  Whereas Pam was unsure of herself and insecure in the first few seasons as reasons for her indecisiveness, Erin was portrayed as just being unintelligent. Although she did deliver some funny quips and was able to pull off the wide-eyed innocent look, the writers never seemed to be able to pin down how smart they wanted her to be.  She went from being just inexperienced to incompetent, to street-wise and all in between.  Her on-and-off with Andy just seemed like a way to liven things up in case Jim and Pam got to stale, but the characters just weren’t investing enough.  That being said, it did showcase Kemper’s sweeter side, almost to a fault in Season 8.  Kemper also did a good job of playing a student and bouncing off of “mentor” characters like Pam and Michael, which showed how those characters had grown.

16) Holly Flax

Portrayed by Amy Ryan (Guest Season 4, Recurring Season 5, Starring Season 7)

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“And that’s the story of how I ended up on the floor.  You like it? I’m thinking of selling the movie rights.”- S4, Ep. 14 (Goodbye, Toby)

Ryan’s Holly was originally introduced as an HR replacement for Paul Lieberstein’s Toby Flenderson.  Because of Michael’s hatred for Toby, he naturally began with an animosity towards Holly, but this quickly morphed into a friendship and then into a relationship.  It was nice to see Michael with someone who didn’t drive him to self-destructive habits like he had in the past.  Despite being known mostly as a dramatic actress, Ryan fit right  in with the comedy style of The Office.  It made perfect sense why Michael would fall for her, given her cheesy jokes and impressions and generally dorky personality.  However, at times they were almost a bit too similar and it felt like Ryan was doing an impression of a female Michael Scott (Michelle Scott?).  The momentum of the storyline was lost a bit in Season 6, from which Ryan was wholly absent, but things picked up pretty much without missing a beat in Season 7, when she came back and finally made an honest man out of Michael.  Season 7 is definitely where Ryan’s more dramatic background came into play as Holly struggled between staying with her current boyfriend or risking everything for Michael.  It speaks volumes for Ryan and Carell’s chemistry that their characters’ love story was almost as heartwarming as Jim and Pam’s despite significantly less time together.

15) Kelly Kapoor

Portrayed by Mindy Kaling (Starring Seasons 1-8, Guest Season 9)

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“I mean, who says exactly what they’re thinking? What kind of game is that?”- S4, Ep. 4 (Money)

Although first introduced as a no-nonsense office worker in “Diversity Day”, Kelly drastically changed in Season 2 to become the flighty pop-culture obsessed character we all know.  As one of the “actor/writers” on the show (along with BJ Novak and Paul Lieberstein), Kaling really knows the ins and outs of the material.  She plays Kelly as unapologetically vain, shallow, and boy crazy. Most characters can be hindered by annoying traits, but Kelly is only made all the more watchable by hers.  It’s certainly not the most dramatically challenging role, but it is one that allows her to let loose comedically.  This can range from her talking head interviews, which are some of the funniest on the show due to her gossiping nature, to her physical comedy, which is highlighted in episodes like “Weight Loss.”  Lastly, Kaling has superb chemistry with her romantic interest BJ Novak and you really believe that she would stay with him in spite of everything he’s done to her.

14) Jan Levinson

Portrayed by Melora Hardin (Starring Seasons 1-4, Guest Seasons 5, 7, 9)

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“Babe, can you just like, really…you’re just like, really…can you just simmer down? Seriously.”- s4, Ep. 9 (Dinner Party)

Jan has quite possibly the most backward character development on the show, and her psychotic downward spiral is painfully fun to watch.  She starts off as the level-headed executive in Season 1, and begins slipping up in Season 2.  By  Season 3, she has no regard for her job and is dripping with self-loathing as she just gives up.  Then in Season 4, she reaches a low and becomes the girlfriend from hell.  Melora Hardin does a great job illustrating just how Jan got to where she is, and her condescending and passive-aggressive sighs and eye rolls say more than words about what she really thinks of her and Michael.  Her shouting match with Steve Carell in “Dinner Party” is a highlight of the show and illustrates the awkward humor that made the show popular, as the two of them used the perfect tone and pitch to draw the right reaction from each line.  Even if Jan’s relationship with Michael didn’t have a happy ending like his with Holly, what it lacked in warmth, it made up for in chaotic energy.  She also had the advantage of more screen presence to better show the ups and downs.

13) Andy Bernard

Portrayed by Ed Helms (Starring Seasons 3-9)

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“Andy Bernard does not lose contests. He wins them. Or he quits because they’re unfair.”- S5, Ep. 1 (Weight Loss)

Andy Bernard could’ve been significantly higher or significantly lower depending on when this list was written during the course of the show.  He starts off as just kind of an annoying guy for Jim to eye roll at and doesn’t really do much of note his first season except punch a wall.  In Season 4, he becomes Dwight’s frenemy which was an interesting development seeing as they had been strictly enemies in Season 3.  He gradually gets better over time and then peaks in Season 7’s “Andy’s Play” which made him seem like a viable replacement for Michael as manager. … And then Season 8 happened. In which he did replace Michael as manager.  On a totally unrelated note, it was the worst season of the show. It became clear the writers picked Andy for Regional Manager because he had the lest defined characteristics and could easily be molded into a poor man’s Michael Scott.  While the show got better in Season 9, he did not.  After he disappeared for half of the season on a boat, he came back and acted like an entitled jerk that even Season 3 Andy would balk at and it was relief when he quit.  He did redeem himself somewhat in the finale, but his story seemed largely like an afterthought. That being said, he’s still a pretty good guitar player regardless of his personality.

12) Kevin Malone

Portrayed by Brian Baumgartner (Starring Seasons 1-9)

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“I had Martin explain to me three times what he got arrested for because it sounds an awful lot like what I do here every day.”- S3, Ep. 9 (The Convict)

During the first season or two, when the show mainly focused on the core five characters (Michael, Jim, Pam, Dwight, and Ryan), the supporting players didn’t have as much to do since the writers were still trying to figure their characters out.  However, Kevin was one of the more prominently featured of these supporting players.  In the start,  Kevin was the source of some of the show’s dark humor, usually because of his knowing grins and his matter-of-fact delivery with no filter to what he said.  However, as the show went on, the writers started to portray his lack of filter as being because of his stupidity, which grew exponentially each season.  This bumps his character down a few spots as he had the most noticeable “caricature-izing” of anyone on the cast.  However, regardless of his intelligence level in any season, he could be called upon for a good one-liner or a priceless confused facial expression.  Not to mention his talent on the drums, as a member of Scrantonicity (1 and 2) as well as Kevin and the Zits

11) Stanley Hudson

Portrayed by Leslie David Baker (Starring Seasons 1-9)

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“Boy, have you lost your mind?! ‘Cause I’ll help you find it!”- S2, Ep. 18 (Take Your Daughter To Work Day)

Much like Kevin, Stanley was one of the more heavily-featured supporting players in the first couple of seasons.  However, outside of the two personality traits the writers gave him at the start (his temper and his ambivalence for his work  and co-workers), he didn’t get to much of an arc or character development.  That being said, his temper was always mined for jokes in episodes like “Did I Stutter?” or “Stress Relief” and Stanley rants are like Dr. Cox rants on Scrubs: they just never get old.  Plus, it’s always fun to see this contrasted against an occasional happier side like in “Pretzel Day” or the Florida arc.  He’s also one of the few people who called Michael out on his idiocy, oftentimes with his patented pursed-lips stare or simply by burying his head in a crossword puzzle.  This actions speak louder than words, and his words were already pretty loud.

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10) Angela Martin

Portrayed by Angela Kinsey (Starring Seasons 1-9)

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“Sometimes, the clothes at GapKids are too flashy.  So, I am forced to go to the American  Girl store and order clothes for large colonial dolls.”- S3, Ep. 21 (Women’s Appreciation)

At first, Angela was simply portrayed as the overbearing, holier-than-thou head accountant who rubbed everyone that she worked with the wrong way.  The character didn’t really get interesting until halfway through Season 2 when her affair with Dwight exposed the hypocrisy of all her lectures to the staff.  It’s hard to sympathize with her for this, and the show doesn’t try to make you, as Angela works great as a love-to-hate character.  Angela is also responsible for arguably the funniest five seconds in the entire show, when during the fire scene in “Stress Relief”, she yells at Oscar to “Save Bandit!” and throws her cat into the roof, watching in horror as he falls right back out.  Angela reaches her dramatic peak and also moral low during the first part of Season 9, when she finds out Oscar had an affair with her husband.  She orders a hit on Oscar, which leads to a great confrontation between the two, who had been portrayed largely as friends up until this point.  Angela is shown to become a better person near the end, and finally finds happiness in “Finale.”

9) Oscar Marinez

Portrayed by Oscar Nunez (Starring Seasons 1-9)

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“Hey, I just wanted you to know that you can’t just say the word ‘bankruptcy’ and expect anything to happen”- S4, Ep. 4 (Money)

This is one of the rankings that people may disagree with more than others, as Oscar is somewhat of a polarizing character.  However, I happen to like his line delivery and comedic timing.  Oscar always worked best when playing off of other characters, whether it be his “simart guy/dumb guy” duo with Kevin, his begrudging mutual respect with Angela, or his shock at every new low Michael sinks to.  Nowhere is this better illustrated than in “Gay Witch Hunt” when he watches helplessly in horror as Michael leans in to kiss him on the lips.  Although many viewers were off-put by his know-it-all nature, it was always fun to watch him get proven wrong (or occasionally proven right).  His increased role in Season 9 also allowed Nunez to do more with the character in regards to the Senator storyline. Nunez plays the whole thing perfectly from his acknowledgement of guilt when he reveals his affair, to his fright and attempts at reasoning in “The Target” to, finally, he crushing heartbreak as it is revealed the Senator has cheated on both him and Angela.

8) Ryan Howard

Portrayed by BJ Novak (Starring Seasons 1-8, Guest Season 9)

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“If I had to, I could clean out my desk in five seconds, and nobody would know I’d ever been here.  And I’d forget, too.”- S2, Ep. 13 (The Secret)

Ryan was a new hire in the first episode, and meant to be the “audience surrogate” who had fresh eyes and perspective about everyone at Dunder Mifflin.  Although he had a diminished role for his last few seasons (often only having a single line per episode), he was an integral part of the show’s beginning.  In the first few seasons, he made the rise from temp to salesman, making jabs at the company and it’s employees the entire way.  Every few episodes or so, he gave a reminder that he’d rather be anywhere else.  But the character didn’t really hit his peak until Season 4, when he took Jan’s old job and became the closest thing the show ever had to a true “villain”-type character with his glib, yuppie demeanor.  This helped to set up some great arcs for both Jim and Michael as Ryan tried to screw over everyone who helped him get where he was.  Ultimately this backfired, and by Season 5, he was right back where he started.  One of the highlight’s of the character’s later appearances was that in every Season 6 episode, the character had a different “style” which served to show how non-genuine he is.

7) Darryl Philbin

Portrayed by Craig Robinson (Recurring Seasons 1-3, Starring Seasons 4-9)

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“We do safety training every year or after an accident.  We’ve never made it a full year.”- S3, Ep. 19 (Safety Training)

For the first half of the show’s tenure, even after Robinson was promoted to “Starring” status, Darryl was the definition of a supporting player.  He’d appear for a scene or two each episode, make some clever remark about Michael’s ignorance and then that was that.  In episodes where he did feature more prominently (such as the above “Safety Training), Robinson was able to give off the impression that despite working in the warehouse, Darryl was probably smarter than everyone who worked upstairs due to his calm, logical, and rational demeanor.  Darryl finally became a bigger part of the family when he was given an office upstairs by Jo Bennett in Season 6.  This allowed Robinson to flesh Darryl out more as a character, and we got to see that he was kind of a softie underneath his tough-guy exterior.  He also had a good rapport with Jim, and it was believable that the two were each other’s best friends in the office. Much like with Oscar, part of Darryl’s likability comes from Robinson’s line delivery.  To quote Darryl himself: “He’s got a nice way of talking.”

6) Creed Bratton

Portrayed by Creed Bratton (Starring Seasons 1-9)

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“I’m not offended by homosexuality.  In the ’60s, I made love to many, many women, often outdoors, in the mud or in the rain.  It’s possible a man slipped in.  There’d be no way of knowing.”- S3, Ep. 1 (Gay Witch Hunt)

 While many characters share a first name with the actor that plays them, Creed is the only one with the same first and last name, and it has been shown through various anecdotes (such as the fictional Creed being a member of the band The Grass Roots, as was the real Creed) that the character is meant to be a fictionalized version of the actor who plays him.  The truth of the matter is that Creed has little character development and there are no storylines in which he features centrally, but he does function as a human quote machine and probably generates one of the highest numbers of laughs per line of any character.  Seriously, it took longer to chose the quote for Creed than it did for any other character.  Also, of all the musically-inclined characters, Creed was by far the most talented, and it was fitting to have the show end with one the real Bratton’s musical compositions (“All the Faces”.

5) Toby Flenderson

Portrayed by Paul Lieberstein (Starring Seasons 1-9)

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Toby: “We should get the air quality tested.  Radon… and absestos. These are the silent killers.”

Michael: “You’re the silent killer, Toby.  Go back to the annex.”

-S5, Ep. 9 (The Surplus)

While BJ Novak and Mindy Kaling are actor/writers, Paul Lieberstein is more of a writer/actor, and he never intended to reprise the role of Toby after his brief cameo in “Diversity Day”.  It’s a good thing he did, however, because he brought us one of the best characters in the show’s history.  Every ensemble show needs to have the put-upon sad sack character, and Toby fits this role to a tee.  Because people often ignore him, he is able to offer a dry, fly-on-the-wall commentary on some of the show’s more absurd moments (“This may be the first time a male subordinate has attempted to get a modest, scheduled raise by threatening to withhold sex from his female superior.  It will be a landmark case when it inevitably goes to trial”- S3, Ep. 18 (The Negotiation)).  Toby also works well as the set-up the some of Michael’s greatest punchlines, such as the one above, and, of course, the iconic “NO, GOD, NO!” line in “Frame Toby.”

4) Pam Beesly

Portrayed by Jenna Fischer (Starring Seasons 1-9)

opam

“Hey. I wanna say something. I’ve been trying to be more honest lately, and I just need to say a few things. I did the coal walk. Just… I did it. Michael, you couldn’t even do that. Maybe I should be your boss. Wow, I feel really good right now.”- S3, Ep. 23 (Beach Games)

 I have a constant debate with myself over who the heart of the show is: Jim or Pam.  And I’ve come to a sort of compromise about it.  Jim may be the heart of the show, but Pam is it’s conscience.  She’s Michael’s last goodbye in “Goodbye Michael”  and Dwight even admits that she is h s best friend in “Finale”.  She keeps all the other characters grounded and gets too little credit for doing so. She may not be the most laugh-out loud funny, but her reactions are priceless (much like Jim’s (yet another reason they were meant to be together).  Fischer does a really good job of portraying Pam’s shift in personality between two distinct eras: “Old Pam”(aka Pam w/ Roy: Seasons 1-3) and “New Pam” (aka Pam w/ Jim: Seasons 4-9).  For the first few seasons of the show, she was quiet and mousy, making little observations and doing things to make the office better without getting any credit or notice, partially because she thought she didn’t deserve any.  But starting in Season 4, she became more take charge and a stronger, more confident woman. She had integrity and wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she thought was right.  Her final line in the series (which is also the final line of the series, period):“There’s so much beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”- S9, Ep. 24 not only describes Dunder Mifflin, but also her.  There are thousands of office administrators, receptionists, and moms all throughout the country and world, but despite being seemingly just another ordinary person, Pam was actually an extraordinary one.

3) Jim Halpert

Portrayed by John Krasinski (Starring Seasons 1-9)

ojim

“Michael stands at the front of the boat and says that he’s king of the world within the first hour or I give you my next paycheck.”- S2, Ep. 11 (Booze Cruise)

I say that Jim is the heart of the show because ultimately, he goes through the most character development.  While Pam made a shift between Seasons 3 and 4, Jim’s change was constant and gradual (not to mention, easily defined by his hairstyle).  In addition, the Jim and Pam relationship is told from Jim’s perspective in the beginning. This relationship, as it evolves, is one of the sweetest aspects of the show, and when that kept people coming back.  It was very easy to buy Krasinski and Fischer as a couple, even in Season 9, when Jim and Pam hit some turbulence.  Jim also represents the everyman of the office environment.  He keeps himself sane in a job that he hates by cracking jokes and messing with Dwight.  Everyone has done something like that before, even if they’ve kept it internalized.  Jim’s pranks on Dwight are some of the most iconic and quotable moments from the show, and Wilson and Krasinski have a great give-and-take.  We see them evolve from enemies to begrudging allies to, eventually, true friends.  Jim, like Pam, may not be the most outright funny, but he is clever, and constantly offers sarcastic jibes to point out how crazy Michael is.  And, of course, he is the king of reaction shots.

2) Dwight Schrute

Portrayed by Rainn Wilson (Starring Seasons 1-9)

odwight

“I am ready to face any challenges that might be foolish enough to face me”- S3, Ep. 14 (The Return)

While some casual fans of The Office may find Dwight to be a bit much in the first couple of seasons, Dwight really hits his stride near the end of Season 2 (not that he wasn’t great before) and is a comedic force to be reckoned with.  Whether it’s delivering an anecdote about his strange (to say the least) upbringing or delivering a withering comment about the incompetence of his co-workers (specifically Jim), Dwight is guaranteed to induce quite a few laughs.  And while he often maintains a strait-laced demeanor, it’s a joy to see him flash that rare Dwight smile.  Much like Creed, Dwight is infinitely quotable, but he also has character development in spades.  Dwight slowly becomes more of a sympathetic character as the show goes on once you realize why he is the way he is.  He had the potential to do anything in the paper industry and mistakenly chose to go to work for Michael Scott in what was ultimately a dead-end job.  He sucks up to the boss to salvage any chance to get ahead while secretly simmering with anger beneath the surface.  This becomes quite apparent in Season 5’s “Stress Relief” when Dwight turns on a dime from defending Michael to angrily tearing him down (“You weak, pathetic, little man.  You have no friends, no family, and no land.”)  in one of the episode’s stand-out moments.  His relationship with Angela is one of the stranger on the show, but it starts to make sense the more you think about it.  The longer the show goes on, the more you root for them, and the more they influence each other the better.  Their break-up at the beginning of Season 4 and Dwight’s resulting heartbreak is a surprisingly affecting moment given how unlikable Dwight can be.  Now, to save the best for last, Dwight’s relationship with Jim and their constant prank war is  one thing that makes The Office truly unique.  I’ve already touched on their relationship above, and by the end it seems completely believable that they would be as close of friends as they are.

1) Michael Scott

Portrayed by Steve Carell (Starring Seasons 1-7, Guest Season 9)

omichael

“Would I rather be feared or loved? Eay. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”- S2, Ep. 6 (The Fight)

With all due respect to the other characters, it really couldn’t have been anyone else.  Jim? Amazing! Dwight? Superb! But it always comes back to Michael Scott. It may be cliche to list the main character as the best, and for most shows, the main character wouldn’t be, but with Michael, there was never any question.  The reason that Steve Carell is such a beloved actor is that, much like a Bill Murray-type, he succeeds equally at comedy and drama and is able to navigate deftly between the two.  It would’ve been easy to just play Michael as “quirky” and let the hilarity ensue.  And to many people, that may be all he was and that may be enough.  But if you read between the lines (both scripted and ad-libbed), there is a tragic, utterly human character that any actor would be happy to play.  Yes, he may tell (unintentionally) racist and sexist jokes, but it’s all because he wants to be loved by his employees and thinks that his humor is the way to get there.  It may seem like not enough to justify it, but everyone has had that moment where the harder you try to impress someone, the harder you fail.  That is Michael’s entire existence. It’s never outright stated, but it doesn’t have to be.  Carell shows it through subtle gestures like his forlorn look at the end of “Take Your Daughter To Work Day” or by passing it off as humor, such as in the above quote.  Like Dwight says, Michael has no true friends or family, so he tries to mold his employees into those roles. He keeps the “World’s Best Boss” mug not because he’s bragging, but because he so desperately wants it to be true.  And while he starts off a bit rough around the edges and seems mostly unsympathetic, the farther along the show gets, the more he succeeds in this pursuit.  This made the audience, and even the characters, root for him, and that’s why his send-off was so touching and his story resolution was well-deserved. And while Jim may win in facial expressions, Michael has the most infectious laugh you’ll ever hear.

Agree? Great! Disagree? Much more likely! Either way, be sure to leave your opinion below.

~Erik W.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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