I had a friend from college who adamantly refused to watch NBC's "The Office." How dare the stupid Americans attempt to adapt the British series! Shameful!
This was the kind of guy whose dorm bookcase had boasted coveted bootleg copies of British cult-comedy "Spaced" and now, post-graduation, was working at the cool-kids video store near campus.
"Ricky Gervais is a God. And you don't mess with the Gods," I remember him saying. It was college and he had to stand for something.
But if Gervais is a God, Steve Carell is a demigod. While Gervais' David Brent was unquestionably brilliant and ground-breaking, Carell's Michael Scott has been a force himself — cringe-worthy, despicable, unabashedly clueless and yet hilarious and oddly sympathetic.
So in a salute to Carell's last "that's what she said" hurrah on Thursday, here's a look at my 10 favorite Scott moments (which was tough — "A Benihana Christmas" just missed the cut). I apologize to my friend, but this is deserved. JORDAN BARTEL, B
10. Michael attempts improv
"E-mail Surveillance," Season 2, 2005
Mr. Scott is an improviser who needs much improvement. Or improv skills. Scott exasperated improv class must put up with his go-to device (he has a gun!) even when the scene never calls for such weaponry. Here, Michael is the guy you hate, but the guy you ultimately feel sorry for — not only is he rejected by his own office (Jim holds a party for the staff but doesn't invite the boss, but the improv class decides to head to a bar without him.
9. The commercial auteur
"Local Ad," Season 4, 2007
In an early display of his directorial prowess (culminating in this season's feature-film, "Threat Level Midnight"), Michael shoots a promotional commercial for Dunder Mifflin, which is, shockingly, rejected by corporate. It's pure Scott — gleefully bad and silly but ultimately loving. So Jim returns the love by making a local bar play the commercial — to heartwarming applause.
8. Bad man
"Scott's Tots," Season 6, 2009
Most critics thought this strange episode was over-the-top Scott. I thought it was brilliant. The titular "Tots" (right), are a group of underprivileged students. Michael had, 10 years ago, promised to pay their college tuition if they graduated high school. They all have, and though Michael can't pay, he visits the school and is serenaded by the Tots, who tell their tearful overcoming-the-odds story. Instead, Michael offers each laptop batteries. The cringe-iest of the cringe-worthy "Office" moments.
"Dream Team," Season 5, 2009
I had my doubts. A subplot about Michael founding his own paper company? With Pam and Ryan? Not even guest-star Idris Elba (Stringer Bell!) as his replacement made me feel better about the situation. Until this episode. Somehow it all works, especially the scene where Michael faces his own grandma turning him down for funding. But the best part is when Michael consoles Pam, who is worried about jumping ship to the Michael Scott Paper Company. Touchingly well-acted, it's one of those strange Michael-Pam moments that strengthens their odd bond.
6. Worst couple ever
"Dinner Party," Season 4, 2008
Did anyone like Jan, Michael's on-again, off-again (but always on the crazytrain) paramour? Even Michael couldn't stand her by the time of this episode, which featured perhaps the most awkward gathering ever, replete with innocuous fights between Jan and Michael (neon signs? Worth arguing over!) and a revelation that Jan made Michael get a vasectomy, get it reversed and then reversed again. Good to see Michael, with the support of Jim and Pam, stand up for what he believes in, even if it is just keeping a St. Pauli Girl light-up advertisement.
5. R.I.P. Dundies
"Michael's Last Dundies," Season 7, 2011
The Dundie Awards are always controversial (see Phyllis' Season 1 Busiest Beaver citation, mislabeled Bushiest Beaver), but not always this sweet. After giving Andy the Doobie Doobie Pothead Stoner of the Year Award (because he tried marijuana once in college), the staff serenades their boss (left) with "Seasons of Michael," an altered-lyrics version of "Rent's" "Seasons of Love." "This is going to hurt like a motherf---er," Michael says. I agree (and may have teared up a bit).
4. Michael's art
"Business School," Season 3, 2007
The best "Office" episodes balance Michael's clueless and tender sides. Here, Michael completely flubs a speaking engagement at Ryan's business school with his lame antics (ever cliché-laden, he urges the students to tear out the pages of their textbooks because they can't learn from them). Later though, Michael is the only one who praises Pam's art and her show, which makes her tear up. See? There's a good guy there under the obnoxiousness.
3. Politically incorrect
"Diversity Day," Season 1, 2005
Michael has never been the most socially aware person. But when he takes over a standard corporate racial-sensitivity seminar, he reaches new levels of sweet ineptitude, giving each staffer an index card with an ethnicity and telling them to mix up the melting pot. He tells Stanley that calling it "collard greens" doesn't make sense because "You don't called them 'collard people.' That's offensive." He pairs a Jew with an African-American because it's "the Olympics of suffering." It's oh-so deliciously wrong.
2. Queer behavior
"Gay Witch Hunt," Season 3, 2006
When Michael inadvertently outs Oscar, he boasts that he's now "in charge of putting an end to 100,000 years of being weirded-out by gays." He even shares an almost-too-painful-to-watch kiss with Oscar. But he still doesn't quite "get it." Upon seeing Oscar leave the office and get in a car with another guy, Michael says to himself, "There's Oscar's roommate. Hmm. I wonder if he knows?"
1. Scared straight
"The Convict," Season 3, 2006
Michael Scott has had many alter egos over the years: Michael Klump, Caleb Crawdad, Date Mike. But his best is Prison Mike (right), a purple bandana-wearing badass who claims that all you eat in prison is gruel omelettes and your hair. Prison Mike leads a meeting when it's discovered that a new employee is a former convict and the staff jokes that his prison stint sounds cushy compared to Dunder Mifflin. The worst part about prison for Prison Mike? "The Dementors," he says.
Jordan Bartel is assistant editor at b. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter, @jordanbartel
Photo by NBC, screengrabs via YouTube and TBS