Tonight, NBC's surprisingly long-running sitcom The Office comes to an end with a super-sized 75-minute finale.
Inspired by the British show of the same name, the American version, which aired on March 24, 2005, nearly tanked in the first season. However, the faux documentary about a small paper company in Pennsylvania managed to find its footing, becoming the network's highest-rated scripted series by the second season, and going on to win four Emmys.
The show's success was largely thanks to the cringe-worthy comedic craftsmanship of Steve Carell, who played Michael Scott, Dunder Mifflin's bumbling boss. But the quirks and romantic triangles of the company's employees — most notably the will-they-won't-they relationship of Jim and Pam — kept audiences tuning in.
The show has been on death watch ever since Carell's exit after the seventh season, but the little sitcom about the tedium of the daily grind marched on to the beat of its own drum. (For a helpful primer on the show's storylines since Michael Scott moved out of Scranton, check out TIME's cheatsheet before tonight's episode.)
In honor of The Office's shuttered doors, here is a collection of the best tributes to the sitcom from around the web:
1. Beyond the workplace, The Office was about love and family
Robert Lloyd at the Los Angeles Times says the show's essence is, simply, love:
Situation comedy is almost always about family, whether or not the characters are related: "A lot of these people, this is the only family they have," Michael says in an early episode, showing the camera a mug that reads "World's Best Boss." "So, as far as I'm concerned, this says 'World's Best Dad.'"
You can think of it as a sort of popular-art "Waiting for Godot," in which the characters irritate and entertain one another to pass their blurring days. They pull pranks, play games, plan parties and throw parties. ("When do people work?" Phyllis is asked. ""We find little times during the day," she responds.) But in this kind of comedy, there is also the possibility for change, for advancement, for meaning, for love.
Love. It's one of the things we come to TV for: Not only for the love one character might bear another within an ongoing fiction, but for the perceptible love between the real people who play them. [Los Angeles Times]
2. What we actually learned from TV's most cringe-worthy boss
We didn't laugh through nine seasons of The Office without learning a little bit about workplace politics. Kevin Fallon at The Week heroically pulled together 22 tips that range from employee-boss best practices to how to take pride in your work.
Victor Lipman at Forbes, meanwhile, narrowed his focus to the unique management skills of Michael Scott. Number one on the Forbes list of management lessons? "Don't be afraid to act like a lunatic." Lipman continues:
Embrace your Inner Lunatic. Hey, it’s OK, plenty of executives already do, so why shouldn’t you? It actually works pretty well, keeps employees off balance, uncertain, on their toes. Effective control comes in many forms. [Forbes]
3. The writer behind the scenes
Alain Sepinwall at HitFix addressed the question we've all been wondering:
How did this possibly work? How did a show about an oblivious clod who had to buy himself a World's Greatest Boss mug — because none of his actual employees would ever think to do it — become a hit? How did a show with so many combustible, seemingly mismatched elements, become one of the best, most influential comedies of the 21st century?
The answer begins with two words: [writer] Greg Daniels.
Daniels is a smart, gifted writer, and one who can adapt when things aren't working. The pilot's bad because Carell is not [Ricky] Gervais, and therefore Michael Scott shouldn't have been David Brent — even though both men shared common attributes (and hit it off famously when Gervais cameo'ed late in Carell's run) — and even before The 40-Year-Old Virgin was released (which helped the writers, and also drove viewers to find the series and its suddenly popular star), Daniels and his team began adapting the show to fit its star and country. The episode immediately after the pilot, "Diversity Day" — in which Michael gets in trouble for wanting to perform the Chris Rock routine about the difference between black people and, um, other black people — remains one of the show's funniest, most representative episodes. The Michael Scott in it is still a pretty insufferable character, but there's now a context for him. And the Jim subplot — where he loses his biggest sale of the year but judges the day a success because Pam fell asleep on his shoulder during a long meeting in the conference room — also set a template for how the show could advance that storyline with minimal screen time and the tiniest of baby steps. [HitFix]
4. A humorous end to that pesky documentary
The fact that a documentary producer would be interested in a small, unknown paper company in rural Pennsylvania was one of those mysteries that was always just accepted. But when you take it out of sitcom world, it's obviously ridiculous. Which is why The Onion's short tribute is a memorable one. The headline reads: "The Office Ends As Documentary Crew Gets All The Footage It Needs." Interviewing the fake documentary's filmmaker Ian Sheffield, the news brief continues:
"In retrospect, we really over-shot this thing by an enormous margin," said Sheffield, adding that he likely had more than enough good material after filming a British workplace from 2001 to 2003. "We would have finished much earlier if one employee or another didn't insist on being interviewed every three minutes. And I have no idea why we were invited to Jim and Pam's wedding. All of that stuff is totally unusable." [The Onion]
5. The best of The Office in 2 minutes
If you'd like to take a really quick trip down memory lane, look no further than Now This News' 2-minute video compilation of The Office's best moments: