‘The Office’ Will Leave Netflix, But Not Before We Remind You How Jewish It Is
American mental health entered an unofficial state of crisis on Tuesday when it was announced that the sitcom “The Office” will be leaving the streaming service Netflix.
The nine-season NBC mockumentary, based on the British show of the same name, went off the air in 2013. But the comedy, about a paper supply company in Scranton, Pennsylvania, has enjoyed a second life on Netflix. On Tuesday, the media giant announced that they will relinquish streaming rights back to NBC when their contract to host “The Office” ends, in 2021.
And we won’t let the mourning period begin without noting how very, very Jewish the making of “The Office” was.
Netflix is notoriously shifty when it comes to releasing streaming figures, but NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt told New York Magazine that “The Office” is the most popular show on Netflix, not counting Netflix originals.
Watching and re-watching “The Office” has a strangely soothing power — for every humiliation, there is absolution. The ratio of jokes per moment-of-yearning is exquisite. The more you watch, the more the characters feel like family.
But who made that family? You know what we’re going to say.
Okay, so the original British office, made by Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais, had very little Jewish presence. Perhaps if King Edward had thought twice about expelling the Jews in 1290, the British “Office” would be as beloved as the American one! Alas.
Greg Daniels, the “Saturday Night Live” alum who brought “The Office” to the States, is likewise not Jewish. However, along with the original Brits, Daniels produced “The Office” for NBC with Jewish producers Howard Klein and Ben Silverman (now we’re cooking with schmaltz!) That team brought on B.J. Novak, a Camp Ramah alum who was cast as Ryan Howard and also joined the writing staff. Novak wrote with a group that included [Mike Schur](https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/good-place-religion-explained-mike-schur-interview-927402, who later went on to create the NBC sitcoms “Parks and Recreation” and “The Good Place,” and appeared throughout the series as Dwight’s mysterious cousin, Mose.
Like Novak, Paul Lieberstein was hired to serve multiple roles. The Jewish writer from Westport, Connecticut was actually referred to the show by Novak. Lieberstein initially wrote for the show, then was cast as Toby, the much maligned office human resources manager. His brother, also a writer and producer on the show, was married to Angela Kinney, who played accountant Angela Martin on the show. Lieberstein went on to serve as show-runner for “The Office” for several years. The same year Lieberstein became show-runner, Jewish New Jersy-ite Zach Woods was cast as the eerie, mumbling lackey Gabe Lewis. Jewish actress Rashida Jones got her first big break on a multi-season arc on “The Office.”
Seasons two through six of “The Office,” generally considered the show’s golden age, were thanks in large part to the influence of Jewish comedy partners Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, who co-executive produced, sometimes co-directed, and co-wrote fifteen episodes, including arguably the most famous episode of “The Office” — “The Dinner Party.” The person who is credited with directing the greatest number of episodes of “The Office” (fifteen,) is Randall Einhorn. The episode “The Cover Up” is credited “In Honor Of Larry Einhorn,” the director’s father. Close on Einhorn’s heels is Jew-ish director Paul Feig, who directed fourteen episodes of the show.
There are no explicitly Jewish characters on “The Office” — though, in fact, the Scranton area has a decently sized, albeit aging, Jewish community. The likeliest suspect (and we say that with love) is emotionally volatile manager Jan Levinson-Gould.
When “The Office” did briefly mention Jews, it looked something like this:
Oh, our beloved “Office”! We’ll miss you when you leave Netflix. But where you go, we will go. Where you stay, we will stay. Your streaming service will be our streaming service. And let us say, Amen.
Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny