In 2020, Americans streamed 57 billion minutes — roughly 108,000 years’ worth — of The Office, making the Pennsylvania-set comedy the most streamed TV show in the country by far.
It remained a juggernaut in 2021, a salve for pandemic anxieties, as The Washington Post put it, and, perhaps, a surrogate for the amusing and awkward workplace interactions that had been stripped from so many of our clerical lives.
As new generations discover the aughts-era sitcom, the show is more popular (and more memed) than ever before and Scranton — initially a somewhat resentful prop as the show’s drab, quotidian backdrop — is very much leaning in.
There are self-guided walking tours, selfie stops, romantic dinners with “Stanley,” superfan festivals, and much more to come.
We talked to Rose Randazzo-Pizzuto of the economic development group Scranton Tomorrow about a massive mural that’s in the works, the push to get NBC to deliver a themed museum, and how a related cottage industry is bigger than ever a decade after the show ended.
Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
PA Local: A 30-foot-high, 120-foot-wide mural featuring realistic portraits of 17 characters (sorry, Gabe ... again) from The Office. Please tell me more.
Randazzo-Pizzuto: Philadelphia-based muralist Kala Hagopian is the chosen artist, and the reason I selected her is because not only do you need a muralist for this project, you need a portrait artist because the people will be painted 10 to 20 feet high. They’re massive.
We’ve had a little bit of a slow start with our Indiegogo (fundraising) campaign for the project, but that’s normal. We think that if the word gets out, fans of the show will support it.
A rendering of the mural. (Courtesy of Scranton Tomorrow)
PA Local: What’s involved behind the scenes?
Randazzo-Pizzuto: We got all 17 actors signed off on the use of their images. NBC and Peacock (NBC’s streaming service) have been instrumental. They’ve provided clearances for marketing materials and fundraising perks. (Asked if NBC is contributing any direct funding, Rose said no. The project is homegrown and will be grassroots funded.)
We’re hoping that once the mural is complete NBC will make a decision to follow with an Office museum in Scranton. We’re asking them to do that. They just did the first one in Chicago and it just so happens that behind the wall on Lackawanna Avenue where the mural will be sits about 3,000 square feet of space that’s empty right now. Hopefully we can convince them at some point that we need to have it at least temporarily here.
PA Local: There were early pockets of ambivalence about how the series portrayed the city. It seems more roundly embraced now. Why is that?
Randazzo-Pizzuto: It’s an iconic show. It’s a quality show. It's a smart show. We’ve become very proud of it. I was traveling recently and when people asked me where I was from, when I said Scranton no one said, ‘Oh, the birthplace of Joe Biden!’ They said ‘That’s where The Office was set!’
PA Local: Scranton recently shed its financially distressed status. Tourism industry spending and employment in Lackawanna County hit 10-year highs in 2019. Does this show play any role in the recovery plan?
Randazzo-Pizzuto: Absolutely. It’s a regional asset. It's a northeastern Pennsylvania asset. It’s a show about who we are in this valley.
—Colin Deppen, Spotlight PA