Depending on who you ask, the later seasons of “The Office” — even before Steve Carell left the series — were somewhat akin to beating the proverbial dead horse as the horror movie known as “Scott's Tots” illustrates. That could be especially painful when it came to how Dwight Schrute connected to Jim and Pam’s relationship. Well, as it turns out, if showrunner and creator Greg Daniels had his way, there would have been a literal dead horse added to the mix.
Entertainment Weekly's recent oral history of Jim and Pam's wedding — which took place in the two-part episode “Niagara” and aired 10 years ago this week — revealed that the six-season earnest culmination of the series' famed will-they-won't-they relationship almost ended with a twisted bit of darkness. In the oral history, episode director Paul Feig brought up the “big controversy” about the original wedding ending:
“All throughout the episode, Roy's [David Denman] been kind of haunting around and unhappy that they're getting married, so when they ask if anybody has reason why this couple can't get married, he rides into the church on a horse to sweep Pam off her feet like a knight in shining armor and declares, 'I have an objection.' And she's like, 'What are you doing? No, I want to get married,'” Feig said. “She sends him away, so he has to ride his horse back out of the church. But then, in an absolute insane thing, they had this crazy ending where Dwight [Rainn Wilson] gets the horse and rides it into the falls.”
The “crazy ending” was episode co-writer alongside Mindy Kaling Greg Daniels's idea. Daniels was admittedly “really committed to the horse for the longest time” and went on to explain even further how “The Office” would have gone from Point A to Point Literal Dead Horse:
“It was like Dwight got fascinated with this historical display at the hotel that talked about various animals,” Daniels said. “It started with a cow had been swept over the falls and survived, and then a couple of people tried to go over the falls in a barrel and were killed, and then some sheep went over the falls and survived. And he came up with this theory that you could survive going over the falls if you were riding a horse, because a horse would have the instinct of how to swim properly. And so he was trying to get people to listen to this theory, and then Roy interrupts the wedding trying to do a big, grand romantic gesture that nobody wants and just abandons the horse and drives home.”
“So Dwight gets on and goes into the river above the falls, but panics and jumps off the horse at the last second, while the horse goes over in the background of the wedding. I remember scouting this tank on the Universal lot and talking about how we're going to shoot this horse being swept over the waterfall. Then we got to the table read and I was the last defender of the horse. The entire staff and actors were yelling at me: 'Don't ruin Jim and Pam's wedding with a horse!'” Daniels remembered.
Instead, after a long debate between Daniels and the writers’ room, the wedding ended with a very 2009-appropriate viral dance down the aisle. While that choice certainly makes the episode a bit dated today, it's at least more tonally appropriate and memorable for the right reasons — compared to a dead horse.
Right now, everyone is looking for some kind of reprieve from being locked up at home due to the spread of the coronavirus across the United States. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards anytime soon, but The Office executive producers Paul Lieberstein and Ben Silverman think they’ve figured out a way to make light of the situation by crafting a new workplace comedy series inspired by the sudden rise in employees working from home due to the outbreak of coronavirus forcing people to practice social distancing.
Deadline was first to learn of the currently untitled coronavirus comedy series, though it’s not necessarily about the pandemic. Paul Lieberstein and Ben Silverman, better known to The Office fans as the frequently maligned Toby Flenderson and one of Jim’s business partners at their company Athlead, are creating the series that is said to focus on “wunderkind boss who, in an effort to ensure his staff’s connectedness and productivity, asks them all to virtually interact and work face-to-face all day.”
The series is in the works at Big Breakfast, the comedy production banner Silverman runs, where he’ll executive produce the series along with and Luke Kelly-Clyne College Humor and Kevin Healey Scare Tactics. They’ll also be working with Howard Owens’ Propagate Content, which will have Rodney Ferrell serving as an executive producer as well.
Silverman, who was also once an NBC executive, explained the inception of the series and his hope for what it will become:
“So many of us are jumping on daily Zoom meetings — for work and beyond. We are in a new normal and are personally navigating ways to remain connected and productive at work and in our home lives. With the brilliant Paul Lieberstein at the helm, we think we have a series that not only brings humor and comfort during this troubling time but will also be an inventive and enduring workplace comedy for years to come.”
While the prospect of trying to craft a series around the coronavirus outbreak sounds like a bad idea at this time, there’s no indication that the pandemic will actually play a part in the overall concept of the series. In fact, it would be easy to pull something like this off without introducing such a grim plot device.
What I’m envisioning with this series is a show with a format that echoes what we’ve seen accomplished with movies like Unfriended and Searching. Both of those films play out entirely on computer or mobile device screens and successfully tell a solid narrative. Modern Family did something similar with an episode that unfolded across the ensemble cast’s various screens, and it worked pretty well. But if that’s what this series will be like, can that concept be sustained for an entire series? Or will they need to take...