'The Office': Overtime
The final evening of the "Office" convention kicked off with a VIP cocktail reception that I was not invited to, but that's OK: It gave me a chance to check out Farley's, one of the actual Scranton establishments mentioned on the show. It was a great place to grab a burger -- sort of like Bennigan's if Bennigan's was a knickknack-free independent restaurant and not a national chain. I also popped my head into the Bog, a bar not mentioned on the show but one where the night before cast members had whiled away the evening singing karaoke (not surprisingly, from what I hear, Craig Robinson, a.k.a. Darryl, was one of the main performers.)
Before the evening's festivities proceeded, Scranton was treated to an impressive fireworks show that hung low over the city, making for one of the loudest displays I've ever heard/seen in my life. (The explosions were bouncing off the buildings, and most of the fireworks displays I've seen have been on waterfronts.) It was cool to walk down a town street and see it lit up, although I have a feeling a Scranton fireworks show probably won't make it into the "Office" credits, though that would be fun.
Scheduled next and finally for the evening was an "Office" look-alike contest followed by a concert, but as anything cast-related this weekend tended to start a little late, those gathered in the gymnasium at Lackawanna College were "treated" to some time-filling local improv and stand-up comedy. It would have been genius had the improv actually been Michael Scott's (Steve Carell's) own troupe, but alas, it wasn't. The crowd, so well-behaved until this point, started to boo, and heckled a comedian who had tackled such controversial topics as drinking in college, his sexless marriage and misbehaving priests. Frankly, I couldn't really blame them. The audience might have been a little more patient had there been, say, a cash bar on the floor, but instead it had to sit in the bleachers like a bunch of resentful kids in gym class.
The costume contest, though, was another tribute to the dedication and creativity of the show's fans. I met a couple dressed as Jim and Pam: "It was really hard," said "Pam." "I had to figure out how to get the makeup just right -- not too much -- and how to make my hair ratty." "Jim" kept his hands in his pockets and looked at the ceiling, still in character, I think. But there was also three-hole-punch Jim, someone dressed as the vending machine with Dwight's stuff in it, Angela's cats, Dwight's cousin Moze (by the way, if anyone can find one of his "Fear" shirts, I want one), Prison Mike, two-headed Michael from the Halloween episode, Kevin from Scrantonicity and Jell-O (for containing Dwight's stapler).
Charmingly, a handful of the cast members judged the competition. Leslie David Baker (Stanley) asked the look-alikes questions to judge their dedication to their characters, noting sadly that no one had dressed as him or Phyllis. Ed Helms picked his favorite "Andy" out of three, based on who best sang a cappella. The "Karens" were met with a round of boos, but the one who proclaimed that she didn't need Jim, that she was going to work on her career, was met with some applause. After the competition, Melora Hardin gamely stood on stage for several minutes taking pictures with the participants, including a young lady in a Juicy sweatsuit going as Unemployed Jan.
I don't know if it was the event itself or maybe the fact that it was held in a gym, but it struck me at this point how young most of the attendees were. A large part of it probably had to do with the fact that Scranton is such a college town, but I do wonder how many of the fans actually have the experience of working in an "Office" environment. It didn't seem to matter to them, though, as they jammed enthusiastically to the band the Scrantones (featuring Kate Flannery [Meredith] on keyboard) as it played the show's theme song. I'm not sure what was a stranger sight: seeing people dancing to a TV theme song or people screaming for an accordion solo.
Flannery then took the mic for several songs with the band, dedicating "Suspicious Minds" to Dwight and Angela, doing a sultry "Light My Fire," and then saying she had picked out Meredith's theme song: "How many of you have gotten hit by a car -- your boss' car?" she asked before launching into "Hit Me With Your Best Shot."
And on that note, it was time for me to head back to the Ramada Inn, as I had to return home early today, unfortunately probably skipping a few more "Office" stage cameos and the next day's writers' Q&A. On the way back to the car, I was greeted by Gerry Zaboski, associate vice president for alumni and public relations for the University of Scranton, who had been extremely helpful all weekend. "Did you have fun?" he inquired before wishing me a safe trip. I was reminded of one of the things Flannery had shouted to the audience while she was on stage: "Let's hear it for Scranton, huh?"