Pam Beesly’s painting of the Scranton office building, introduced in the third season of NBC’s The Office, is an iconic prop from the long-running sitcom—to the point that a shot of it closes out the show’s deeply sentimental grand finale. Its purchase is a major moment in the development of Steve Carell’s Michael Scott, his relationship with Jenna Fischer’s Pam, and the whole ethos of sweetness that helps to undercut the show’s frequent bouts of cynicism.
All of which, apparently, was argued vigorously by Fischer herself, who revealed in a new episode of her podcast Office Ladies how aggressively she had to lobby not to have the painting destroyed as a joke.
Said destruction was apparently plotted for “Mafia,” a sixth-season episode that takes place during Pam’s honeymoon with the ever-smirking Jim. As originally scripted, the episode would have seen replacement receptionist Erin attempt to clean the painting, only to accidentally destroy it in the process. As Fischer noted to co-host and former co-star Angela Kinsey, the moment she first read about the plotline at a table read a week before filming, she got immediately angry, and began trying to persuade everyone she could get her hands on not to go through with the plotline.
I was like, “Listen, you cannot destroy Pam’s painting. You can’t do it. It’s the heartbeat of the show. It’s on the wall. It’s her relationship with Michael. It’s hope. It’s so many things you don’t understand. You can’t make this a gag.” And Paul Lieberstein was like, “I think it’s funny. What are you talking about?” And it was a battle.
After Lieberstein Toby’d up Fischer’s complaints, she took her issues to series showrunner Greg Daniels—who also ruled on the side of the painting’s destruction. But even after the sequence was shot, Fischer continued to petition, going to the show’s editors and producers and asking them to see her point. Eventually, they relented, the sequence was cut, and the painting was restored a few episodes later.
And when the painting was originally used for the show’s final image, Fischer was there to remind Lieberstein of the battle:
You better believe that I marched right up to Paul Lieberstein when I read that ending of the finale and I was like, “Paul, do you see now why Erin couldn’t destroy the watercolor? Do you see?” There were two things in the series that I fought hard for. I would consistently fight that there be no infidelity in Jim and Pam’s relationship... And this was the other thing. Don’t destroy the painting.