Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The pandemic hits Scranton in this spec script for The Office

Illustration for article titled The pandemic hits Scranton in this spec script for The Office
Screenshot: YouTube

As previously noted in these pages, we’re currently living in what might be called the golden age of topical, just-for-the-hell-of-it spec scripts. Over the last few months, we’ve seen The Gang storm the Capitol, wondered WHAT IS THE DEAL with the toilet paper shortage, felt President Bartlet’s displeasure, and hypothesized about Kirk’s pandemic-era side hustles. The list goes on, and it is not short. (Even A.I.s have gotten in on the action.)

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Well, here we are, at the most inevitable of all inevitable topical just-for-the-hell-of-it spec scripts. It’s time to head to Dunder Mifflin.

https://www.reddit.com/r/Screenwriting/comments/lchl0y/the_virus_the_office_26_page_spec_script/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

“The Virus” is pretty great! The cold open, which involves some light door-dashing, is particularly spot-on; if you can easily hear the actors saying the lines in your head as you read, you know you’ve got a winner, and this interlude just screams Krasinki and Carrell:

MICHAEL: Ah! Ten o’clock on the dot! Every day, I swear to god, around this time exactly, someone shows up, walks to the door with a bag, takes a picture of the building, and leaves. What could he be up to...? Drug runner? Plotting a burglary, casing the joint, perhaps? [...]

Then we get a Jim talking head:

JIM: I ordered a late breakfast through a food delivery service once, and they have a policy to take a picture of the food when it’s left at the door. And for some reason, Michael was just mesmerized by it. I honestly can’t explain it. He couldn’t stop staring out the window. So, naturally, I began to do it more. And it generally keeps him distracted for at least half an hour. You’d think eating out for breakfast every day would be costing me a fortune, but during that time Michael’s kept distracted, I make more than enough in sales commission to make up for it. I might even start having my lunch delivered. Today’s breakfast is... (checks bag) Egg and cheese omelet.

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And then Jim grins. Cue the theme. The rest of the script, by Redditor nicthesurfer, is equally expertly pitched. But before you dive in, some important context: In the post in which he shared “The Virus,” the screenwriter notes that the episode is set “around season 2 to avoid spending too much time setting up a big reunion for the characters;” it also takes place near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which explains why they’re not working remotely.

It’s a good read, especially if you’re still grumpy about The Office moving to Peacock and refuse to pay for another subscription service, even one that has A.P. Bio, Murder, She Wrote, and the Murder, She Wrote half of the Murder, She Wrote/Magnum, P.I. crossover episode.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!