'The Office' finds a home in Scranton
Residents used to be concerned about how the city would be portrayed.
SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) -- Dunder-Mifflin, the fictional paper-supply company where idiotic boss Michael, nerdy salesman Dwight and the rest of the quirky characters on NBC's "The Office" spend their days, is a member in good standing of the real-life Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.
Really, it is.
And why not? Though Dunder-Mifflin isn't real, "The Office" has given Scranton, a small industrial city 100 miles north of Philadelphia where the hit comedy is set, the kind of national exposure that chamber types can only dream about.
"It's a very funny show," said Mayor Chris Doherty, "and a great opportunity for the city."
A remake of the acclaimed British series of the same name, "The Office" is shot in mock-documentary style, following the trials and travails of Dunder-Mifflin's sad-sack office drones and their clueless egomaniac of a boss, Michael Scott (Steve Carell, in a Golden Globe-winning role). The show has been a solid performer for NBC, which has already renewed it for next season.
"The Office," which returns Thursday night from its Olympics hiatus, is peppered with references that only a native of this city of 74,000 could appreciate:
Characters go to Poor Richard's pub, Farley's restaurant and Abe's deli, all real places.
An episode revolves around an ill-fated booze cruise on Lake Wallenpaupack, a popular recreation spot in the nearby Pocono Mountains. Michael tells a woman from corporate headquarters that Scrantonians are nice, "not like you New Yaaawkers."
Michael offers to take his employees on the Lackawanna County Coal Mine Tour, a real-life historic attraction that he mistakes for an amusement park ride.
Blogger and Scranton native Dave Caolo, who tracks the show's Scranton references on a Web site devoted to "The Office," said he appreciates the attention to detail. "They even pronounce Scranton correctly, by omitting the 't,"' he said.
Residents initially had misgivings about "The Office." They feared the city, a former coal-mining center that fell on hard times but has recently shown signs of a rebirth, would become the butt of comedy writers' jokes. But their concerns were misplaced, as Scranton merely provides the backdrop for "The Office" and its painfully funny comedy.
"Everyone was apprehensive about how Scranton was going to be portrayed," said University of Scranton student Mario Ferrise, a city native and "Office" fan. "We were all a bit relieved when we saw that they took it easy. They could have really pounded us."
Executive producer Greg Daniels said he was looking for a city a few hours' drive from New York, where Dunder-Mifflin's corporate headquarters is, and Scranton fit the bill. Also, Daniels was a fan of the author John O'Hara, who set his stories in a fictional eastern Pennsylvania coal town, and he remembered receiving greeting cards that said "Made in Scranton" on the back.
Dropping the names of Scranton landmarks isn't the only way to achieve authenticity. Eagle-eyed viewers of "The Office" can spot plenty of Scranton artifacts: A bobblehead doll of a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons baseball player perched on a desk. A light-blue Chamber of Commerce plaque hanging on a wall behind the receptionist's desk.
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