When it comes to Hollywood and the holidays, it’s usually someone who saves Christmas.
But for once, it was Christmas that saved The office.
So say Dunder Mifflin alumni Brian Baumgartner and Angela Kinsey, who recently spoke to Yahoo Entertainment after ironically reuniting as ambassadors for the paperless Rocketbook brand notepad.
“We almost got canceled two, three, four, 10, 12 times early on,” explains Baumgartner, who played awkward, rough-hewn pepper lover Kevin Malone on the hit NBC sitcom from 2005 to 2013.
“We were fighting from week to week,” agrees Kinsey, who played cat (and Dwight) lover Angela Martin.
After a tedious first season of just six episodes in the spring of 2005 – largely just Americanised versions of Ricky Gervais’ original British series – the series began to gain momentum a few episodes into its second series that autumn.
On December 6, 2005, The office aired its 10th episode of Season 2, “Christmas Party,” in which the crew’s holiday festivities turn into disaster (natch) after bumbling boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell) lubes up the workforce with alcohol and let chaos reign over the Secret Santa swap by allowing his staff to steal each other’s presents, turning it into a “Yankee Swap”. (The episode also included a key moment involving a teapot building up the subplot between John Krasinski’s Jim and Jenna Fischer’s Pam.)
It was a monumental moment for the fledgling series, with the episode drawing more than 10 million viewers for the first time since its first few episodes. Soon after, Carell earned a Golden Globe nomination and was an upset winner. NBC also began uploading episodes to iTunes for the first time, where the show established itself as an early download favorite.
“We had quickly declined and then came back and [that episode] it was really a significant event for us,” says Baumgartner. “And we really took off from there.”
“After that episode aired, we were the number one streaming show on iTunes and all of a sudden we were like, ‘Wait. We found our audience,’” recalls Kinsey. “She rounded a corner from there and we were good to go.”
Baumgartner loves “Christmas Party” for other reasons as well.
“I think it’s really funny,” he says. And the other thing is, while some of the supporting characters had previous storylines, it was one episode that was really an ensemble. Everyone had something, or some moment, some storyline around the Secret Santa swap.
It also had a deeply memorable ending, with a drunken Meredith (Kate Flannery) showing off Michael, who quickly snaps her picture.
“Steve Carell’s face at the end of that episode when Meredith flashes him and he takes the picture…it’s just brilliant,” says Baumgartner.
Following the success of “Christmas Party,” holiday episodes have become an almost annual tradition, with a total of nine throughout the series’ run (including two two-part installments in Seasons 3 and 7).
“They just became kind of legendary episodes,” Kinsey says. “We were like, ‘Oh my God, there’s another one. It is Christmas”. We liked dressing up. The set has always been great. We knew there was going to be some ridiculous drama. Everyone really loved those episodes.
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