The Office was on the rocks before a Christmas miracle saved the show.
“We were almost canceled two, three, four, 10, 12 times at the beginning,” Brian Baumgartner, who played Kevin Malone on the NBC show from 2005 to 2013, told Yahoo Entertainment.
But then came “Christmas Party,” the 10th episode of the second season. The now-classic episode saw Steve Carell‘s Michael Scott go way over the top during a gift swapping game (yes, Michael, an iPod costs more than $20), and Jim’s (John Krasinski) adorably sentimental plan to give a tea pot to his office crush and eventual wife Pam (Jenna Fischer) get undermined when Michael impulsively changed the game from Secret Santa to Yankee Swap.
The episode clearly resonated with fans. It drew 10 million viewers — and perhaps even spurred a 2006 Golden Globe win for Carell, who would go on to get five more nominations for the series.
Before that breakout viewership, Angela Kinsey (who played Office grinch Angela Martin) recalled, “We were struggling week to week.”
But, she continued, “After that episode aired, we were the No. 1 streaming show on iTunes and all of a sudden we were like, ‘Hold up. We found our audience.’ It turned a corner from there and we were set.”
Among its many memorable moments, the episode saw Michael shame Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) for her gift and then get an eyeful after Meredith (Kate Flannery) indulged in a few too many servings of Christmas cheer.
“Steve Carell’s face at the end of that episode when Meredith flashes him and he takes the pic … it’s just genius,” Baumgartner said.
The success of “Christmas Party” also prompted the NBC sitcom to plan for Christmas episodes each year.
“They just became kind of legend episodes,” Kinsey said. “We were like, ‘Oh my God, there’s another one. It’s a Christmas time.’ We loved dressing up. The set always looked great. We knew there was gonna be some ridiculous drama. Everyone just really loved those episodes.”
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All nine season of The Office can be streamed on Peacock.