The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

May 9, 2013

Scranton bonds with NBC's 'The Office'

SCRANTON, Pa. — NBC’s long-running “The Office” was a faux documentary about cubicle life. The Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin Paper Co. didn’t exist.

Try telling that to merchants, tourism officials and regular folks here in the real-world city of 76,000, for whom the Emmy-winning comedy — which ends its nine-season run next week — had a tangible and lasting impact.

Even though “The Office” was shot in California, it was set in Scranton, and every “Office” booze cruise on Lake Wallenpaupack, shopping excursion to the Steamtown mall and after-work party at Poor Richard’s Pub meant real cash in real registers as the show’s intensely loyal fans flocked to northeastern Pennsylvania to see where their favorite characters lived, worked and played.

“If people weren’t talking about Scranton before this show aired,” said Tracy Barone, executive director of the Lackawanna County Convention and Visitors Bureau, “they were talking about it afterward.”

Plenty of TV series have been set in real places, but “The Office” was different. Residents and businesses in Scranton donated hundreds of props over the years, and the show gave shout-outs and notoriety to dozens of local landmarks, from restaurants to radio stations.

Fans of the cult comedy from around the country still come to Cooper’s Seafood House — a 65-year-old, family-run restaurant that boasts a lighthouse and full-size pirate ship — to see where clueless boss Michael Scott and his put-upon “Office” underlings got their grub.

“They’ll say, can you tell us where they sat and ate, what they ate, what kind of beer they drank, all kinds of questions,” said waitress Laura Langan, who is always ready with the answers.

The University of Scranton earned a few mentions on the show, too, and the school’s admission staff continues to use “The Office” to woo prospective students.

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