While the Scranton references were fun, they also served a purpose for the show’s writers and actors.
“‘The Office’ was all about being real, small and real, in the beginning, especially. So it really helped to have a place to be thinking about that was very specific,” said executive producer Greg Daniels.
Daniels and “Office” stars John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson and other members of the cast and crew paid a visit to Scranton last weekend to show their appreciation of the city, and thousands of adoring fans loved them back. NBC will air a segment on the “Wrap Party” as part of its May 16 primetime tribute to “The Office” — another valuable bit of free publicity.
It was Krasinski who filmed the show’s opening montage in Scranton, and he said the city became a character in its own right.
“It’s kind of the backbone of what we’re doing,” he said. “The whole thing of playing ordinary people comes from the idea that we’re all living in Scranton.”
Yet even as Scranton made “The Office” seem more authentic, the show remained a work of fiction, and Scranton very much a real place with its share of triumphs and tragedies. If anyone needed a reminder, it came only a few hours after the end of the Wrap Party, when a Lackawanna College student was killed by gunfire — the city’s first homicide in nearly two years.
And it wasn’t so long ago that Scranton was simply a punch line.
The city, about 120 miles northwest of New York, fell on hard times after the coal industry tanked, and jobs were slow to return.
Northeastern Pennsylvania still has the highest unemployment rate in the state.
But “The Office” helped turned Scranton into something of a tourist attraction — some 3,500 visitors have taken the official “Office” tour of landmarks mentioned on the show — and downtown has been revitalized into a vibrant urban center with lots of new restaurants, businesses and apartments.