About last night's season premiere of The Office, I have three words for you. And those three words are: McCarthy flowered cabs!
Like most people, I expected the American Office to be a disaster, but I watched the first episode anyway. I had to -- I'm from Scranton! I certainly didn't expect the show to be good. And even when it turned out to be really, really good, I still didn't think it would be good for Scranton. I knew enough about the British series to know that getting tapped as Dunder Mifflin's business address was no honor. Who wants to be the Slough of the U.S.?
But it soon became clear that The Office wasn't out to get laughs at Scranton's expense. In fact, the show's creators and producers proved surprisingly affectionate toward the real Scranton, PA. The city sent them stuff, and the set dressers used it: an official chamber of commerce plaque (which you can see on the wall behind Pam's desk), Froggy 101 bumper stickers and Red Barons bobblehead dolls (for Dwight's desk), local lunch-spot takeout menus (on the fridge in the breakroom). At this point, even if I weren't enjoying the show, I'd still be watching just to spot the authentic bits of Scranton in the background.
It helps, of course, that the show is so awesome; just being associated with it is good for Scranton's image. The local paper publishes regular reports on the show, and a few of its stars have made appearances at the mall and were astounded by the reception they got. Of course we love you, Brian "Kevin" Baumgartner! You said "Cugino's" on TV!
Last night's hourlong episode took the Scranton love to a whole new level. To be honest, I thought that the second half (where Michael organizes the "fun run") was markedly weaker than the first. But then Stanley, Creed and Oscar took a powder on the run and instead got a ride from... a McCarthy flowered cab! For as long as I can remember, Scranton's small taxicab fleet has been sponsored by McCarthy's, a florist, and so naturally the taxis are decorated with flowers. (At least, that's what I've always assumed.) As an exercise in urban whimsy, it's much more successful than the present, ambiguously sourced flowered-cab campaign in New York City. And nowadays, it's one of those things that makes me feel at home when I'm back in NEPA: Ah, the Electric City, where the people are courteous and the taxis are covered in flowers.
That cab must have looked pretty random to non-Scrantonians who noticed it on The Office last night. But how much do I love the folks at The Office for including it? I was excited about the Jim and Pam revelation, but it was the cab that really blew my mind. (Of course, the streets it traveled didn't look anything like Scranton's, but there's only so much they can do.)
And so, as my wedding approaches, I'm excited to be inviting my out-of-town friends and future in-laws to the home of Dunder Mifflin. I'm even considering going home for The Office Convention. Nine cast members will be there! If I could just get one of them to make an appearance in January...
ETA: The Washington Post recognizes this phenomenon.