I say this with great fear of being outed as incredibly basic, but The Office is a very important show to me. NBC’s seminal comedy series was a favorite of mine even before it became one of Netflix’s biggest attractions. I used to watch it live back when it was airing, I bought all the DVD’s back when DVD’s were still a thing, and for the past few years it has remained one of my go-to Netflix shows to put on in the background while I’m doing something else, or while I’m falling asleep.
The show’s nine seasons were filled with incredible highs and a few forgettable lows. When I was figuring out my own personal rankings, I realized each of the nine seasons could be placed into four distinct tiers. I have titled these tiers the “The Forgettable Seasons,” “The On The Decline Seasons,” “The Prime Seasons,” and “The Peak Seasons.” Any fan of The Office knows that the quality of the series diminished over time. This can, and usually does, happen to almost every beloved series though. Characters leave, jokes become stale, and storylines end — all of these things, and more, result in later seasons of a show usually not living up to the same quality that was established early on in the show’s run. The Office obviously faced some of these struggles overtime, but I happen to think that that even during its worst moments, The Office was still better than a lot of other shows that were on television at that time.
So, as I go through this list, I will present my choices nine through one, while also dividing all nine seasons into the four tiers I created. Additionally, I will be choosing the best episode from each particular season.
Tier #4: “The Forgettable”
9. Season Nine
Season Nine, the only season to have its own tier dedicated to it, is the definitive worst season in the history of The Office. The reason this stands apart from some of the other not-so-great seasons is the same reason I decided to call this tier forgettable, which is the fact that this season can honestly be skipped during a rewatch. The only episode worth watching is also this season’s one saving grace, and that is the finale. I will give the creative forces behind this show credit for putting together a satisfying finale because many beloved shows fail to do that. But, the success of the finale is really the only accomplishment that there is to find amongst the mess that is The Office‘s final season. The storyline of Jim and Pam’s marital troubles was just depressing and felt completely out of place for a show like this. The additions of Pete and Clark as “new Jim” and “new Dwight” didn’t work at all, and neither one of those characters were interesting enough to salvage the disappointment of this season. The complete destruction of the Andy character was frustrating to watch, especially after the important role he played in the prior season. And, even though I enjoyed the finale overall, all the moments in Season Nine that included the “real life” camera crew and the documentary felt unnecessary and shoe-horned in at the last moment. Ultimately, like I said in the intro The Office at its worst is still better than a lot of other TV shows, and this season does have its moments. However, as a whole this season was an extreme disappointment, especially when compared to the quality of the other eight seasons.
Best Episode of the Season: “Finale” (Episode 23)
Tier #3: “The On The Decline Seasons”
8. Season Eight
Season Eight is lucky that I have such negative feelings towards Season Nine, because I was close to including both of them in the same tier. While thinking about it though, I realized there are enough enjoyable episodes in the first half of Season Eight to include it in this tier instead. I think the difference in the beginning of this season vs. the second half of this season is something that has to be noted while discussing the overall quality. I really enjoy some of the first half episodes, in particular I like watching the Dunder Mifflin staff rally around Andy as the new manager. I thought it was a really smart decision to not have Andy just simply become a copy of Michael once he gained the position of manager. Let’s be honest though, if you’re a fan of The Office, your feelings for this season relay on one name and one name only, Robert California. Possibly the most divisive character in the history of the show, Robert is actually introduced in the final episode of Season Seven but becomes a main character in Season Eight. Personally, I find myself defending the Robert California character more often than criticizing him. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t absolutely love his character and all the storylines he is involved in, this is my second to last selection after all, but I do think he gets a little bit too much hate. At the very least, they went in a weird new direction by including a character like that, which you have to respect on some level. The problem with this season though is that, despite its high moments, there are just too many forgettable episodes, over-used jokes, and uninteresting plot lines that prevent it from really being considered great.
Best Episode of the Season: “Garden Party” (Episode 4)
7. Season Seven
Season Seven, otherwise knows as Steve Carell’s final season, comes in at the seventh spot on my list. Even though there is going to be one more season included in this tier, Season Seven is probably the season where the dip in quality becomes most noticeable. Obviously the departure of Michael Scott has a lot to do with that. When a show loses a character as important as Michael was to The Office, there is no way it can really remain the same after that. Michael’s sendoff episode, “Goodbye Michael” is still one of the more emotionally effective episodes in the show’s history though, and a fitting way for both the characters on the show, and the audience to say goodbye to Michael Scott. Spoiler alert, it was very hard for me to go with a different episode as my best of the season but ultimately I had to. Will Ferrell’s inclusion in the show was fun at the time, but doesn’t really hold up all that well on rewatches. Ultimately, Season Seven feels like the time when both the creative forces behind the scenes, and the actors on the show, started to get a little bit tired and run out of ideas. It has some great and memorable moments, Michaels engagement to Holly and the Threat Level Midnight episode are definitely moments that will stand out in any fan’s head. However, as a whole it is hard make an argument for this not being one of the lower-quality seasons in the history of the show.
Best Episode of the Season: “Threat Level Midnight” (Episode 17)
6. Season Six
Season Six has some really great moments, and does a lot of interesting things story-wise over the course of its 26 episodes. This is the season where we see Pam and Jim get married, Jim get promoted to Co-Regional Manager, Michael date Pam’s mom, Dunder Mifflin get sold to Sabre, and Pam have her first baby. And, I can’t forget to mention what is quite possibly the most difficult-to-watch 22 minutes in the history of television, “Scott’s Tots.” The reason I have included this season in the “On The Decline” tier though is because this season contains the one episode that starts the decline of The Office. That episode is “Niagra: Part 2.” Yes that’s right, I do not believe this show was ever the same after Pam and Jim’s wedding. I think this episode had even more of an effect, in some ways, than the “Goodbye Michael” episode from the next season. While I really love the two episodes that cover Pam and Jim’s wedding, I think they mark the moment in which The Office was split between what it was and what it would go on to be in its final few seasons. After their wedding, the Pam and Jim characters just never really provided the same entertainment that they did beforehand. That is why, even though I find this season to be entertaining overall, I can’t quite get it to the next tier.
Best Episode(s) of the Season: “Niagra: Part 1” and “Niagra: Part 2” (Episodes 4 and 5)
Tier #2: “The Prime Seasons”
5. Season One
Before I get into further detail on The Office‘s first season, allow me to explain what the title of this tier means. Even though I have another tier ahead of this, I’m calling this tier “The Prime Seasons” because these seasons, along with the tier ahead of them, make up the show’s prime. The tier ahead of this just simply contains the best of the best, while this tier contains the other seasons included in the show’s prime years. With that out of the way, let’s get to Season One. The show’s premier season is one that is quite difficult to rank because, A) it only consists of six episodes, and B) the tone and the characters undergo some relatively big changes after the first season. With that being said, I still really enjoy Season One of The Office. When these first six episodes premiered, people were unsure of the new show, but over time the first season has become a great, if not interesting, addition to the show. Although the pilot gets criticized for essentially being a rip-off of the UK version, I think the next five episodes lay the groundwork for what the US version of the show will eventually become. I will admit though, the first season’s episodes are not always my favorite episodes to watch when I’m doing a rewatch of the show, or am just in the mood to throw on a few random episodes. For me personally, I prefer watching episodes in which the world of the show is a bit more established, but if I’m strictly basing these rankings on the quality of the seasons, Season One has to be included in the top five.
Best Episode of the Season: “Basketball” (Episode 5)
4. Season Five
The fifth season of The Office comes in at the fourth spot on my list. This is, in my opinion, the final season of the show’s prime. Some fans may argue that the quality difference between this season and Season Six is actually closer than I’m giving it credit for, but I believe this season clearly establishes itself as part of the prime, while Season Six remains on the outside looking in. With 28 episodes, which includes three two-part episodes, this is the longest season of the series, yet somehow there doesn’t really feel like there are a lot of wasteful moments or filler episodes. The beginning of the season is very much consumed with the Michael and Holly relationship — but once that ends there are enough entertaining moments, including Toby’s return and Dwight and Andy’s rivalry to get us through to the next big storyline of the season, which is of course the creation of The Michael Scott Paper Company. I really enjoy both of the big storylines, as well as several of the episodes in between, and find this season to be incredibly satisfying on a rewatch. Also, it is impossible to talk about this season without bringing up what has now become one of the most famous scenes in the history of television, the cold open in “Stress Relief: Part 1.” That scene feels like it has become a legitimately important part of TV history, and essentially guarantees this season a spot in this tier by itself. There are too many good episodes in this season for me to name all of them, so instead I’ll just recommend that you go rewatch it as soon as possible.
Best Episode of the Season: “Stress Relief: Part 1” (Episode 14)
3. Season Four
Season Four kicks off the top three but just barely misses out on being included in the final tier. There is no denying the greatness of this season though. From “Fun Run” all the way to “Goodbye Toby,” Season Four is packed with hilarious episodes and classic moments. The season is technically only 14 episodes, but that is a little misleading because five of them are the length of double episodes. Notable story elements of this season include Pam and Jim finally, officially getting together as a couple and Ryan getting the job at corporate and becoming Michael’s boss. The standout episode of the season has to be episode nine, “Dinner Party.” I’m honestly not sure if there is a single funnier episode, from start to finish, than that one in the entirety of the series. There is not a whole lot negative I can say about this season but I will give my reasons for why I did not include it in the top tier. Although this season contains maybe higher highs than any other season, it also contains a few episodes that don’t feel super memorable or important. Two of those episodes that stick out to me are “The Deposition” and “Job Fair.” While I enjoy parts of those episodes, and many of my issues with them and this season as a whole can be described as nit-picks, I had to figure out some way to differentiate the seasons when it came to deciding between the best of the best. There is not much else to say other than Season Four is great, it is The Office firmly in its prime, and it has episodes that show why this series has become as popular as it is today.
Best Episode of the Season: “Dinner Party” (Episode 9)
Tier #1: “The Peak Seasons”
2. Season Three
Well, we’ve finally reached the top tier. The final two seasons on my list are the absolute peak of The Office. Starting this tier off, in the number two slot overall, is the show’s third season. This is the season in which we get the additions of Andy and Karen, and even more so than Season Two, Season Three is when the supporting characters really become an integral part of the world within the show. Season Three is really when we start to see characters other than Michael, Dwight, Jim, and Pam get a backstory, and a larger portion of the spotlight. Of course the merger between the Stamford branch and the Scranton branch is a main story element in this season. Even though the Andy character changes over time, I find him and Karen to be great additions to the show in this season. Another big major story element of this season is the relationship between Jan and Michael, which provides for some of the funniest moments of the season. Season Three also gives us great moments like the “Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.” quote, Jan’s infamous vacation picture, and the incredibly cringe-worthy kiss between Michael and Oscar in the first episode of the season. Every great season of The Office needs a few great “out of the office” episodes, which Season Three definitely has with “Diwali,” “Phyllis’s Wedding,” “Cocktails,” and “Beach Games.” At the end of the day it was tough to choose between the top two seasons, which is a large reason why I decided to add the tiers as well. Season Three of The Office will always remain one of my favorite seasons of any television show ever, but there is still one season ahead of it on this list.
Best Episode of the Season: “Beach Games” (Episode 22)
1. Season Two
So to be honest, it was nearly impossible to choose when it eventually came time to decide between the top two seasons in the history of The Office. This is one of those things where if I were to write this in a week or a month, I could have a different answer. But, for now I am going with with Season Two as the greatest season in the history of The Office. In a weird way, I almost think of Season Two as the start of The Office. Season One certainly had its great moments that showed the potential the series had at the time, but Season Two is what really established this show. This is the season in which The Office became The Office that we know and love today, which when it came down to it, was the main reason I ended up picking it over Season Three. Like many of the earlier seasons, it focuses primarily on the main few characters, but as Season Two goes along, the supporting roles do start to get a little more shine as well, and the world of The Office begins to build into what it will ultimately become in Season Three. Season Two introduces fans to The Dundies, as well as Threat Level Midnight, it pushes forward the Jim and Pam storyline, and it presents the idea of Michael and Jan as a possible romantic pairing. For fans like myself, Season Two is a great example of a season filled with episodes so memorable, that you only need the title in order to picture the events of them. Some of the titles I’m referring to are, “The Dundies,” “Office Olympics,” “The Fire,” “The Fight,” “The Client,” “Christmas Party,” “Booze Cruise,” “The Carpet,” “Dwight’s Speech” and “Casino Night” just to name (more than) a few. Like I said, Season Two is when The Office became The Office, and because of that it ranks as my number one season.
Best Episode of the Season: “The Client” (Episode 7)