When it comes to Hollywood and the holidays, it’s usually someone who saves Christmas.
But for once it was actually Christmas that helped save The office.
So tell Dunder Mifflin alumni Brian Baumgartner and Angela Kinsey, who recently spoke to Yahoo Entertainment after ironically reuniting as ambassadors for the paperless notebook from the Rocketbook brand.
“We got canceled almost two, three, four, 10, 12 times at the beginning,” explains Baumgartner, who played bumbling, bumbling chili aficionado Kevin Malone on the popular NBC sitcom from 2005 to 2013.
“We struggled week to week,” agrees Kinsey, who played the tightly wound cat (and Dwight) lover Angela Martin.
After a ho-hum first season of just six episodes in the spring of 2005 – largely just Americanized versions of Ricky Gervais’ original British series – the series started to gain momentum a few episodes into its second series that autumn.
On December 6, 2005, The office aired the 10th episode of the second season, “Christmas Party,” in which the crew’s holiday festivities turned into disaster (natch) after bumbling boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell) doused the staff and allowed chaos to reign on the Secret Santa exchange by having his staff steal each other’s gifts and make it a “Yankee Swap”. (The episode also featured a key moment with a teapot in the want-they-or-don’t-want-to-be subplot building between John Krasinski’s Jim and Jenna Fischer’s Pam.)
It was a monumental moment for the fledgling series, with the episode reaching over 10 million viewers for the first time since its first episodes. Soon after, Carell got a Golden Globe nomination and was a surprise winner. NBC also began uploading episodes to iTunes for the first time, where the show established itself as an early download favorite.
“We had deteriorated quickly and then came back and [that episode] was a really important event for us,” says Baumgartner. “And we really took off from there.”
“After that episode aired, we were the number one streaming show on iTunes and all of a sudden we thought, wait a minute. We found our audience,” Kinsey recalled. “It turned a corner from there and we were done.”
Baumgartner likes “Christmas Party” for other reasons as well.
“I think it’s really hilarious,” he says. And the other thing is that while some of the secondary characters had storylines before that, it was one episode that was really ensemble. Everyone had something, or a moment, a storyline around the Secret Santa trade.
It also had a very memorable ending, with an intoxicated Meredith (Kate Flannery) flashing Michael, who quickly takes a picture of her.
“Steve Carell’s face at the end of that episode when Meredith flashes him and he takes the shot… it’s just genius,” says Baumgartner.
After the success of ‘Christmas Party’, the Christmas episodes became an almost annual tradition, running for a total of nine episodes during the series (including two two-part episodes in seasons 3 and 7).
“They just kind of became legend episodes,” says Kinsey. “We were like, ‘Oh my God, there’s another one. It’s Christmas time.’ We loved dressing up. The set always looked great. We knew there was going to be some ridiculous drama. Everyone just really loved those episodes.
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