I spent this past weekend in Scranton for The Office Wrap Party, and have been debating whether or not to do a blog about the experience. I did a small post halfway through the event in an attempt to “blog out” some anger, so I now feel it necessary to give a more complete review. There were definitely some good parts and I really want to share those too! So, I’m going to go ahead and give a full recap of the entire adventure.
It started on Friday morning when Jenn arrived in Niagara to pick me up. She was kind enough to offer me a ride down, which was greatly appreciated as I’d only been back from the UK for a week and was carless! We then headed to the border and, once again, learned that when you mention The Office to a US Customs and Immigration Officer they get really excited and ask no further security questions.
Our first stop was at the Buffalo Airport to collect Sara, who had flown in from Chicago, before starting the long stretch to Scranton. The car ride was filled with excellent 90’s music from compilation CD’s we’d found (Much Dance 1997 and Now 3 were particularly fantastic mixes), snacking, and lots of laughs. I hadn’t seen either of them since Sara visited Toronto last summer and it was so nice to catch up.
We arrived in Scranton (well, Dunmore, more specifically) just after 5pm, checked in to our hotel, and I quickly got ready to head back out again for the reception being held that evening.
I met up with Alyssa in the hotel lobby, who I’d known of for years from MTT but never got the chance to meet in person, and we headed downtown together. I must say that meeting her is one of my favourite things about this weekend. We quickly discovered we were social situation soul mates and became inseparable for the remainder of the event.
Downtown we met up with the lovely Spindrift, another MTT online bff, and we all walked over to the University of Scranton together for the reception. We found ourselves lost on route, which was quite the experience! Nothing says welcome to Scranton like a catcall from a rundown car while you’re standing under a rusty railroad bridge ;)
The reception was good. I caught up with Katie, who I hadn’t seen since last summer. I also got to meet Mark, a super friendly local who had given me some great help while planning the trip to town. There was free food and drinks, which is always a win.
Shortly after, Kate Flannery, Ellie Kemper, Brian Baumgartner, and Phyllis Smith came in to the reception hall. There were some short speeches and then they started mingling with the fans.
I hope all the fans who attended the event were able to meet who they wanted to. I found the crowds a little overwhelming so I only waited to meet to Phyllis, who was incredible sweet. I didn’t really have expectations of meeting anyone from the cast this weekend, and said if the opportunity did I arise I’d want to meet Phyllis. So I’m completely thrilled to have gotten to say hi and a photo with her!
Alyssa, Spin, and Katie were able to get photos with Kate, Ellie, and Brian which is awesome. I had to wear a terrible medical mask the entire weekend which made me self-conscious of approaching anyone. I also wasn’t feeling too hot so was happy to hang off to the side!
We were given massive gift bags at the end of reception. They were laundry hampers filled with lots of goodies: A Scrantonopoly board game, booblehead, t-shirt, umbrella, stationary, cups, poster, and some other little things. It was really neat. Alyssa, Spin, and I then headed out and upon exiting the building ran in to the cast, so we got to quickly say ‘goodnight’ to Ellie and Kate.
Overall, it was a really nice evening.
Saturday was an early start with me heading down to the hotel lobby to meet Tina and Michelle, and then Alyssa and I heading downtown around 7:30. The first item on the docket that day was the Blogger’s Breakfast, which was a bit of a bust. I was hoping to meet some other fansite operators, but it turns out I was the only one aside from OfficeTally there. And, unfortunately, in spite of that, I still didn’t get a chance to meet Jennie Tan.
Near the end of the breakfast Andy Buckley and Paul Lieberstein popped in, which was a nice surprise! It was similar chaos to the night before, but Alyssa and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to get a photo with Andy in his “Suck It” hoodie, so we sucked up our nerves and waited in the pushy crowd. Worth it:
The next event of the day was a Behind The Scenes Panel, which I think was the best bit of the whole event. The panel included Greg Daniels (exec producer), Paul Lieberstein (exec producer, writer, actor), Allison Silverman, Steve Burgess (producers), Matt Sohn (dir of photography), Phil Shea (prop master), Claire Scanlon (editor), and Carrie Kemper (writer). The panelists had some awesome stuff prepared, including a video tour of the prop warehouse, comparative video of pre and post edit, and behind-the-scenes photos.
Moderators Jennie Tan (OfficeTally) and Monica Madeja (local news reporter) had some fantastic questions prepared, and I think we were given some great insights on the show. I just thought the entire thing was wonderfully executed.
And then the car holding John and Jenna approached, and along with it a mob of fans who, quite literally, ploughed in to us. People were knocked down (myself, the woman next to me, and young child included), and there was yelling, cursing, and general mob-like behaviour. Suffice to say, the parade is my greatest criticism of the event. It was unsafe, which I find unacceptable. The family behind me, who had two young children, were pushed in to a wooden barrier and left as quickly as they could through the crowd.
I’ve already received some nasty messages for expressing my opinion on the parade, but I stand wholeheartedly by my criticism. Crowd control, barriers, and more security were necessary, and I know I’m not the only person who felt this way. I had friends who stood at different areas of the parade route and said they had similar experiences (though ours was likely the most extreme, being at the end of the route where the cast exited the cars).
Eventually all we could do was move with the flow of the crowd, which led us to the gate where the cast were signing and taking photos on their way to the stage. Alyssa and I were able to catch glimpses of John, Jenna, and Rainn, which was at least something since we completely missed them in the parade.
By the time they passed though we both felt on the verge of panic attacks, and were very overwhelmed by the crowd. We also figured the possibility of getting close enough to the stage to see anything was slim, so we decided to head back to the hotel. Alyssa napped out her rage, and I blogged out mine.
That evening we drove to PNC field for the cast Q&A. They had free drinks and ice cream, so that perked up our moods. They then showed a pile of bloopers on the stadium screen, so we were feeling better by the time things got started.
The cast came out, and they announced that there was an extra chair. Wait… what?
None other than the legend himself, Mr. Steve Carell, came out to occupy it. And the entire stadium lost their shit. It was a pretty fantastic moment. I don’t think any of us were expecting that. At all. It was definitely an incredible surprise!
Andy Buckley moderated the event, and while I absolutely adore the man, I’m not too sure this was the best decision. His questions didn’t seem fitting of what was possibly the last cast q&a. At least not to those of us who have watched and read and scrutinized every single thing ever said about the show. I wanted to hear something new, and I don’t think I did. I really wish Jennie Tan and Monica Madeja had been responsible for the questions for this too.
But, we had the unique opportunity of watching the cast watch the bloopers, which was probably the highlight of the night. Watching Steve crack up at himself was all kinds of amazing.
And then they asked for fan questions, with no pre-screening in place. You can guess how well that went. It was mostly people asking for hugs and autographs. I think Rainn Wilson felt the same way we did when he asked some fans to “put that shit away!” People also didn’t seem to know the actors names, and my fellow super!fans probably know my feelings on that one…
But, again, it was really great to see all the cast there and interacting with one another. John and Brian chest bumped, Brian sat on Steve’s lap, Steve and Oscar hugged, Paul hid in his sweater, John gave Jenna his jacket, and they all took photos of one another. It was very heartwarming and fun to watch.
After the Q&A ended they showed the first 10 minutes of the next episode, a few cast members said some speeches, they gave a lovely thanks to Jennie Tan for all of her work at OfficeTally, and then did a final bow.
After that a few cast members ran out to the far seats to sign and take photos for fans, and then a nice fireworks display was set off, with a neat song mix of music done on the show.
The cast waved goodbye and headed off the field, and the fans started to clear out as well. Alyssa and I sat in the almost empty stadium for probably close to half an hour and just cried, because as it turns out we’re both criers.
Not wanting the night to end we headed back downtown to find something to do. We went to the Hilton where we found Katie and Spin and sat around chatting for a while. Spin was exhausted and ready for bed, so we said our goodbyes before the three of us went to wander the town. We found out that the cast was at the Backyard Ale House, so we headed there. When we arrived Brian was tending bar, and the rest of the cast was wandering in and out. We stuck around for a while, but after the 3rd pick-up line involving my super sexy mask Alyssa and I decided it was time to leave!
Alyssa and I said goodbye when we got back to the hotel *sad face* and I went back to my room to find my 3 roomies fast asleep.
On Sunday morning we all got breakfast together, and were able to say goodbye to fellow MTTers Michelle and Tina.
We then packed up the car and headed home. The drive back was slightly long and painful, but we made up for it by visiting Tim Horton’s, Panera, Chili’s, and 2 Targets. We dropped Sara back off at the airport, and Jenn and I headed for the border. It turns out mentioning The Office to Canadian Customs and Immigration officers is exactly the same as with the US. This guy was even a bit jealous. Especially when I told him that Steve made a surprise appearance!
So, see? Not a negative review, I don’t think. I had issue with a couple things, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Jenn made an excellent point on our ride back- We’re big fans of the show, and as such will be the biggest critics of everything related to it. And, my main point is simply that we just want our events to be safe, and our Q&A’s to be meaty. I’d say this was done about 70% of the time.
The Office means the world to me and it deserved an epic farewell, which I do think was achieved.
I’m happy I went, I’m happy that I was able to meet up with so many great fans and friends, I’m happy I was able to see so many famous folks that I adore, and I’m happy that the cast and crew had such a wonderful time.