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In a recent installment of "The Office," most of the employees of Dunder Mifflin Sabre gasp in near horror at web previews for the tell-all documentary produced by the camera crew that's shadowed them for all these years.
But fame-hungry office manager Andy Bernard eats up the attention. "People, relax – we are killing it online....We're Internet sensations, guys!" he declares.
It marked a funny and revealing meta moment in the finale season of a show that's lived a not-so-secret second life online, via webisodes, for much of its eight-year run. Now, as the month-long countdown to the end of "The Office" kicks off, the creative team is saying goodbye to the show in one last online miniseries.
“The Office Farewells” segments are appropriate on two levels: Online extras – from Erin and Kelly’s Subtle Sexuality music video to Ryan’s “The 3rd Floor” slasher movie – have long provided a platform for material that didn't necessarily fit into the TV show’s storylines. Perhaps more significantly, the webisodes offer an opportunity to bid “The Office” a relatively low-key goodbye, in contrast to Steve Carell's hard-to-top departure, which ended the show's strongest era two years ago this month.
The first of the farewell Internet shorts stars Will Ferrell, who was among the big-name comedic actors to visit "The Office" during Carell's final season. In the video, shot by John Krasinski (who plays Jim Halpert) in a combination of "Office" mockumentary and "Behind the Music" style, Ferrell recalls his hilarious stint as volatile Deangelo Vickers, the initial replacement for Carell's bumbling Michael Scott.
"It's arguably one of the great comedies of the last 10 years," Ferrell said – at least, that we think he said as stuffed himself with salad.
The web installments allow “The Office” to look back on a great nine-season run, while the final four TV episodes push the action forward. There’s much to wrap: Roseanne Barr joined the cast last week as a small-time, seemingly shady talent agent who puts stars in Andy’s eyes. Jim and Pam are fighting to save the relationship that's the basis of the show. We’re finally seeing the impact of the documentary that, save for Carell’s final scene, largely hasn’t been acknowledged until this season.
If the documentary is the show within the show, then the web shorts represent the show within the show within the show. If you think that’s a mouthful, then check out Ferrell chowing down as he sings the praises of "The Office":
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.