As the nine-season run of The Office winds down (the series finale airs on May 16), let's take a look at the best episode from every season of the show.
Season 1 - "Basketball"
Now, I could make an argument that any of these six episodes are within the top-10 episodes of the show's 194 episode history thus far; however "Basketball" is far and away my favorite episode of the series. The warehouse guys have a big role here, as well as the rivalry between Jim and Roy. Racism takes a not-so-subtle appearance when Michael proclaims that Stanley would be starting "of course." Though it was the second least-watched episode of the season, this established a whole collection of other characters and was the first episode to bring the whole office outside of the office itself.
Season 2 - "Office Olympics"
In a 22-episode season where new story-lines are sprouting from every corner, pinning down a favorite here was a near impossible task. I ended up going with "Office Olympics" because that is the episode I come back to more often than the rest from this season. Michael and Dwight go on an adventure to buy a condo, sending the office into full slacker-mode as Jim and Pam organize an office-wide Olympics. Additionally, this episode features of the great lines in the series. When Dwight is trying to describe his relationship with Michael, he proclaims that Michael is like, "Mozart, and I'm like ... Mozart's friend. No, I'm like Butch Cassidy, and Michael is like ... Mozart."
Season 3 - "Benihana Christmas"
In a season which involved Jim moving to Stamford, and then moving back, Season 3 really allowed the writers to expand their world. The hour-long "Benihana Christmas" is a hilarious concoction of Andy trying to win over Michael from Dwight and Jim playing some simple shenanigans. The Office is notable for moments, and the moment that sticks out in this episode is when Dwight is explaining to the Benihana waitress how to properly kill and prepare a deer. Additionally, Michael marking one of the waitresses he brings back to the office with a Sharpie in order to tell them apart is pure comic gold. In the last of the golden seasons, this episode stands out as the perfect mix of plot and tangential shenanigans that make The Office what it is.
Season 4 - "Dinner Party"
Though the writer's strike derailed some of the momentum of this season, the first episode after they resumed was a quintessential episode of the show. Awkwardness reigns supreme as Jan and Michael's relationship self-destructs on-camera, Andy tries to get closer to an un-receptive Angela, and Jim and Pam watch as Dwight invites himself over with his former childhood babysitter. This is one of the best episodes done outside of the office environment itself as the home allows for a mostly self-contained set for the characters to interact in. This season marks the beginning of the end for me; however, there were still great moments buried in the next few seasons.
Season 5 - "Stress Relief"
Far and away the most watched episode in series history (it aired directly after the Super Bowl), almost 23 million people got a chance to watch an episode filled with some of the most absurd moments in the show's hilarious history. The opening alone was noteworthy as Dwight stages a fire in order to show the office how unprepared they were for a fire. This plan backfires as Stanley suffers a heart attack during the "drill." Another layer to this episode is Jim and Pam's relationship discussion over the course of a pirated movie. Andy believes Jim and Pam have some sort of extra insight into the film as they talk about their actual relationship, and tries to insert his own "insightful" comments on the film. This was, despite a multitude of plots going on at once, is an extremely accessible episode for those new to the show.
Season 6 - "Scott's Tots"
What could be more funny than Michael, believing that he would be incredibly successful ten years down the road, promises a group of teenagers that he would pay for their college tuition, and then ten years pass and Michael is a regional manager of a fledgling paper company. Michael cannot pay for this, and instead, decides to give them all laptop batteries (a great consolation prize...I guess?). While Jim has a storyline here that is frankly quite mediocre and extremely plot-driven with little humor interjected, Michael's storyline in this episode is enough to make it my favorite of the season.
Season 7 - "Threat Level Midnight"
In Steve Carell's final season on the show, they finally made an episode about Michael's screenplay, "Threat Level Midnight." Originally brought up in season two in "The Client," in this episode, as an effort to cheer Michael up, they watch the film and make a pact with one another to take it seriously. There are too many great moments from the film within the episode to list, but this is a must watch for any fan of the show as it hearkens back to an earlier era of the show when shenanigans and cheap laughs reign supreme.
Season 8 - "Christmas Wishes"
No more Michael, but that doesn't mean that you can't have fun with the boss. With Andy now in charge, Dwight and Jim's prank wars of yore resume, and Andy, in the sternest way possible, demands that they stop, and said that whomever commits the next prank will forfeit their bonus to the other one. An old-school prank war ensues and a trend appears in my favorites, the more recent episodes that could feel at home in earlier seasons tend to be my favorites. Christmas specials have been a specialty of the show, and Season 8's is no different.
Season 9 - "Promos"
Thursday night's episode continued this season's trend of wrapping up the series. The episode centered around a promo coming out for "The Office: An American Workplace." With the whole cast realizing that all of their most private moments have been captured on camera, this causes Pam to reach out to a former camera man, as well as Oscar and Angela to work together to talk to the Senator. I'll admit, I became a bit wistful at seeing footage of Michael Scott on the show, even if it was all things I had seen before.
And there you have it, with only 5 episodes left in the series history, we bid adieu to one of the main pillars of NBC's Thursday night lineup. While I will be the first to admit that the show has seemed a bit stale at times in the later seasons, The Office is still consistently one of the funniest shows on TV.