Bears. Beets. Best The Office cold opens.
The spoof sitcom is known for many things: Michael Scott, the epic love story between Jim and Dwight Pam, shooting in mockumentary style, Jim’s impressive résumé of pranks, and being one of TV’s greatest comedies. But, something they absolutely did better than anyone was the cold open.
For those unaware, a cold open on television is a brief scene that takes place ahead of the opening credits and often has nothing to do with the story to come. And while Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the current king of the cold open, The Office holds all the all-time crown, thanks to the guaranteed sheer lunacy and hilariousness of the first two-plus minutes of each episode, whether it involved an endless parade of genius Jim pranks on Dwight or The Office meeting The Office.
With rumors swirling that The Office could be returning to NBC in some form, it seems like an appropriate time to honor the show by ranking the 10 best cold opens. This could have easily been much longer (that’s what she said), so special shoutout to Dead Jim, the KGB, Entourage, Michael’s Levi’s, the IT guy not being a terrorist, and Asian Jim.
Season 6 kicked off in 2009 with the “internet sensation of 2004.” Michael, Dwight, and Andy have recently discovered parkour, or at least their version of it, which includes slightly opening the refrigerator, kicking the women’s bathroom door, riding each other, and jumping 20-feet down into an empty box. “They are doing parkour,” comments Jim, “As long as point A is delusion and point B is the hospital.”
9. “Costume Contest”
What won’t Stanley notice? It turns out that Dundler Mifflin’s favorite grump is so locked into his crossword puzzles that the answer is many things, whether it be shirtless Andy, Kevin pretending to be Phyllis, or a mustached Pam. But don’t even think about having a slow clock, because he knows when it’s quitting time.
8. “Fun Run”
Michael may not have gotten the job in New York, but he’s feeling “very blessed” when season 4 begins. You know who probably doesn’t feel blessed? Meredith, since Michael hits her with his car. It’s not all bad news, though, as the run-in and subsequent doctor visit led to a rabies diagnosis.
7. “Search Committee”
Perhaps no character in TV history has a higher success rate per appearance than Creed Bratton. The former hippie and homeless man isn’t given much to do, but when he is called upon, it’s going to be ridiculous and hilarious — which is exactly what happened during his one-episode run as manager. With Michael gone to Colorado and Dwight having shot his gun in the office, Creed is in charge and his reign at “Great Bratton” has him, among other things, arriving in a new sports car, the keys to which he throws to a non-existent valet attendant, and asking Jordan to identify a made up language. But what also would you expect from the man behind http://www.creedthoughts.gov.www\creedthoughts?
6. “Casual Friday”
There are a lot of things that Kevin Malone can’t do: convincingly pull off a wig, accept being compared to the Cookie Monster, and accounting. However, apparently, the thing he does best is bake his famous chili… and spill and slip all over said chili.
Who hasn’t wanted to be Meryl Streep? For Michael, it was a viewing of The Devil Wears Prada that inspired him to emulate the legendary actress, treating Pam like Streep’s character does Anne Hathaway’s in the 2006 film. But the thing to know about Michael’s movie watching habits is that he watches them in pieces, so when he comes in one day without making a fashionable entrance, it’s clear that he has finally finished. “Big surprise ending,” he shares. “Meryl Streep is the bad guy. You never see it coming.” Next up for Michael is Million Dollar Baby, which would be one dark cold open.
4. “The Injury”
Most cold opens are unrelated to the plot of the episode, but for The Office‘s first great one (they didn’t start doing them until early in season 2), the opening few minutes beautifully sets up the classic episode that was to follow. A panicked Michael calls Pam to alert her to his serious injury and ask if she can pick him up. What happened? Did someone hit him with their car? Nope, just your traditional burned foot from a George Foreman grill (“I like to wake up to the smell of bacon, sue me!”). The only person willing to go get Michael is, unsurprisingly, Dwight, who speeds off so fast that he crashes his car, resulting in a concussion. Now that is an injury.
3. “Frame Toby”
It’s party time…until it turns to nightmare time for Michael. After Kelly grabs two brownies, one for her and one for Toby, Michael becomes amused since his archenemy is gone forever in Costa Rica, right? Jim is the bearer of the bad news of Toby’s return, but Michael doesn’t believe it, so he jokingly goes back to the annex to check. When he arrives, he finds no one, believing it to be another great Jim practical joke. Well, the joke is on Michael as he turns around and sees Toby. The result: “Nooooo, god. No, god, please no. No. No. Nooooooooo.” The gif truly is the gift that keeps on giving.
2. “Product Recall”
It’s a simple question: What kind of bear is best? Well, maybe not so simple if it’s Jim dressed up as Dwight asking the question. “Fact: Bears eat beets,” posits Jim in not his most elaborate prank ever, but maybe his funniest. “Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.” Those four words, which perfectly sum up Dwight K. Schrute, are the way the Assistant to the Regional Manager catches on to the $11 case of identity theft. The iconic cold open is only enhanced by the episode’s final moments, in which Dwight gets his revenge by doing his best Jim impression. What a classic rivalry (albeit a rivalry where the score is like Jim 157, Dwight 2).
1. “Stress Relief”
It’s fitting that The Office‘s biggest and best cold open kicked off the show’s biggest episode. Surely knowing they needed to immediately hook the massive audience, season 5’s “Stress Relief,” which aired in the plum post-Super Bowl slot, put together by the series’ most unhinged sequence of all-time. “Today, smoking is going to save lives,” declares Dwight, who, after no one paid attention to his fire safety talk, implements a real world test. The small fire that he starts sends the whole office into complete panic: Oscar is climbing in (and eventually dangling from) the ceiling; Angela throws Bandit up to Oscar, only for the cat to fly back down; Michael throws a chair at a window; Kevin throws a chair at the vending machine. The chaos finally ends when Dwight announces that it was just a simulation, but it’s too late for Stanley, who suffers a heart attack. “Stanley, you will not die,” screams Michael. “Barack is president. You are black, Stanley!” And you are the best Office cold open, “Stress Relief.”