13 years after The Office aired the infamous “Scott’s Tots” episode, B.J. Novak looks back on the story and talks about why it’s so cringy.
The Office writer B.J. Novak looks back at one of the show’s most infamous episodes, “Scott’s Tots.” Novak starred in The Office as Ryan Howard throughout its eight-season run, but the actor doubled as a writer during his time on the show. Co-stars Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor) and Paul Lieberstein (Toby Flenderson) also had dual roles as writers, which is why their characters’ cubicles were placed in the back of the office.
The American version of The Office is one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time, partly because of the show’s use of cringy humor. Michael Scott (Steve Carell) made audiences roll their eyes on a regular basis, but season 6 episode 12, “Scott’s Tots,” is often regarded as the show’s cringiest episode. In “Scott’s Tots,” Michael has to face a group of high school students whom he had promised to pay college tuition for 10 years prior. Michael thought he would be a lot wealthier in the future when he made the promise but could only offer each of them a lithium computer battery, which obviously didn’t go over well with the students.
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Novak recently appeared on Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey’s Office Ladies podcast (via Mashable) to discuss “Scott’s Tots” since it was his directorial debut, aside from The Office: Blackmail shorts. Novak admits that he had no idea “Scott’s Tots” would become the show’s cringiest episode and that he understands why fans find it so hard to watch. The writer continued to explain that Michael just let his pure generosity get the best of him, referencing Michael’s quote, “I’ve made some empty promises in my life, but hands down, that was the most generous.” Novak’s full comment can be read below:
I had no idea. It seemed great. You know, I was assigned the script, loved it, and it was only much later…. I think it’s a sign of how deep into the show I was, or we all were, that we did not have a foot in the real world. Not that that was an unrealistic episode…that’s exactly what Michael would do. That’s exactly what Michael would feel. I also think that we can talk about it creatively. It makes a lot of sense to me. I don’t know if people are responding to — it seems like no one’s responding to it saying, ‘It’s a bad episode’ or ‘Michael wouldn’t do that.’ It’s more just like, ‘It’s so hard to watch.’ So it is consistent, I think, with the show.
Michael was so sure that he would be successful; that he could make this promise. To me it’s not about the lie. It’s not about what ended up being a lie or a broken promise. It’s Michael — he got carried away with his generosity, with his belief in himself. I mean, maybe this is what people cringe about. It’s a very, very lovable version of Michael Scott, as well as a heartbreaking version of Michael Scott. And it’s sort of the whole series in an incredibly distilled, uncomfortable way from the Michael Scott point of view when you look at it like that.
He is such a believer, you know? And so his belief got ahead of him. And this is by far, you know…this is the biggest consequence of all. That is sort of this incredible distillation of why we love Michael so much and why he’s made everyone’s life so impossibly difficult, which is sort of the heart and the comedy of the series. But it’s not usually that intense, you know?
The Office is known for its cringy moments, whether it is Michael fake firing somebody, Kevin spilling his chili, or when Michael proposed to Carol after telling her Kelly’s Diwali event was a costume party. Scenes like these flooded the series even after Carell left The Office, but Novak explained in his interview that “Scott’s Tots” was an extreme example of how cringy the show could be. Novak pointed out that the British version of The Office usually ended on a darker note every episode, which is something the writers didn’t want to copy in their show. Novak also praised fellow writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, who wrote “Scott’s Tots” and several other episodes.
Even though some of Michael’s antics are hard to watch, The Office garnered a huge fanbase, which grew even bigger when the series became available to stream on Netflix and later Peacock. Based on Carell’s past comments, a reboot of The Office seems unlikely to happen with the original cast, but Fischer and Kinsey are giving Office fans new content almost every week with their podcast. Novak is just one of many guests they have had on the series, and while his explanation of “Scott’s Tots” is an interesting insight into the making of the episode, it doesn’t make it any easier to watch even after 10+ years.
More: What BJ Novak Has Done Since Leaving The Office
Source: Office Ladies (via Mashable)
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Christopher is a news writer, editor, and senior trainer at Screen Rant. He graduated from Rock Valley College in 2018 with an Associate of Arts degree and a Media Production Specialist certificate.
After running his own movie blog for over five years, Christopher joined the Screen Rant team in 2018 as a list writer. Christopher is a sucker for ‘80s horror and giant monster movies but has covered a wide range of topics during his employment at Screen Rant.
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