Although The Office ended its run on NBC six years ago, it still remains Netflix's most popular TV show. The company is notoriously tight with viewing figures, but it was reported to have accounted for 3% of all minutes watched on the service in 2018 - totaling some 52 billion minutes - and putting it ahead of other heavyweight titles like Friends (which the streamer paid an estimated $100m to keep through 2019). That makes it even worse news for Netflix that it'll be leaving in 2021, with the sitcom moving to NBCUniversal's new platform, but why is it so popular in the first place?
The Office, based upon the UK comedy of the same name, was a solid enough hit when it first aired, although the reception to its first season was lukewarm. After a shakeup, whereby it stopped trying to simply mimic the Ricky Gervais show and found its own voice, it became a favorite with critics. It performed reasonably well in the ratings too, but was never a sitcom juggernaut like some other shows of the time, such as The Big Bang Theory.
That could well help factor into why The Office is so popular on Netflix. There are more people who haven't seen it, therefore an increased number of subscribers will be discovering it on the streaming service. Add in the fact that there are nine seasons, making up a total of 201 episodes, and there's a lot for hungry bingers to get through (something none of Netflix’s own Originals can match). The Office now feels like a pop-culture staple, and if someone hasn't seen it, it's going to seem to them like one they absolutely need to watch. That doesn't fully explain it though, because the show's greatest strength is, really, its rewatchability.
Running from 2005-2013, The Office occupies a unique space in the sitcom sphere. It wasn't just another attempt at creating a Friends-esque hangout, but nor did it fully go down the meta-fused, rapid-fire joke machine route of something like 30 Rock. It finds a nice balance between the two styles, with a mockumentary twist that it made feel fresh, which gives it a broad appeal without trading on a smart sense of humor. That goes across generations too: younger fans who found Friends to be problematic when it hit Netflix will have no such problems with The Office, but people of almost all demographics can relate to the workplace environment it's set in as well. As new generations move into work, it continues to be relevant to more and more people (which is also why there's a clamor for a reunion).
It isn't just its humor or relatability though, but that it is so rewarding to viewers who rewatch the series. There's so much warmth and comedy within The Office - or at least, seasons 2-7 - that it has the comforting familiarity that series like Friends and How I Met Your Mother do too. Viewers can stick it on in the background, roughly being able to follow what's going on while they look at their phones. But if you happen to pay closer attention, then it's also packed with little details that are easy to miss the first time around.
It now has at least two genuine stars among its cast, thanks to the successes of Steve Carell and John Krasinski, which gives subscribers another reason to check in, but it's the ensemble that makes it work. The cringe comedy of Michael Scott, the romance of Jim and Pam (one of sitcom history's greatest), and the rivalry between Jim and Dwight are the kinds of elements fans never tire of.
Here we have a show that is old enough to be revered, but still young enough to feel fresh and relevant. It appeals to viewers who haven't seen it once, and those who have five times over. And that's why The Office is so popular on Netflix. It's hilarious, it's long, and it's satisfying. That's what she said.