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Dunder Mifflinites await “The Office” Convention

Cassie Belek | Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Attention all Dunderheads: You are officially invited to the first-ever “The Office” Convention in Scranton, Penn., Oct. 26-28. That’s right – after only three aired seasons of the Emmy-award winning comedy, an entire convention will be devoted to NBC’s “The Office.”

“The Office” fan base may not yet be up to “Star Trek”-like proportions, but it’s large and dedicated enough to convince the City of Scranton, the Lackawanna County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce that a convention uniting Dunderheads from all over the country is a good idea. If they host it, they will come – especially when there are promises of cast appearances.

To many, a convention may seem like too much too soon, but “The Office” fan base is unique from that of any other series on television. It’s not only loyal but also online. An understanding of the way “The Office” uses the Internet is essential to explaining why the convention is taking place and why fans are guaranteed to flock to the Electric City in October.

When a few cast members of “The Office” decided to create MySpace blogs in 2005, they didn’t imagine the response they would receive. After all, they did it simply because the computers on “The Office” set were actually hooked up to the Internet and they had to do something to pass the time as they sat in the background during scenes. So they began accepting friend requests, responding to questions, reading comments and blogging about the show, their lives and each other.

They did what no other television cast had done before. Instead of relying on television appearances and magazine interviews, they removed the third parties and revealed their on-set and off-screen lives directly to the fans. They interacted with fans from the early stages of the series and broke down all barriers of celebrity. These truly were real, normal people who just happened to have extraordinary comedic talent and still shop at Target.

The cast’s way of fighting off boredom worked. Jenna Fischer (Pam) has the most popular blog by far with more than 100,000 MySpace friends. Real life best friend Angela Kinsey (Angela) has around 40,000 MySpace friends. The two often mention each other in blogs and offer as much behind-the-scenes information as they can. Fischer even gives away promotional samples she collects from Hollywood functions and offers a particularly in-depth post about how to make it in Hollywood.

Other cast members with MySpace sites include Brian Baumgartner (Kevin), B.J. Novak (Ryan), Kate Flannery (Meredith) and Craig Robinson (Daryl). Even Mindy Kaling (Kelly) has a blog called “Things I’ve Bought That I Love” on Blogspot.com where she unleashes her shopping obsession and details her favorite purchases.

Not only do cast members interact with fans through blogs, but they also maintain close ties with administrators of the series’ fansites. Perhaps the best fansite is OfficeTally.com, which nabbed an exclusive post-Emmy nomination interview with Fischer, who shunned formal interviews to speak with the web site first.

It is this interaction between the cast and its fans that unites “The Office” fan base and makes it so strong. Because of the Internet, relationships with the stars of “The Office” aren’t necessarily one-sided. The fans and the cast are more closely connected than fans and casts of any other show.

Because of these relationships, a convention to bring everyone together isn’t as extreme an idea as it could be. Who wouldn’t want to attend the convention kick-off at the Radisson on that Friday or Office Olympics on that Saturday?

There’s even a Dundee award presentation on Sunday. Additionally, several cast members have reassured they are doing everything they can to attend.

Are Dunderheads the new Trekkies? Probably not. Will the streets of Scranton be littered with Dwight and Angela look-a-likes come October? Most definitely. Dunderheads are as loyal to “The Office” as Dwight is to Michael, and the series has the Internet to thank for it.