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Inside Column: Living in the ‘armpit’

Chris Hine | Friday, October 27, 2006

When I heard on our local news in Scranton, Pa. that NBC was going to adapt the classic British comedy “The Office” for American television – and set it in Scranton – I did not know what to expect. So, I did a little research and found that some websites compared Slough, the setting for the British version, to an armpit. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant purposely picked a depressing city to underscore the characters’ humdrum lives.

I feared the worst, like the producers making fun of our economically depressed, Gerry McNamara-loving area where you need to know someone who knows a guy in order to get a good job. The material was there, but how would they use it?

“Life moves a little slower in Scranton, and that’s the way we like it,” is the harshest I’ve heard after 33 episodes. That’s not to say they are wrong in depicting Scranton as an armpit, but it is nice that they restrain themselves. The above comment is mostly correct, except life doesn’t move slower in Scranton – it is static.

The character of Jim is a graduate of Bishop Hannan high school and now works in “The Office.” One Scranton resident in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said, “I can just see him graduating from Bishop Hannan and getting a job at a local Scranton company. That is what we do here.”

Our grandparents established our family roots there and went to work in the coalmines. Some left after the coalmines went out of style, but many stayed. People complain about how depressing of a city it is, but they never leave. There’s something about Scranton that keeps you there. Like any other town, your family and friends are there. For how boring and mundane life may be, it’s our home.

“The Office” has recently put Scranton back on the map and has been a bright spot for the city. Each episode is filled with references to Scranton landmarks like the coalmines or the Steamtown Mall. Rumor has it the producers plan on coming to Scranton to film an episode about our St. Patrick’s Day Parade, one of the largest in the country.

When some of my friends from campus came to Scranton this summer, I felt an odd sense of pride as we drove through Scranton and got our picture taken by the “Scranton Welcomes You” used in the opening credits to the show. I couldn’t wait to show them what Scranton was like.

And before “The Office,” I’d never felt pride for my hometown like that.

Even if it is an armpit.