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I know about conventions in the same way my mom knows what Amazon.com is. That is to say, I’ve heard of them, but have no first hand knowledge in my background to categorize what makes it so special. This past weekend, sitting in a strange hotel room, I was prepared to learn about convention going. Oh, I was excited to rub/nuzzle up against Angela Kinsey as much as possible. My initial thoughts upon driving into dreary (it was raining, I don’t blame the locals for that) Scranton was that my creepy obsession with all things The Office would be engulfed by scores of real life Bobble-head Dwights and 3-Hole Punch Jims. In essence, I would be the reasonably normal guy that could protect Melora (Jan) when she was chased by a pack of two-headed “Halloween Michael Scott’s.”
The reality of The Office Convention did not live up to my preconceived notions. Instead, the bulk of the weekend was spent feeling like I was at a real work convention that endured relentlessly. Speaking with my new best friend – and apparent hater of beards – TVSquad’s Jay Black, he mentioned that the entire experience had the feel of a horribly bland Field Day when you were in high school. As an aside I sat and spoke with Jay for a portion of a cast press conference, and I feel that 20 minutes was adequate time to make a new BFF. That brings my tally to 4 this year.
Let me take you on a word adventure. The scene: a non-descript college gymnasium. There’s a long table set up for some type of event, and another behind that for more uninteresting competition (it’s that, or intended to be the place onlookers can go and lay down when their brains fall out of their heads). On the other side is yet another pairing of tables, as original concepts was not on the agenda obviously. And finally, the coup de grace was a collection of garbage cans for the purpose of throwing crumpled pieces of paper into. The Office Olympics at the convention could have been saved by crazy fans, but instead a gaggle of babbling college girls and frat boy guys competed in events such as Skeet Schruting and Trashcan Horse. Copious amounts of amphetamines were required to hold my attention as girls gathered office paraphernalia to win some sort of prize. Yes, the excitement was palpable as generic college girl found the paper clip she needed just as average but cute college girl began her run to the finish line.
Then if you went well out of your way to the Trolley Museum, around 18 costumes were on display. Aside from it being in the middle of nowhere, there was little to see. After all, the costumes on the show are generally your average office garb fare. Notable exceptions were Pam’s gorgeous “Casino Night” dress and Michael’s “Missterious” suit. As a fan of the series it was oddly exciting to touch these items.
Look, you may think I’m being unreasonably harsh. The organizers of the entire weekend are doing this for the first time, and perhaps allowances should be made. As I see it, a fan convention like this should be able to stand without the help of key cast members. Or any at all in fact. As I go into the following sections you’ll notice a change in my tone. The reason is that the cast of The Office carried this entire convention on their shoulders. Without the enthusiasm shown by cast members such as Leslie David Baker (Stanley) or Ed Helms (Andy) there would have been nothing of interest to talk about when I arrived home.
It wasn’t that they were famous, or even that they play our favorite television characters, that made the cast such a wonderful addition to the weekend. The pure joy and excitement they lavished upon the fans was a real delight to witness. In fact, the cast of The Office were the sole catalyst for entertainment during the weekend. Disorganization and lackluster fanaticism was apparent the entire convention, except when the actors were on stage. I’m happy the cast had such a great time, but they get to play these wonderful characters each week. I’d like to get some vicarious satisfaction, and a convention seemed like the perfect outlet to achieve that goal. Here’s hoping that with a trial run under their belts the organizers can bring something special to the convention aside from special appearances. One idea I would like to throw out there for next year's convention (if there is one) is an Office Trivia Contest. Perhaps some kind of game-show-formatted event where fans can face off to see who knows the most random facts about the series.
Overall I’d have to give the organizers credit for trying something so new. No one really knew how an Office convention would work, and while there were some major issues throughout the weekend, enough quality showpieces popped up to make me think this thing could become huge in the coming years. It’s just not quite there yet.
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