I have complicated feelings about The Office. The first four seasons were so amazingly good that in a vacuum, I’d consider it to be one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. But then it kept going, and kept getting worse. Things were to the point that by season eight, I really didn’t want to watch the show anymore, and by the time that credits rolled in the finale, I was super bummed with what one of my favorite shows had become. Let’s take a look back at the good and the bad, and figure out where things went sideways.
I love television shows, and I love ranking things. It only makes sense that I combine the two. I’ll be ranking every season of The Office, according to science. Science, in this case, means watching every episode and assigning it a score 1-5, with five being amazing and one being not so amazing. Obviously the most important thing is the comedy, but I also give special props to good concepts, unique episodes, and great stories. It’s all on a sliding scale, so a “one” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a terrible episode (though in this case, it does). I then average out the individual episode scores for an entire season, and rank them all according to that final score. For ties, I’m giving the edge to the season that has the stronger “best” episodes, since those are the ones we usually remember. I know, math is scary, but I’ve done all the hard work so you don’t have to.
If you read my rankings of Parks and Rec, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or The League, don’t compare the scores. The episode and season scores are only meant to be compared to other episodes and seasons of the same show. Comparing shows to one another is a whole other kind of list that I’m not willing to dive into right now. Maybe someday…
Let me know your favorite season of The Office in the comments below, and enjoy the list!
9. Season Eight – 2.67
Season eight was the first full season with no Michael Scott, and it showed. James Spader’s Robert California was delightfully weird, but Andy was now the “leader” on the show and it just didn’t work. What the writers did to Andy’s character throughout the show really killed the character for me. He went from being the funny jerk to all of a sudden a character the audience was supposed to care about. Since he was now headlining the show, it didn’t make sense to keep the douche bag persona up. But then the writers figured out that wasn’t working in the final season and brought him back to being oblivious and selfish. He just didn’t feel like the same character anymore. Season eight also has the dishonor of containing the absolute worst episode of The Office, “Pam’s Replacement.” This wasn’t the beginning of Pam becoming unbearable, but it was certainly the lowest point yet. And things didn’t get better from here.
Strongest Episodes: Garden Party, Test the Store
Weakest Episodes: Pam’s Replacement, Angry Andy
8. Season Nine – 2.69
As the final season of a once great show, it’s hard to argue that season nine wasn’t disappointing. I remember at the time feeling hopeful as the first few episodes aired, as the show seemed to be back on track after a mostly abysmal season eight. But then the Jim/Pam drama continued. I know there are still a few Pam defenders out there, and they’re still just as crazy as they were back then. Pam became an absolute monster of a person in the final few seasons, and things only got worse and worse as time went on. I don’t want to harp on it, because there are plenty of other problems with season nine, but it can’t be overstated how disappointing it was to watch her character completely change from who she was in the middle seasons. There’s a difference between finding some inner confidence and becoming a fun sucking, soulless, manipulative, unsupportive, selfish jerk. Okay, so maybe I am still harping on it. At least the finale was good?
Strongest Episodes: Finale, The Whale
Weakest Episodes: Customer Loyalty, Lice
7. Season Six – 3.08
Season six and seven came in at a tie, and I had to give the nod to season seven for having a higher number of great episodes. Even though the series had begun to show its age in season five, season six is where the “average” episode stopped being good enough. I had more episodes scored a two in season six than in the previous five seasons combined. That’s not great. Season six did give us the Jim/Pam wedding, and it was perfect for their relationship. And there were still signs of brilliance left in the show, with episodes like “Murder” and “Shareholder Meeting.” But then Sabre was introduced and things took a nosedive, ending with three of the last five episodes being actively bad.
Strongest Episodes: Murder, Niagra Part 2
Weakest Episodes: Secretary’s Day, Whistleblower
6. Season Seven – 3.08
Season seven wins out over season six basically on the strength of Michael’s final episode and how the show continued without him over the next few episodes. It was so much fun to see actors like Ray Romano, Will Ferrell, and Jim Carrey make an appearance on the show, and it really felt like The Office had hit the big time. It was obvious that none of those actors would be sticking around long term, but it was still a perfect distraction from the comedic force of Steve Carell leaving the show. Earlier in the season, however, things were not so great. The show was just beginning to feel a bit stale, which shouldn’t come as a surprise after seven seasons. It’s just really hard to keep the comedy going with the same characters, and most of the new ones that were introduced just didn’t have the same impact. Still, I enjoyed most of my time rewatching seasons six and seven, which I certainly can’t say for seasons eight and nine.
Strongest Episodes: Threat Level Midnight, Goodbye Michael
Weakest Episodes: The Seminar, The Inner Circle
5. Season Five – 3.18
Season five is where the cracks started to show for The Office. There were plenty of great things in there: Darrell became a bigger character, Holly and Michael’s relationship blossomed quickly and then was spoiled almost as quickly, and Jim and Pam got pregnant! But there was also one of the worst things to happen to the show: Charles Minor. Look, Idris Elba is a fantastic actor, but man is that character so, so terrible. It wasn’t just that he wasn’t funny, he needed to be a “straight” character to serve his purpose. It was that his character was so actively unfunny that he sucked the rest of the humor out of every scene. Plus, in an effort to slow down Jim’s positive momentum, they turned him into a complete moron in order to justify Charles being unimpressed. It felt wrong for the character, and it was annoying.
Strongest Episodes: Michael Scott Paper Company, Broke
Weakest Episodes: New Boss, The Surplus
4. Season One – 3.50
Season one doesn’t get as much love as it deserves, and I think that’s because a lot of viewers didn’t cling onto the show until season two or later. But I checked out the pilot back in the day on the strength of Steve Carell alone, and I wasn’t disappointed. I had heard of the British version but had never watched it, so the fact that the premiere was basically a remake was lost on me at the time. I don’t think that takes anything away, but it is really interesting to look back on season one of The Office as a standalone product. There was very little throughline between episodes, and the Michael Scott character himself was highly unlikeable. Steve Carell took the character in a much more interesting direction in later seasons.
Strongest Episodes: Basketball, Diversity Day
Weakest Episodes: Pilot, Health Care
3. Season Four – 3.71
Season four contains what I consider to be the two absolute best episodes of The Office, and they really catapulted this season into the upper echelon of the show. Despite starting off with the curious decision to have four hour-long episodes and being shortened overall by the writer’s strike, the cast and crew managed to put out some pretty fantastic stories and moments. There were a few “down” episodes compared to the impossible brilliance of seasons two and three, but that’s only to be expected. And while there were still some great things to come in the show’s future, season four was the last unequivocally great season. I think the scores bear that out fairly clearly.
Strongest Episodes: Dinner Party, The Deposition
Weakest Episodes: The Chair Model, Night Out
2. Season Two – 3.86
Season two is my wife’s favorite season. I feel obligated to say this because she’s always such a big part of my ranking process, and I certainly can’t fault her choice. Season two is really where The Office came into its own, with arguably the best season premiere/finale combo in the show’s history. We also finally got that confrontation between Jim and Pam, and things didn’t quite end like you expected. Then it seemed like they were going to, and then we were disappointed again. Such brilliant acting by Jenna Fisher and John Krasinski in those scenes. But I don’t want to overlook the twenty-some episodes that came between the premiere and the finale, as the bar for this show was set very high at a quick pace. There are just a ton of classics in there, from Office Olympics to the first Christmas party episode.
Strongest Episodes: The Dundies, Casino Night
Weakest Episodes: Performance Review, The Secret
1. Season Three – 4.00
Thankfully things didn’t come down to a tie because it would have been really hard to decide between season two and three. Thankfully, math made the decision for me. I’ve said it before about other top seasons of favorite shows, but season three is just the whole package. It had a fantastic premiere and finale, tons of memorable moments and storylines, and plenty of great, standalone episodes scattered throughout. It shook things up with Jim starting out at another office, Dwight resigning, the Jim/Pam dynamic being flipped on its head, and introducing the comedic force that is Ed Helms. Plus, there’s that ending moment between Jim and Pam. I would have been satisfied if the show had ended right there, it was so perfect.
Strongest Episodes: Gay Witch Hunt, A Benihana Christmas
Weakest Episodes: The Return, Cocktails
So there you have it, my personal ranking of The Office seasons. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and tell me your favorite moment from this special show!
For more The Office content, check out my list of the top 10 episodes!