Rarely has an episode of The Office featured so much outside action as “The Search.” There was “Survivor Man,” which took place in the… (ahem)… deep Pennsylvania forest. Also “Booze Cruise” which featured the shoreline of Lake Wallenpaupack at night. And “Beach Games,” where the gang frolicked on a non-existent sandy beach at beautiful Lake Scranton, which is actually a reservoir with water that is strictly off-limits to people. But a show devoted to wandering the city streets? I knew this was gonna be interesting… (at least to me)…
Ryan and Kelly start things off with a bang by announcing their quickie marriage and divorce while they were partying in the Poconos. I’ve brought this up before; when I was growing up, the phrase “the Poconos” conjured up images of shopworn heart-shaped tubs and tawdry lost weekends in those clichéd, one-story off-road motels where there is usually at least one burned-out letter in the neon sign. (for instance, “Heated Poo…”) That’s all changed now; the Poconos have become a legitimate outdoor playground featuring ski resorts, upscale lodges, five-star restaurants and top-drawer entertainment. But for Ryan and Kelly, let’s go with the old, out-of-date perception.
Michael and Jim go out on a sales call. Soon, they are driving through the streets of Scranton, and Jim announces that they are “Ten minutes from the office.” Michael needs to use a rest room now, so they stop at the “Civic Center Gas” station. In reality, this is located near the Van Nuys Civic Center, where the show is filmed. The Van Nuys State Office Building is clearly visible across the street. But the show deserves some credit here; all the cars have Pa license plates and front windshield Pa inspection stickers. Plus, they went through the trouble of lining up newspaper boxes in front of the gas station: The red box sells “The Weekender,” the blue box features the Scranton Times-Tribune, and I think the yellow box is “The Electric City,” a local alternative paper. What a nice, unnecessary touch!
Once inside the gas station, Michael is shown standing in front of a display of Grasshopper Lawn Care products, a local company. A Greater Scranton Chamber Of Commerce sticker adorns the cashier’s window. We learn that the gas station is located on Bennett Street. There is a Bennett Street off of the North Scranton Expressway, about 10 minutes away from where Dunder-Mifflin is supposed to be. Bennett Street intersects with “Pawnee Avenue,” which may be an inside joke for the show’s writers, some of whom also work on “Parks And Recreation,” a sitcom based in fictional Pawnee, Indiana.
Next, we see a close-up of Pam’s doodle… (ahem)… Her drawing is posted on the breakroom refrigerator, and there are many local references visible for the first time in this close-up. There are magnets for “Allied Services,” a rehabilitative care center, “Terry’s Diner” in nearby Moosic, Pa, the Houdini Museum of Scranton, “La Festa Italiana,” “Kelly’s #1,” (whatever Kelly does, he or she is #1 at it) and a menu for a restaurant on Center Street, which is probably “Mother’s Table.” There is a legible phone number, 570 347 4977, which of course I dialed for research purposes. That is a Scranton restaurant called “A Little Pizza Heaven.” There is also a magnet that says “Peter’s”… “something.” I tried to follow that clue, but eventually my search petered out.
Darryl is shown drinking from a coffee cup that is inscribed “Kiss My…” I researched this further, and there is a clothing boutique located where my sister lives in nearby Clark’s Summit called “Kiss My Style.” A closer look at Darryl’s coffee cup reveals this to be the same logo. (Whew! I thought Darryl might be, uh… sending Sabre a message.)
The rest of the show is a walking tour of downtown Burbank, California. Someone could write up a fun “Burbank-icity,” starting with Larry’s Chili Dogs on West Burbank Boulevard, off Hollywood Way. I couldn’t find “Mr. Choo’s Chinese restaurant next door, so I’m assuming they dolled up a vacant business nearby. (Yes, I google-mapped it!) Burbank, California is not a very good stand-in for Scranton, but I’ll give them credit for finding that tall, old building for the climactic kiss scene; that big ol’ pile o’ bricks looked somewhat “Scranton-y.”
So, from a Scrantonicity-istic standpoint, this episode was a, uh… mild disappointment. To the show’s credit, they are pretty careful with the camera angles, editing out the palm trees and de-emphasizing the San Gabriel Mountains in the nearby Angeles National Forest. But this is an organization that dropped over $250,000 to create the perfect off-highway rest stop for Jim’s bended-knee proposal to Pam! You’d think they’d be willing to spend a few bucks to mix a little actual footage of downtown Scranton into their cityscapes. Just a few Schrute-Bucks… that’s all we’re askin’.