Yes, technically, the fake documentary crew have long-since vacated the Dunder Mifflin building, but it’s quickly become one of those shows, a la Seinfeld, where one can turn on a re-run and enter a familiar haze for 20-something minutes.
Tim’s continuous winding-up of Gareth in the original The Office was not only hilarious, but came to represent his immature side, one that wouldn’t go away due to a dissatisfaction with life in the office. His pranks were believable, yet somewhat mean-spirited.
As Michael Scott and the gang hung around for an additional seven years, it was no surprise that their character traits grew increasingly cartoonish. Jim’s pranks on Dwight grew in scope as they lost their plausibility, but their foe-slash-friend dynamic was one of the only consistently funny aspects of an inconsistent show.
So let us relax into a pre-ISIS world and pretend John Kransinski isn’t freeweighting his way into Gerard Butler territory by recounting the most memorable of Jim Halpert’s pranks on Dwight K Shrute.
Jim cages Dwight’s belongings in a vending machine (Season 2, Episode 11)
A simple sight gag with a twist that worked a treat. Dwight is miffed when unable to locate his belongings, only to find them in a vending machine as replacements for usual stock. When unable to pay to retrieve the belongings, due to his wallet being one of them, Jim kindly offers Dwight a bag of coins. Instead of exploding at his nemesis, Dwight receives the bag politely and inserts his first nickel.
Jim goes method and becomes Dwight (Season 3, Episode 2)
The least ingenious but most surprising of Jim’s machinations, mainly due to the fact that Krasinski does a pretty mean Dwight. In this episode, Jim goes all out by spending eight dollars at a local chemist to recreate the signature Shrute look, much to the subject’s chagrin. Later in the episode, Dwight’s attempt to become Jim only leads to further embarrassment.
Jim trains Dwight into a mint-craving lapdog (Season 3, Episode 15)
Even if we’d seen Tim Canterbury in a third season of the British The Office, we can safely assume that he’d never base a prank on Pavlov’s experiment that required weeks of preparation and patience. As Jim has the luxury of living inside a bona fide NBC hit, he devotes weeks to conditioning Dwight into craving an Altoid mint at the sound of the Windows Login. This prank is not only a prank, but a handy lesson in the history of psychology.
Jim faxes Dwight from "Future Dwight" (Season 3, Episode 7)
One of Dwight’s most endearing qualities is his child-like tendency to believe urban legends and indulge cinematic fantasies. Jim harnesses this soft spot by faxing Dwight as "Future Dwight", sending his foe on a mission to intercept poisoned coffee. So fertile was this prank, that we wonder why the writers didn’t milk it for more hilarity.
Jim sends Dwight a genuine "gaydar" (Season 3, Episode 1)
A running gag throughout The Office is Dwight’s ignorance to the ins and outs of homosexuality. When faced with an outed co-worker, Dwight recalls Jim mentioning "gaydars", and asks the now-Stamford based larrikin for more information. Later, Dwight receives a package containing an actual gaydar, which is basically a metal detector with fudged labels. And, in a great example of a prank serving as more than a gag, while Dwight runs the thing over his crotch to an instantaneous beep, Pam looks on fondly, missing Jim.
Jim freezes Dwight’s stapler in jelly (Season 1, Episode 1)
To American audiences who knew nothing of the show on which it was based, Jim’s first prank on Dwight in the pilot episode was a revelation. Though taken straight from Ricky Gervais’ UK pilot, we should still celebrate the gag that set the stage for the hilarious cat-and-mouse marathon to come.
Dwight is tricked into thinking Jim has always been Asian (Season 9, Episode 3)
A seemingly racist prank that isn’t racist at all, but a clear example of how hyperbolic the show became, funny as this gag is as a standalone clip. In this cold open, an absent Jim has gone to the trouble of rehearsing with an actor friend, taking fake family photos and persuading his wife to kiss another man, merely in order to trick Dwight into thinking that he was Asian all along.
Jim moves Dwight’s desk setup to an unknown location (Season 2, Episode 6)
A mildly amusing prank is turned to gold by the way it reveals Dwight’s character. After discovering his desk is missing, Dwight goes to report Jim but can’t help but meet Jim’s "hot or cold" challenge. He finds the desk in the bathroom, where his phone is ringing. Instead of flying off the handle, Dwight answers the phone as if at his desk, in keeping with his work-first M.O.
Jim builds Quad Desk in a reaction to Mega Desk (Season 6, Episode 19)
A clear example of the writers running out of steam and riffing on an old gag – even rehashing the same punchline. After Dwight organises three adjacent desks into "Mega Desk", Jim returns to desk-related punishment and builds "Quad Desk" (2:34), relegating Dwight to a tiny nook under the structure.
Jim convinces Dwight to be both his boss and assistant (Season 9, Episodes
22 & 23)
The post Steve Carell period of The Office was patchier than a New Jersey suntan, so it was bittersweet that the show’s penultimate episode showed us what could have been – Dwight as manager and Jim as assistant. This hilarious double episode is built on a prank that’s as affectionate as it is disruptive, where Jim convinces Dwight to act as both as regional manager and the assistant to the assistant to the regional manager.
Watch The Office (US) on Monday through Thursday at 5:40pm (AEDT) on SBS 2.