Opinion, Podcast Review

Ratan Lines: Office Ladies

The unofficial theme for Ra-Tan Lines this term has been the intersections between podcasting and other media. And there is no recent podcast that exemplifies this more than “Office Ladies”, where 2 actresses from the American version of “The Office” re-watch each episode and tell everyone some of the spicy behind-the-scenes details. The 2 actresses in question are Jenna Fischer (who played Pam) and Angela Kinsey (who played Angela).

First of all, yes, their voices are the same as in the show. Thankfully, Angela Kinsey the actress is much more chill than Angela the character, in fact Angela Kinsey the actress is apparently best friends with Jenna Fischer the actress. This level of specificity between actors and roles would get annoying really fast, so the Office Ladies save it for when it’s actually necessary. “Michael”, “Michael Scott”, “Steve” and “Steve Carell” are all used to refer to the character of Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell. Maybe this is normal in acting, or a sign of how closely associated the actors and characters were, but in any case it can be a bit confusing and listeners may benefit from skimming the cast list. Unless they are the target audience: super fans of The Office probably memorized such basic details.
After a word from the sponsors and the intro theme, Fischer and Kinsey sometimes read a synopsis. Then, Fischer has her “Fast Facts” and Kinsey has her note cards, or “Kinsey tid-bits”. Both the Fast Facts and the note cards explain trivia about the episode in question. Then the actual discussion of different scenes in order occurs. There may still be note cards discussed here. Maybe there’ll even be a Fast Fact, this isn’t a show that strictly follows a format. There are also discussions of listener questions and comments.
So what might you learn about The Office from listening to Office Ladies? Well among other things, the intimate process of being mic’d when acting for television, the perils of keeping one’s hair in a bun for days, and the details of the sound stage (and the lack thereof in earlier seasons). There is also a lot of  discussion of the writing process of The Office, which involved a lot of writers being actors and actors writing backstories for their characters. There are large chunks of character that initially started as jokes, conversations or even essays by the actors: this includes Angela (the character) being fond of cats.
So far, there have been two episodes (out of six) with guests involved in The Office. The episode discussing “Health Care” included a discussion with Rainn Wilson, the actor who played Dwight. The following episode, which discussed “The Alliance”, included a discussion with Phil Shea the “Prop Master”. These aren’t monologues, they are pretty balanced discussions instead. It’s worth noting, as Fischer points out during the “Health Care” episode, that all the actors became friends in real life after working together for so long. At many points during the podcast, the Office Ladies talk about how nice everyone was, especially compared to the cast and crews of other shows they worked on. This is all worth pointing out given the deep rivalries that seem to persist for years in the show proper.
Fischer and Kinsey speak a bit fast. Listening at high speed is definitely possible, but you have to really be paying attention to what they’re saying. If you intend to listen to Office Ladies while you’re engaged with something else, you might benefit from sticking to regular 1x speed. The audio quality is fine most of the time: understandably, the guests don’t sound that great when they’re calling in.

Office Ladies has been releasing new episodes every Wednesday, like clockwork. So far there have only been six proper episodes of around an hour each, plus a short trailer. This is precisely enough episodes to cover all of season one of The Office, so definitely (re)watch each season one Office episode before each Office Ladies episode. It is a very delightful podcast for anyone who is fond of the show.

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