Only time will tell if "The Office" holds up in longevity and syndication enough to be included in the pantheon of great comedies. But no matter its audience share or remembrance among the funniest of the funny, it smashed preconceptions of how a sitcom is made. Sure, "This Is Spinal Tap" packaged improvised comedy as behind-the-scenes mockumentary, but not until "The Office" did anyone imagine you could hang a sitcom on it -- week in, week out, with only a rough sketch of where you were going at any given point.
Maybe it surfed the tide of reality TV, making the show's uncut feel acceptable. Maybe audiences just got a bit sick of the super-sculpted, laugh-tracked, prepackaged sitcom. Or maybe Steve Carell is just that funny. But whatever the case, it opened the door of sitcom improv that had previously been closed and locked.