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Scranton shared close bond with NBC’s ‘The Office’

NBC’s long-running The Office was a faux documentary about cubicle life. The Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin Paper Co. didn’t exist.

Try telling that to merchants, tourism officials and regular folks in the real-world city of Scranton, Pa., population 76,000, for whom the Emmy-winning comedy – which ends its nine-season run next week – had a tangible and lasting effect.

Even though The Office was shot in California, it was set in Scranton, and every Office booze cruise on Lake Wallenpaupack, shopping excursion to the Steamtown mall and after-work party at Poor Richard’s Pub meant real cash in real registers as the show’s intensely loyal fans flocked to northeastern Pennsylvania to see where their favorite characters lived, worked and played.

“If people weren’t talking about Scranton before this show aired,” said Tracy Barone, the executive director of the Lackawanna County Convention and Visitors Bureau, “they were talking about it afterward.”

Plenty of TV series have been set in real places, but The Office was different. Residents and businesses in Scranton donated hundreds of props over the years, and the show gave shout-outs and notoriety to dozens of local landmarks, from restaurants to radio stations.

Fans of the cult comedy from around the country still come to Cooper’s Seafood House – a 65-year-old, family-run restaurant that boasts a lighthouse and full-size pirate ship – to see where clueless boss Michael Scott and his put-upon underlings got their grub.

“They’ll say, can you tell us where they sat and ate, what they ate, what kind of beer they drank, all kinds of questions,” said waitress Laura Langan, who is always ready with the answers.

The University of Scranton earned a few mentions on the show, too, and the school’s admission staff continues to use The Office to woo prospective students.

While the Scranton references were fun, they also served a purpose for the show’s writers and actors.

e_SDLqThe Office was all about being real, small and real, in the beginning, especially. So it really helped to have a place to be thinking about that was very specific,” said executive producer Greg Daniels.

Daniels and Office stars John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson and other members of the cast and crew paid a visit to Scranton last weekend to show their appreciation of the city, and thousands of adoring fans loved them back.

NBC will also air a segment on the “Wrap Party” as part of its prime-time tribute to The Office next week – another valuable bit of free publicity.

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