In 2009, an episode from The Office’s sixth season opened with a Halloween joke. A group of kids come to tour the office warehouse, which is decked out like a carnival haunted house, and things go about the way you’d expect: Michael is dressed in an already-dated “Dick In A Box” costume; Jim, face painted with the word “book” is above it all; and Creed, dressed as a vampire, wants to sell the kids’ blood.
By the time the scene ends, though, Michael has pretended to kill himself.
NBC, realizing after this aired that viewers were a bit more shocked than expected, ended up pulling it from reruns and DVD releases.
The scene, as pointed out in an article by Mashable’s Proma Khosla, was still uploaded to the show’s YouTube channel just before Halloween two years ago. The whole thing, ending with Michael hanging from a noose—gift box still attached to groin—and warning kids that “suicide is never the answer,” may not be available as an official part of the “Koi Pond” episode, but it lives on as a weird artifact online.
Michael’s fake suicide is a darker joke than a lot of the American Office’s material, especially as the series’ edge was blunted with crowd-pleasing character work toward the end of its run, but is fairly tame considering what you might expect from a cut scene. As Khosla notes, though, “the scene’s ending was criticized” heavily enough after it first aired that a decision was made to snip it from future releases of the episode.
It would be interesting, given that an official upload of the clip exists, to hear what those responsible for writing, directing, and acting in the episode remember about NBC’s choice to cut it. Maybe, years from now, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey can shed a little light on the whole thing through their podcast.
UPDATE: According to a former producer (who has requested to remain anonymous), it wasn’t solely public outcry that caused the network to pull the scene. Due to her work in suicide prevention, Caryn Zucker, who was married at the time to then-president and CEO of NBC Universal Jeff Zucker, also urged her husband to have the scene removed. After a call with producers and representatives from the network, “the episode was re-cut and re-delivered, with the original HD-SR delivery masters collected back from NBC and thrown into deep storage.”
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