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‘The Office’ sheds light on Scranton, Pa.

Hard-times city enjoys national exposure, thanks to a sitcom
/ Source: The Associated Press

Dunder-Mifflin, the fictional paper-supply company where preposterous boss Michael, oddball salesman Dwight and the rest of the quirky characters on NBC's "The Office" spend their days, is a member in good standing of the real-life Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.

Really, it is.

Though Dunder-Mifflin isn't real, "The Office" has given Scranton, a small Pennsylvania industrial city where the hit comedy is set, the kind of national exposure that chamber types can only dream about.

"It's a very funny show," said Mayor Chris Doherty, "and a great opportunity for the city."

A remake of the acclaimed British series of the same name, "The Office" is shot in mock-documentary style, following the trials and travails of Dunder-Mifflin's sad-sack office drones and their clueless egomaniac of a boss, Michael Scott (Golden-Globe winner Steve Carell). The show has been a solid performer for NBC, which has already renewed it for next season.

"The Office," which returns Thursday, 9:30 p.m. EST, from its Olympics hiatus, is peppered with references that resonate for the city's 74,000 residents, including local eateries Poor Richard's pub, Farley's restaurant and Abe's deli.

Blogger and Scranton native Dave Caolo, who tracks the show's Scranton references on a Web site devoted to "The Office," said he appreciates the attention to detail. "They even pronounce Scranton correctly, by omitting the 't,'" he said.

Locals initially had misgivings about "The Office." They feared the city, a former coal-mining center that fell on hard times but has recently shown signs of a rebirth, would become the butt of jokes. But their concerns were misplaced.

"Everyone was apprehensive about how Scranton was going to be portrayed," said University of Scranton student Mario Ferrise, a city native and "Office" fan. "We were all a bit relieved when we saw that they took it easy. They could have really pounded us."

Executive producer Greg Daniels said he was looking for a city a few hours from New York to place Dunder-Mifflin, and Scranton fit the bill. Also, Daniels was a fan of the author John O'Hara, who set his stories in a fictional eastern Pennsylvania coal town, and he remembered receiving greeting cards that said "Made in Scranton" on the back.

"The basic artistic guideline of the show is to be observational and find the humor in real life, so it's good to be from a real place," Daniels said.

Enthralled at the prospect of a mention on national TV, Scranton businesses have been pestering Mari Potis, a chamber official who helps procure props for "The Office," to get them mentioned on the show. Of course, she has no control over that. "They get so excited," Potis said.

They may be less excited Thursday. According to NBC, love-struck sales rep Jim (John Krasinski), "plans his escape from Scranton."