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B.J. Novak Is Thankful Things Didn't Go His Way For The Office's Threat Level Midnight Episode

"Threat Level Midnight" is one of those episodes that lives on in "The Office" fans' memories as a near-legendary piece of art. A highlight of Season 7, it finally reveals Michael Scott's full homemade movie in nearly all its glory, complete with cameos by actors like Rashida Jones, who at that point hadn't appeared on the show for a few seasons. Michael originally showed a clipped version of the action film in the Season 2 episode, "The Client", but turned it off when his Dunder Mifflin employees began laughing, assuming it was a comedy. 

With "Threat Level Midnight," however, fans are able to see the full extent of the Scranton regional manager's vision. Sadly, in the episode, Michael still faces a lukewarm reception from not only his peers but also his girlfriend, Holly (Amy Ryan). The situation forces him to confront his own so-so talents as a filmmaker and grow up just a tiny bit more, thus keeping with his overall character arc throughout the series.

But according to B.J. Novak, who wrote the episode, Michael almost didn't learn any lessons in "Threat Level Midnight." In a January 2023 episode of the "Office Ladies" podcast, hosted by his "The Office" co-stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, Novak revealed that he's happy it didn't play out that way.

The full movie didn't air due to Novak losing an argument with producers

While appearing on the podcast, Novak told Fischer and Kinsey (who played Pam and Angela in "The Office", respectively) that he originally wanted to release "Threat Level Midnight: The Movie" as a standalone episode. He argued that it would have been an eye-catching concept that would have been embraced by fans, but admitted that the special episode would have been too gimmicky and thus more akin to shows like "Community" than "The Office."

"We're not like a gimmick show. We have a structure," Novak said. "And it calls attention to the structure if you break the structure. You know, the invisible documentary structure."

But Novak's idea put him at odds with producers who wanted to include scenes from the present day. In the end, Novak was happy that he lost the argument with them because it allowed Michael to grow as a character. "I'm glad I lost that argument because it was distracting from investing in the reality of the show and also the emotional meaning of it is very important," he explained.

And considering how touching it is when Michael finally accepts he'll never be a screenwriter, "The Office" fans are no doubt glad he lost that argument, too. Plus, if they want to watch the full "Threat Level Midnight" as a standalone movie, they can just watch it on YouTube.