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Most Underrated Office Characters

For the bulk of its nine-season runtime, "The Office" had four main characters. There was Michael Scott, the socially clueless but lovable boss of Dunder Mifflin Scranton with a desperate need to be the center of attention. There was Dwight Schrute, the equally stupid, subtly authoritarian beet farmer who exasperates his coworkers. Then there's Jim Halpert, a sarcastic prankster and office everyman who's in love with Pam Beesly, the lovable secretary turned saleswoman turned wife and mom who was often the voice of reason. 

But if the show only had these four characters to write stories around, it almost certainly wouldn't have made it past the first few seasons. Luckily, "The Office" boasts one of the deepest benches of supporting characters in sitcom –- or dare we say, TV –- history. Most of them started off as little more than window dressing. But as the show went on, we got to know each and every one of them more and more until even the most minor characters had more personality and history at the end than the main characters had in the beginning.

Of course, with much of the focus on the main cast, and for very good reason, it's easy to overlook the contributions of the other characters. So which "Office" characters need a little more love and attention from fans? From the sales staff to a few characters you're probably not expecting, we've taken the liberty of assembling them here.

Robert California

The hunt for Michael Scott's replacement ultimately leads to Robert California (James Spader). To give you an idea of just how bizarre this character is, he's hired as a branch manager (following an interview in which he completely flipped the tables and intimidated his questioners) but then ultimately "convinces" Jo Bennett to give him her job instead, thus making him CEO. Like Jim, we were floored when we learned this (mainly because it makes no sense). In the end, he departs after nearly dissolving the company in a drunken stupor.

We'll admit, we really didn't know what to do with this character when we first met him. You'd think longtime fans of a show filled with cringey, uncomfortable moments delivered by characters with no self-awareness would be too battle-hardened to get weirded out by a single, late-arriving character. But hoo, boy, does James Spader know how to layer on the awkwardness. His California is a silver-tongued, sex-obsessed, high-class genius whose interactions with others can barely be described as human. His conversations are filled with meaningless small talk and over vagaries, and yet he makes you feel like there's nothing more important you could possibly be doing with your time. Disappoint him, and he will destroy you.

The character is too intense for some and therefore something of an acquired taste. But you have to give it up to James Spader for bringing this creep to life.

Kelly Kapoor

Kelly Kapoor is one of the most intelligently written "dumb" characters on the entire show. You can thank the writers for that, as well as "Office" writer/producer Mindy Kaling, who stars as the character.

It's worth noting that there aren't that many characters who've undergone quite as much of a transformation as she did. When she's first introduced, she's a professional young woman whose one shining moment in the early years was smacking Michael Scott in the face for his insultingly cartoonish (not to mention bad) Indian accent. But it didn't take long for her to get fleshed out into the pop culture- and Ryan Howard-obsessed customer service airhead with no off switch that we all know and love. Few storylines are devoted to her throughout the show, but whenever she's brought out, you can expect a pretty hilarious time. Her sabotaging Jim and Dwight's client reviews as revenge for missing her birthday, dating Darryl to make Ryan jealous, and introducing herself as "Kelly Kapoor: Business B***h" are particular standouts.

And who can forget her joining Sabre's minority executive program? Unsurprisingly, she learns nothing after attending this program to train employees of color for leadership roles. But she does give us this quote: "You guys, I'm like really smart now. You don't even know. You could ask me, 'Kelly what's the biggest company in the world?' And I'd be like, 'Blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah.' Giving you the exact right answer."

Stanley Hudson

While Jim, Pam, Oscar, Jan, and Toby often react to Michael's absurd, childish antics by trying to talk some sense into him, Stanley Hudson -– the designated office curmudgeon -– has a different approach. He learned a while back that Michael is beyond reaching, and instead, Stanley spends his time grumbling or buried in his crossword puzzles.

He does occasionally come out of his shell. Pretzel Day is his favorite day of the year. He nearly kills Jim in a sumo match to decide who Michael's replacement should be (a pretty normal part of any interview process, we'd say). He blows up at Michael in "Did I Stutter?" when he shouts that titular line in public, in response to Michael's demands that he participate in yet another meaningless, time-wasting seminar. He also has a handful of affairs, loves cruising around Florida, and, uh, had a heart attack because of Dwight. Maybe we should leave that one off the list.

Overall, though, Stanley spends the vast bulk of his time running out the clock and doing the bare minimum because there's nowhere else in the world he'd rather be than sipping wine in his tub at home. In one episode, his coworkers make increasingly absurd and impossible-to-miss changes to his normally routine surroundings to see if he'll notice. The only thing he picks up on is that the office clock is slow — before promptly clocking out. You do you, Stanley. We greatly admire your fanatical commitment to not being committed to anything at all.

Angela Martin

It's a wonder that accountant Angela Martin is the head of the Party Planning Committee for as long as she is. After all, she's a Puritan who thinks fun is an offense to God. Whenever anyone cracks so much as a single joke during work hours, she can be seen scowling in the background or taking passive-aggressive notes as if writing them up for punishment despite having no real authority. She hates just about everyone in the office because she thinks it's her duty. When Toby pulls out his employee complaint file, it's revealed — to the shock of no one — that more than half were submitted by Angela. The only happiness she seems to get out of life comes from her many, many cats.

It's probably not surprising that someone as joyless as this ends up being something of a hypocrite. But Angela takes the hypocrisy to such maddening levels that she becomes perhaps the most frustrating character on the entire show. For example, she revels in calling other people (mainly Pam) "hussies" despite being as promiscuous as Meredith (albeit less trashy about it), even cheating on fiancé Andy Bernard with Dwight. Yet she's too prideful to admit wrongdoing, even when caught red-handed.

But despite it all, you end up rooting for Angela. It's a testament not just to actress Angela Kinney's rock-solid performance but also to the writing staff, who could — and often did — make lovable charmers out of the most seemingly unlikeable people.

Jan Levinson

Like many "Office" characters, Jan started off one way and ended up as something very different. She was originally a no-nonsense businesswoman who played the role of exasperated foil to her uncontrollably childish subordinate, Scranton branch manager Michael Scott. Then — and don't ask us what she saw in the man, especially after he humiliated her again and again — she begins dating him. They ultimately move in together, which leads to the spectacularly cringey unraveling of their relationship in "Dinner Party," which is in the running for greatest "Office" episode of all time (and, if we're being honest, one of the best sitcom episodes period).

We're not sure if her relationship with Michael caused her to fall off the rails or just gave us enough time to witness her less professional side. But either way, she quickly dropped her act as a capable executive and revealed herself to be a vicious, neurotic, selfish person who seemed to either passive-aggressively or just regular-aggressively hate literally every single human being she met. She particularly disliked Pam, who she inexplicably thought had been romantically involved with Michael simply because she accidentally walked in on him changing in "Fun Run." The only person she seems to like is her daughter, Astrid (not Asturd).

Overall, while we'd never want to meet Jan in real life, we're sure glad we got to witness Melora Hardin's knockout performance throughout the show.

Andy Bernard

Yeah, yeah, we know Andy went a little off the rails towards the end of the show. He treated one-time love interest Erin Hannon terribly for seemingly no reason whatsoever. He also got promoted to manager and was only decent at the job for a short time before going insane, torching all bridges and then leaving Dunder Mifflin to unsuccessfully and humiliatingly pursue a singing career, which turned him into a meme. Not exactly a graceful exit from the show.

But don't let the fact that the writers either hated or misunderstood the Nard Dog towards the end distract you from the fact that when he was introduced in Season 3, he was one of the most outrageously funny later additions ever rolled into the main cast. Terrifyingly, he was also pretty realistic. Everyone knows a Season 3 Andy — someone who, to hear Dwight Schrute describe it, is a "preppy freak" and the "office pariah that nobody likes." Someone who thinks they're far funnier and more talented than they actually are and who makes you groan whenever they walk into a room.

The writers were eventually forced to tone Andy down for the next few seasons because his antics just sucked the narrative air right out of the room. But hey, Nice Andy, as we'll call the version of the character we got from roughly Seasons 4-7, was pretty great too. And it's all thanks to a criminally underappreciated performance by Ed Helms.

Karen Filippelli

Karen Filippelli — Jim's Season 3 girlfriend and, later, the Utica branch manager -– is one of the most mistreated characters on the show. That's because she did nothing wrong, and was only assigned an "antagonist" role because she was in the way of Jim and Pam's romance, which the audience was rooting for. In one episode, Jim straight-up tells Karen that he still has feelings for Pam. Which, props for the honesty, bro, but that wouldn't be an easy thing to hear even if she hadn't moved to Scranton specifically for him. This leads to them having lots of late-night heart to hearts, which Jim hates. But again, it's fairly understandable on Karen's part.

In another episode, Karen calls Pam a "b***h" after Pam — in front of the entire office — laments calling off her wedding for Jim, only to be ignored by him. Then, after an embarrassed Karen tells Pam she wouldn't hold the incident against her, Pam directly refuses to apologize. Now we're rooting for Pam too, but it'd be weird if Karen didn't take offense. Later on, she swallows her pride and befriends Pam, and that's after Jim abandoned her in New York upon realizing he wanted Pam instead. 

A more objective rewatch will reveal that Karen deserved far better than the treatment she got from Jim and Pam (and by extension, the audience). But at least she found well-deserved happiness after the fact.

Todd Packer

In a world filled with such bottomlessly unlikeable people as Jan Levinson, Angela Martin, and Ryan Howard, traveling salesman Todd Packer takes the cupcake as the person we'd least like to be stuck in a room with.

This unbelievably rude, classless bully delights in tormenting the Scranton branch whenever he's in town. He makes offensive gay jokes towards Jim as if it's the 80's, constantly and nauseatingly hits on Pam and Karen, and makes downright cruel comments about Phyllis' and Kevin's appearance, not to mention the latter's intelligence. Along the way, he loudly boasts of his sexual conquests in the middle of the office floor while everyone's trying to work. In one episode, he even poisons cupcakes that he handed out to everyone as a peace offering. He's the type a guy who probably spends all his time alone at a bar, drinking away the crippling loneliness within.

Naturally, wannabe bad boy Michael Scott adores the man (at least until he insults Holly), even though he gets mistreated by him as often as everyone else. And yet, despite it all, David Koechner gives such a consistently solid performance that we can't help but be entertained by this boorish moron. We're not sure if it's the jackass himself that's so fun to watch, everyone's eye-rolling reactions to him, or some combination of the two. But either way, there's rarely a dull moment when Packer's in town. In a show like this, that's the most important thing of all.

David Wallace

Dunder Mifflin CFO David Wallace is exactly what the doctor ordered for Michael Scott. His patience with the bizarre Scranton branch manager — who seemed to have no problem exasperating everyone else he worked for and with — knew no bounds. A lesser boss would've fired Michael long ago, but Wallace realized he could hardly afford to lose the manager of his most profitable branch.

But none of that is to say Wallace was a pushover. He could lay down the law when he had to. After all, he fired Jan Levinson, punished Michael and Dwight when their behavior became particularly egregious (like when Dwight faked a fire and gave Stanley a heart attack, all under Michael's supervision), and only reluctantly allowed Ryan Howard, who'd defrauded the company with his disastrous "Dunder Mifflin Infinity" website, to return to the company (as a temp).

Of course, he wasn't a perfect leader. The company folded during his tenure as CFO, after all, and his idea for a toy-cleaning device called "Suck It" initially looked like it left a lot to be desired. But there probably wasn't much that could be done to salvage a paper business in the 21st century, and he sold "Suck It" to the military for an undisclosed but apparently large sum of money. So what do we know?

Well, at least this much: David Wallace was a great guy and probably a better boss than most of the real ones anyone reading this has ever had.

Jo Bennett

We'll admit, Jo was placed on this list primarily because actress Kathy Bates is just so much fun to watch in the role. But honestly, that's more than enough. Jo, CEO of Sabre (which buys out the Scranton branch), is a wicked smart, self-made businesswoman who's rarely seen without her two massive dogs. According to her, she kept the "Mrs." just to anger her ex-husband's new wife, has multiple homes, and pals around with Nancy Pelosi in her free time. She's every bit the hard, smart, intimidating businesswoman Jan used to be, but she's far more fun and full of life. She also puts Michael in his place without falling in love with him, which is definitely a plus.

But she's not without her flaws. She's a mediocre judge of character, with her rightful promotion of Darryl being offset by her promoting the bizarre Deangelo Vickers to management (because he saved her dog once), as well as the insane Creed, simply because he was older. Neither pick worked out. And that's putting it nicely. In addition, Jo was apparently talked out of being CEO by Robert California, who replaced her. You'd think she'd be the one "Office" character who could go toe to toe with California in a battle of wits, but we guess some things fell by the wayside in the show's mad, post-Carell scramble to right the ship.

Overall, though, Bates shines as Bennett and is rarely not the best thing on screen whenever we see her.

Creed Bratton

"The Office" started with four main characters –- Michael, Jim, Pam, Dwight (five if you count Ryan) –- and a bunch of undeveloped side characters who mainly served to fill out the background. As time went on, though, Kevin, Angela, Stanley, Phyllis, Oscar, and others, were all fleshed out into the ridiculous versions of themselves we all know and love, and they had entire storylines centered around them.

And then there's Creed Bratton. This quality assurance specialist (named after the singer-songwriter who portrays him) never gets much of a big role to play. And whether or not that's by design, it's exactly the way things should be. Creed is an absurd, almost alien character who's simultaneously a clueless old man who has no idea what's happening and an expert con artist and criminal who's always one step ahead of everyone else in the room. In some scenes, he reveals he has no idea how the internet works, or he's leading the office in stunningly nonsensical team-building exercises because he's clearly insane. In others, we seem him bragging about various scams he's pulled and greeting teens at a bar, who got in using fake IDs he made for them himself. Don't try to reconcile these two halves. Just enjoy the ride.

Most of the time, though, he's just being weird — eating mung beans he sprouts in his desk, piloting a remote helicopter on the roof, and playing hooky from work, only to hitchhike onto the office's work bus. It's strange stuff, but it's always, always hilarious.