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I‘m obsessed with The Office on Slack — and it might be the future of TV

Half social experiment and half performative theater, 'The Office' on Slack is the distraction we all need right now.

TV studios are racing to make the first big social distancing show, but it's already playing out in real-time on the same app where you chat with co-workers all day.

The Office on Slack debuted Monday, recreating the beloved sitcom in a variety of Channels (#general, #sales, #pranks, #worlds_best_boss, #conference_room) as avatars for all your favorite characters act out classic plotlines with Slack messages, emoji, and GIFs.

A day later, I'm fully obsessed, and I'm not the only one.

The Office Slack workspace has more than 8,000 members as I write this on Tuesday afternoon, up from a little over 3,000 at the end of Monday (episodes run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern, just like a normal office). I find myself constantly switching back and forth between my own work Slack and The Office, terrified I'll miss something fun. (At this moment, Jim is leading his co-workers in a reading of Michael's infamous movie script, Threat Level Midnight.)

Dwight succumbs to peer pressure and plays Michael Scarn in a table read.MSCHF

The logistics of recreating The Office in Slack are surprisingly complicated. Launched by the creative collective MSCHF, the project requires a modified script and a full cast to type in each character's message in real-time. There's also a team of moderators keeping the audience from interjecting. Emoji reactions are allowed, however, giving each Slack message a sort of silent Greek Chorus of clapping hands and purple eggplants.

Pam gets drunk at the DundiesMSCHF

In a way, this Slack approximation feels more realistic than The Office ever did. Most workplaces aren't punctuated with daily pranks, fake fire drills, and karate demonstrations, but on Slack, we're all given a bit more freedom to express ourselves with absurd GIFs and custom emoji.

“Since The Office aired, the nature of work and office culture has changed drastically, a lot of which is centered around the way we use technologies,” MSCHF's head of strategy Daniel Greenberg told The Verge.

You've probably never flipped a table out of frustration at your actual job, but no one blinks an eye if you use Slack's GIF extension to express your frustration.

Jim comforts Dwight after Michael becomes obsessed with Ryan.MSCHF

Other times, The Office's humor doesn't make as much sense for Slack. Think about some of the show's cringiest moments, like Todd Packer (David Koechner) showing up and making sex jokes in the middle of the bullpen or Michael going down to the warehouse "where jokes are born" and getting roasted by his employees. These moments are funny, sure, but on Slack, they'd be a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Maybe we should take this to iMessage.MSCHF

The Office on Slack might be a fun distraction, but is this the future of entertainment? Will the world eventually return to normal or are platforms like Zoom and Slack permanent replacements? Until the threat of coronavirus has lifted and production on actual TV and movies can resume, this might be the next best thing.

Head here to check out The Office on Slack

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