Warning: This post contains spoilers about the most recent episode of The Office.
On Thursday's stellar episode of The Office, Steve Carell's Michael Scott proposed to his girlfriend Holly (played so brilliantly by Amy Ryan), in a show that will be filed in the Office library as "classic."
The scene encapsulated everything charming and appealing that's made the NBC series a success over the past six seasons. Michael's big heart proves wanton and reckless, as he first attempts proposal by fire—writing out the question with gasoline, only to have Pam intervene before he could light it. His subsequent brainstorming of other possible ideas was typical Michael: scenarios beginning with the phrase, "So I throw a corpse dressed like me off the roof..." that were lunatic enough to make you cringe, but also earnest enough to be endearing.
For the actual proposal, Michael walks Holly through the Dunder Mifflin office, stopping at each place that carries significance for their relationship. He then takes her through a hallway lined with their colleagues—who are, on a show like The Office, their family—all of them holding candles. Finally, Holly's office is blanketed with lit votives. As Michael gets down on his knee, the fire sprinklers go off from all the smoke, and showers the office as he pops the question.
The moment was charming, awkward, precious, uncomfortable, and joyous. But how does it stack up next to other great sitcom proposals?
The comedy of errors leading up to the climactic candle-lit proposal is definitely reminiscent of several scenes from Office predecessors:
On Friends, Chandler went to great lengths to ensure that Monica would be surprised when he proposed—going so far as to convince her that he does not believe in marriage at all. But when Monica's mustachioed ex (Tom Selleck) resurfaces, Chandler realizes his misfire. But Monica has some intel of her own, and before you know it, the couple is engaged in a sea of candles (motif!).
That Niles, the buttoned-up, sophisticate on Frasier would spare no expense at creating the quintessential romantic evening for his proposal to Daphne was expected. That everything would go so wildly wrong was not. The younger Frasier brother carefully choreographed a troop of waiters, musicians, even Wolfgang Puck to surprise Daphne, but she was bedridden with the flu, and endless comedy was mined from his preventing them from disturbing her. When he finally managed to pop the question, it was simple, sweet, and unfussy—and incredibly romantic.
Displeased with the circumstances surrounding Sam's initial marriage proposal on Cheers, Diane challenges him to try again with a grander gesture—something Michael Scott certainly identifies with. His "more romantic" proposal at sea also, predictably, doesn't work out. The two are quickly back to feuding. When he proposes to her under court order to keep from going to jail, only then does she say yes.
And how does the Michael and Holly engagement story compare to The Office's previous aww-inspiring proposal scene? In the season four finale, Jim stages an entire carnival to create the perfect setting for his proposal to Pam, but Andy unexpectedly usurps the occasion when he asks Angela to marry him there instead. But the spontaneous proposal the following season at a gas station in the rain was much more true to their relationship: impulsive, adorable, and passionate.
That's not even to mention some of comedy's other memorable engagement scenes, ones that didn't follow the "proposal follies" format The Office emulated. There's the touching reunion of Harry and Charlotte at a Jewish singles mixer in Sex and the City, or Rhoda's strong-arming of Joe in her self-titled sitcom. Ted's impromptu proposal live on air to Georgette on an episode of Mary Tyler Moore—and then his immediate regret—has left a lasting impression as well.
Enjoyment of the Michael-Holly proposal is probably directly correlated to enthusiasm for engagement and wedding episodes in general. Though obvious soul mates, their love story was nowhere near as long and tortured as Sam and Diane's, or Jim and Pam's in The Office's early years. Certainly, their relationship doesn't carry the history of Monica and Chandler, who had been on our TV screens for eight years by the time they became engaged. But the storyline was so quintessential Michael Scott—bumbling, nervous, and, in the end, impossibly winning—that his proposal proudly sits somewhere between Friends and Jim and Pam in the canon of sitcom engagement scenes.
But the best part of the proposal is that now we have a Michael-Holly wedding to look forward to. With the world so enamored of the royal nuptials, it's nice to know there's a wedding coming up where comedy—not ceremony—will be the top priority.
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