An example of a talking head

A talking head is a broadcasting term for interview footage, where only the person's head and shoulders are visible to the camera. This film technique is often used in interviews, particularly documentaries and reality television programs.

In The Office, talking heads are used to get a character's private thoughts and feelings. For example, Karen admits in a talking head interview that she has a crush on Jim.

Symbolism

Randall Einhorn came up with the idea of making the location of the talking head interview reflective of the character's mental state:[1][2]

  • Characters who had a future outside of Dunder-Mifflin or held some sort of internal optimism would have their talking head interviews against the conference room window (looking to the outside world).
  • Characters who were staying at Dunder-Mifflin or who felt trapped would have their talking head interviews with the bullpen in the background (looking into the office).

For example, Jim usually had his talking head interviews against the outside window. Pam's talking head interviews usually faced into the office, but if she had a joint talking head interview with Jim, she would be against the outside window, suggesting that the only way that Pam had a future outside Dunder-Mifflin was to be with Jim.

In the episode "Branch Closing", after the characters learn that the Scranton branch is closing, their talking head interviews take place against the outside window. After they learn that the Scranton branch is not closing after all, their talking head interviews face back into the office.

See Talking Head Tracker below for a breakdown.

Talking heads by character

The following table counts talking heads for all characters who were interviewed at least 10 times.

Character

S1

S2

S3

S4

S5

S6

S7

S8

S9

Overall

Michael

31

101

95

58

88

90

64

0

1

528

Jim

11

39

37

29

49

38

36

39

45

323

Dwight

9

34

36

23

33

41

34

44

52

306

Pam

7

42

43

29

44

33

32

22

40

292

Andy

0

0

21

13

23

34

25

50

25

166

Kevin

0

11

9

10

7

10

8

12

12

79

Oscar

0

5

5

4

5

8

5

13

20

65

Ryan

0

16

12

6

6

3

11

6

2

62

Erin

0

0

0

0

0

8

14

19

21

62

Darryl

0

0

2

1

2

6

12

19

19

61

Angela

0

6

12

6

4

3

6

8

7

52

Toby

0

5

5

5

5

8

5

6

5

44

Creed

0

5

9

6

3

5

5

2

9

44

Kelly

0

2

3

5

6

4

11

4

0

35

Phyllis

0

1

3

4

6

2

7

3

6

32

Stanley

0

1

8

3

8

1

2

3

5

31

Nellie

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

7

14

22

Gabe

0

0

0

0

0

3

6

8

0

17

Meredith

0

2

2

1

1

5

0

2

3

16

Karen

0

0

11

3

0

0

1

0

0

15

Holly

0

0

0

0

8

0

6

0

0

14

Robert

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

9

0

10

Talking Head Tracker

The Office Ladies podcast tracks when a character's talking head changes from facing the office to the window or vice versa. See Symbolism above for a discussion of the significance of the talking head location.

  • Season 3
    • Gay Witch Hunt, Jim's talking heads face into the office while he's at Stamford.
    • Branch Closing, when they find out the branch may close, all of the characters' talking heads face the outside window. They return to normal when they find out Stamford is closing.
  • Season 4
    • Fun Run, Jim and Pam's joint talking head faces the outside window.
    • Goodbye Toby, Pam's talking head faces the outside window after she realizes she's going to Pratt.

References

  1. Baumgartner, Brian. Episode 3: Everything that Makes it Harder, Makes it Better, An Oral History of The Office podcast. July 14, 2020.
  2. Kinsey, Angela and Jenna Fischer, Episode 27: Conflict Resolution (transcript), Office Ladies podcast, May 6, 2020, time code 00:07:25.
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