Friday, October 9, 2009

Fans toast ‘Office’ wedding

Television vows celebrated with cake and champagne at Hard Rock Cafe
By Denise Jewell Gee
Updated: October 09, 2009, 10:56 AM / 1 comment

NIAGARA FALLS — The guests of honor weren’t real and they only showed up on television.

But that didn’t deter dozens of fans of “The Office” from downing champagne and wedding cake at the Hard Rock Cafe on Thursday in honor of fictional bride and groom Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly.

The much anticipated hourlong episode of the NBC comedy — in which the fictional Dunder Mifflin officemates finally wed aboard the Maid of the Mist—drew loud cheers and laughter from fans gathered to see Niagara Falls on national television.

“It lets people know we’re still here, we’re still a tourist town,” said Youngstown resident Clara Kuntz, 21, who has been watching the show since its first season. “We’re still the Honeymoon Capital.”

Several fans gathered to watch the debut of Niagara Falls on “The Office” on Thursday were also extras in late August when the cast and crew taped scenes in the city outside the Red Coach Inn and on the Maid of the Mist boat.

Those extras—who got a glimpse nearly two months ago of the show’s surprise ending aboard the Maid — were sworn to secrecy about its plot.

That proved a tough task for some who described themselves as “huge” fans of “The Office.”

“I told people to keep an eye out for me,” said Andrew Piniarski, a 22- year-old Cheektowaga resident and film major at the University at Buffalo who was an extra. “It’s really tough. You want to tell everybody, but you can’t. But it’s just part of the fun.”

The show’s “Niagara” episode that aired Thursday was set in Niagara Falls for the wedding of Jim and Pam. The double episode was heavily promoted on NBC as the culmination of a lengthy romance between two of the show’s main characters.

The first few minutes of the show — packed with Niagara Falls references and a “Viagra Falls” joke — drew laughter and loud cheers from the local fans.

“What happens in Niagara stays in Niagara,” office worker Andy

joked before they headed from their fictional office in Scranton, Pa., to the Falls.

Actors Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski, who play Pam and Jim, spent a day in Niagara Falls on Aug. 27 along with the show’s crew to film outdoor scenes.

Filming aboard the Maid of the Mist provided a challenge for “The Office” crew. The scenes were taped on regularly scheduled boat tours of the Maid of the Mist. Extras dressed in plastic blue ponchos were used to buffer the cast and crew from real tourists on the boat.

Producer Randy Cordray — who also played a captain in the episode — described the mist from the falls as like “having someone spray a hose right in your face.”

The crew also shot a scene in front of the Red Coach Inn, renamed the Statler Falls Hotel for the show.

Extras from Western New York dressed in blue ponchos taped scenes several times in August to get the final moments of the show just right.

“It’s amazing how many times we did it over and over again, and how little of it they used,” said Karen Wall, a Hamburg resident who got on the show as an extra because her oldest daughter works on the program.

Most of the episode’s scenes were shot on a set or inside a restaurant and chapel in Los Angeles.

Cordray, speaking by phone to the fans at the Hard Rock Cafe shortly before the episode aired Thursday night, said the on-site taping in Niagara Falls almost never happened because of budget concerns. Cordray said studio officials at first suggested the show use a green screen to replicate Niagara Falls.

Shooting on-site prevailed. “Jim and Pam are spontaneous people, and they do things on the spur of the moment,” Cordray told the crowd. “And it seemed so perfect for these characters that they would get married on the Maid of the Mist. So it was our goal to make this happen.”

Cordray called it the “best episode” he has been involved with.

“There is a moment,” Cordray said, “where Jim and Pam start walking down the ramp down the sidewalk to the Maid of the Mist, I get chills and I tear up every single time.”

The crowd gathered at the Hard Rock on Thursday to watch the episode and raise money for Niagara Falls State Park was emotional even before the show began.

Falls Mayor Paul Dyster gave a brief toast to the fictional couple shortly before it aired.

“To a long and successful marriage for Jim and Pam,” Dyster told the crowd as they lifted champagne glasses. “May you return to Niagara Falls often in the future to visit once again to honor and to celebrate your romantic love and your new marriage. Cheers.”

The waterfalls didn’t make their television debut until the final minutes of the episode.

The couple — desperate to escape their wacky officemates — snuck off from their ceremony to wed on the Maid of the Mist. They exchanged vows. Drenched in mist from the falls, the couple embraced.

And waterfalls roared in the background.

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