Ben Franklin (The Office)
|The Office episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||Randall Einhorn|
|Written by||Mindy Kaling|
|Original air date||February 1, 2007|
"Ben Franklin" is the fifteenth episode of the third season of the American comedy television series The Office, and the show's forty-third episode overall. Written by Mindy Kaling, who also acts in the show as Kelly Kapoor, and directed by Randall Einhorn, the episode first aired in the United States on February 1, 2007 on NBC. "Ben Franklin" received 5.0/13 in the ages 18–49 demographic of the Nielsen ratings, and was watched by an estimated audience of 10.1 million viewers, and the episode received mixed reviews among critics.
In the episode, the employees from the office prepare for Phyllis's wedding. Michael, acting under advice from Todd, instructs Dwight to hire a stripper for the men and delegates Jim to hire one for the women. While Dwight hires a stripper, Jim ends up hiring a Ben Franklin impersonator instead.
The office plays host to a bridal shower for Phyllis Lapin (Phyllis Smith) while Bob Vance's (Robert R. Shafer) bachelor party is held in the warehouse. Todd Packer (David Koechner) convinces Michael Scott (Steve Carell) that it is okay to hire a stripper for the bachelor party if he also gets a male stripper for the bridal shower. Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) is tired at work because he has been having many "late-night talks" with Karen Filippelli (Rashida Jones) after she learned that he still has feelings for Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer).
Michael delegates the work of finding the two strippers to Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) and Jim. Dwight asks Jim if he prefers either a redhead or a brunette, and Jim responds "blonde" while Pam and Karen (redhead and brunette respectively) look over Jim and then at each other for a quick second. While Dwight locates a stripper named Elizabeth (Jackie Debatin) for Bob Vance's party, Jim orders an educational Benjamin Franklin impersonator (Andrew Daly) as a joke. Pam and Karen have fun gently heckling the impersonator. During a talking head interview Dwight reveals that Jim has told him that the impersonator is the real Ben Franklin. Dwight says he's "99% sure" the impersonator is not the real Ben Franklin but ask questions to the impersonator that he believes only the real Ben Franklin would know. However, because the impersonator is an historian and studied the life of Ben Franklin, he answers each question correctly without hesitation, much to Dwight's anger and disbelief. In the break room, Pam and Karen share an awkward conversation about Jim and Pam's kiss.
At the bachelor party, Bob Vance refuses a lap dance, so Michael volunteers. Before the stripper is able to perform the lap dance, Michael brings the show to an abrupt close, unwilling to do what he considers cheating on Jan Levenson (Melora Hardin). Pam and Jim have an understated confrontation in the break room, which ends with Pam asking Ryan Howard (B. J. Novak) to set her up with some of his friends from business school in front of a visibly shocked and seemingly upset Jim.
"Ben Franklin" was the second episode of the series directed by Randall Einhorn. Einhorn had previously directed "Initiation", as well as the summer spin-off webisodes "The Accountants". "Ben Franklin" was written by Mindy Kaling, who acts on the show as customer service representative Kelly Kapoor. The episode was the sixth of the series written by Kaling.
Jackie Debatin, who appeared in "Ben Franklin" as Elizabeth, is used to playing strippers and hookers. Debatin had previously been a stripper on Friends, a stripper on That '70s Show, a stripper on Two and a Half Men, a madam on Veronica Mars, and a call girl on Boston Legal. In an interview, Debatin said playing Elizabeth was "probably the best experience I have had in TV work", because the cast and crew were "down to earth, fun, grateful to be there". Although actor Andrew Daly, who played Gordon the Ben Franklin impersonator, had already known John Krasinski, Angela Kinsey, B. J. Novak and Kate Flannery, he said that The Office cast and crew "could not have been more welcoming to me." Daly especially liked it when the actors "depart[ed] from the script and improvised a little."
"Ben Franklin" received 5.0/13 in the ages 18–49 demographic of the Nielsen ratings. This means that five percent of all households with an 18- to 49-year-old living in it watched the episode, and 13 percent had their television tuned to the channel at any point. The episode was watched by an estimated audience of 10.1 million viewers. "Ben Franklin" is one of only a handful of other episodes of The Office to reach over 10 million viewers, the others being the show's pilot episode, "The Injury," "Traveling Salesmen," "The Return," and "Stress Relief," of which the latter reached over 20 million viewers.
"Ben Franklin" received mixed, but mostly good, reviews from critics. IGN's Brian Zoromski wrote that "The Office was in truly excellent form this week." Zoromski went on to credit the "great progression" in the Jim-Pam-Karen love triangle and Michael being "his completely inept self" as parts of the episode that made it "one of the best Office episodes this season". Michael Sciannamea of TV Squad was less enthusiastic about the episode, writing that although it was "solid", "not much happened here other than the Jim-Karen-Pam triangle." Abby West, of Entertainment Weekly, praised the love triangle, saying "The Pam/Karen confrontation was as uncomfortable as I could possibly hope for. It's so gratifying to see Pam's armor cracking." West also praised the work of the supporting cast.
- This episode begins Andy Bernard's 4-episode absence from the office, as he has gone to anger management. He later returns in "The Negotiation".
- Tan, Jeannie (2006-09-26). "The Office Nielsen Ratings". OfficeTally.com. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- ""Ben Franklin" | Season 3 | 02/01/2007". NBC. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Debatin, Jackie (2008-05-15). "ScrantonBranchOffice Exclusive Interview - Jackie Debatin". TheTwoCents. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Daly, Andy (2007-09-06). "Two Cents & Five Questions With...". TheTwoCents. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Zoromski, Brian (2007-02-02). "The Office: "Ben Franklin" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Sciannamea, Michael (2007-02-02). "The Office: "Ben Franklin"". TV Squad. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- West, Abby (2007-02-04). "The Naked Truth". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-07-29.