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Friday · March 25 2005

I haven't said anything about the American remake of The Office on NBC, until now, because I didn't want to judge without evidence. I adore the 12 (+ Christmas special) BBC episodes of The Office, and I didn't know whether to watch or look away. I first cringed at the idea, but curiosity won out and I watched.

The cast and writers are in a tough spot. If they imitate too much, it's a weak cover version. If they stray too far, they're “ruining” the show. And that's just to the 1% (wild and uninformed guess) of American viewers who have seen the BBC original. For this reason, the producers are better off ignoring what we Office fanboys think and make something that will appeal to the average U.S. cubicle-dweller.

Was the show any good? If you haven't seen the original, I can't answer the question, because I spent the whole half-hour comparing the two. Is Michael Scott as painful as David Brent? (No. Nobody will ever be as painful to watch as David Brent.) The American receptionist Pam is cuter than the British receptionist Dawn. (Duh. It's an American show.) Does the office look the same? (Yes) And Jim is no Tim.

The remake keeps the faux-documentary, no laugh track style of the original, but it doesn't feel like a real office. The ambient phone and copier noise are missing. The quick cuts of “nothing happening” are absent. It ends being something in between the staged, lighted look of an American sitcom and a real office documentary.

The last thing I want to mention is how much more prominent the Jim/Pam flirting is compared to Tim and Dawn in the original. Like Carrell's version of David Brent, the budding relationship is painted in huge, obvious strokes, missing the organic charm that made the British show so great.

That said, I'll be watching every episode. The Office is The Office, after all.

Archived: Watch » March 2005
What you had to say:
March 25 2005

I thought it was pretty funny, but missing some of the charm of the original: the copier noise, the boredom, the extreme painfulness of David Brent. Also, I didn't really like the new Gareth (can't remember his name). Maybe he will grow on me, but I missed Gareth more than any other original character.

March 25 2005

I missed Gareth too. Kelly thinks I'm crazy for thinking Pam is more attractive than Dawn.

March 25 2005

Really? I thought Pam was cuter than Dawn. Dawn had more interesting features, but Pam is more "standard pretty" in my opinion.

March 25 2005

What about Jim vs. Tim?

March 25 2005

I missed it. I fell asleep very early last night. I feel ill.

Changing the title would be a good idea, but they were obviously hoping to get a bit of a bump from the critical hype surrounding the original (Gervais did the talk show circuit here when the DVD came out.)

A better idea would simply be to take the basic concept of a phoney documentary of a boring office in a boring town and just start over from there. There's all sorts of inherent comedic and satiric potential with that basic set up that there's no need to try to redo all the characters, plots, etc.

Also, from what I've seen of the trailers, nobody on the show actually talks like they're from Scranton. Maybe they aren't supposed to be, but if they're going to set the show there (which implies that the producers think that Scranton is a shithole) they should at least try to portray the city somehow. It's not that much of a shithole, actually, as far as I can tell. I've been there a few times.

If they really wanted to set the show in a genuinely soulcrushingly boring everytown, they should set it in a suburb like Reston, Virginia or Germantown, Maryland.

March 25 2005

Someone should have made a TV pilot for Office Space years ago. Problem solved.

Regarding Scranton, the original didn't tell us much about Slough or Swindon, UK either. The setting doesn't factor in a whole lot for me.

March 25 2005

That's true. I don't know where Slough or Swindon are. I figured they were suburbs. The implication was that they weren't particularly impoverished or bad places to be, just that they were really, really dull in every way imaginable. Scranton isn't dull in that way.

March 25 2005

Road trip, Scranton?

March 25 2005

on tim and jim- if i were dawn or pam i'd go for a drink in a second.

March 25 2005

stac, the guy who played garreth used to play a really bizarre undertaker in training on 6ft under.

March 25 2005

I agree Kelly - I would also go for a drink with Jim or Tim. I think I liked Jim the best so far of the new characters. Did you like the guy who played Gareth in 6ft under?

March 25 2005

You shouldn't be drinking while pregnant, sweetie.

March 25 2005

:P

March 26 2005

i thought he was great at playing the part on 6ft, but the character was just too wacko to like.

March 28 2005

Long time, no read, no post. Hey gang!

I watched the first episode. I don't get it.

I have not seen the original (British) version, so perhaps that's my probabem? I enjoy several British "serials", and am a regular Coupling viewer on BBC. I love that show. I remember when they tried to make an American version, and it was terrible. They had a British actress (not from the original) playing an American on the show. I thought that was interesting.

I digress...

I don't get it. I didn't enjoy this episode at all. There were moments of quirky tidbits that gave me a smile. I laughed out loud, hard, at the closing sequence "sensitivity training". Particularly when they panned to the African American guy with the "black" sign on his forehead and incredibly pained look on his face. But, I could not see watching this show regularly for the occasional ham-fisted laugh.

What am I missing?

On a side note, Harry Enfield, an hilarious British comic, has had many variety type shows over the years. When I lived/worked in the UK for a short time, he had a show called "Harry Enfield's Brand Spanking New Show", which I thought was hilarious. I don't know why none of his stuff seems to make it on BBC America. If you get the opportunity to see any of his stuff - do.

March 28 2005

Welcome back, Mr. Finn. Rent or otherwise find a way to see the first season of the BBC version of The Office.

I was rewatching this episode with Dan the other night, and he thinks the show will tank. He said, "People won't get this. They need a laugh track to know when to laugh." I am looking forward to seeing how they do with original writing material rather than copying the BBC pilot.

March 29 2005

I hope I'm not one of those guys who needs the laugh track! I consider myself a student of comedy, and I've spent hours learning when to laugh!

I'll give it a shot. But I don't know.

March 29 2005

PS.. If you want to learn when to cry, come to my poker game next Saturday.

March 31 2005

I saw the newest episode. Not the worst thing ever, but not all that great either.

March 31 2005

I also spend the 30 minutes comparing the shows, which is not a great way to watch a tv program, can't just relax & just enjoy it. I like the subtle ways that Steve is different from David. I don't know if it's an Amercian v. British difference, or just personalities. probably both?

It's definitely a difficult balance of copying and creating. I think they're pulling it off pretty well, although at times I feel like I'm watching a bizzaro world re-run, and sometimes I'm anxious to see how Steve will mess things up.

I thought the 2nd show was better than the pilot - maybe i'm getting used to the characters and comfortable with them.

Pam v. Dawn? I need to see Pam carrying David's bag to a motivational speaker conference.

I wouldn't sell americans too short on the laugh track thing.

Ricky is an executive producer on the american office, does that mean he's consulting on it? or just getting royalties for creating the original?

March 31 2005

i totally blanked on it being on this tuesday instead of thursday- i was too busy watching the amazing race.

March 31 2005

Hey Steve, when you were analytically comparing the two episodes, you didn't happen to lock yourself in a room with a taped sign on the door, "Steve Rotter Investigates" ???

Sorry, couldn't resist a Gareth joke. (As a fellow neurotic skinny kid in the world, he's my favorite character.)

Anyway, loved the British original enough, I haven't tuned in to the American remake yet. From what I've heard so far I'm not in much of a hurry.

March 31 2005

I think the sign said, "Investigating...Steve Rotter."

March 31 2005

Well, I couldn't decide between:
"PRIVATE INVESTIGATION! STEVE ROTTER'S OFFICE FOR INVESTIGATIVE REVIEW!"
or
"STAY OUT! INVESTIGATION IN PROCESS!"
or
"Do NOT Enter! Investigator conducting Investigation!"

But the one that won out was, "STEVE 'INVESTIGATOR' ROTTER: SECRET INVESTIGATORY REVIEW!"


I also forgot that the office changed nights to Tuesdays. Thanks TIVO!

© 2005 Jason Keglovitz