full life

The Office

Looking back, maybe I shouldn't have watched the original, BBC pilot first. I couldn't help myself; it was as if I knew in advance that there'd be a huge traffic accident and I got in line to watch it.

Here's the problem with having The Office on prime-time television; there's no time for dead air. What makes the original BBC version so amazing is the agony of an extended, awkward moment. The NBC version has an off-color remark, and then someone makes a grimace, and then we move on to the next scene.

Even though it didn't work, I can sorta see why NBC had their pilot be a near-exact replica of the BBC pilot; it gives the BBC fans a frame of reference. However, simply swapping out British slang for American slang does not cut it.

As for the casting... well, I'm a fan of Steve Carell. He's a very funny man, and I'm glad he got a good break. I'm also hopeful that as the series starts using its own material, he has room to maneuver past Ricky Gervais' character and come into his own. This episode was almost painful to watch, because he was clearly trying NOT to be Ricky Gervais, but the script pretty much requires him to be Ricky Gervais. Ricky Gervais's David Brent was a foolish buffoon, yes, but he desperately wanted to be liked and accepted; Steve Carrell's "______ _______" was just a bumbling idiot.

At least he was trying. The "Tim" replacement is basically Martin Freeman's American cousin, except not as charming. Couldn't they at least have given that character a new haircut, fercrissakes? And the "Dawn" replacement is sorta pigeon-y and I sense a deep psychotic breakdown just underneath the surface. I actually appreciated the "Gareth" replacement, because he was the only one in the entire show who WASN'T shamelessly aping his BBC counterpart. (Interesting side note: I was watching the bonus features on the Season 1 DVD and Steve Merchant indicated that his original vision for the Gareth character was actually someone quite big and brassy, which is sorta what the NBC version is.)

I wonder what the mood on that set is. I imagine it's one of fear. Instead of not being aware that they're creating something groundbreaking and wonderful, they're in the unenviable position of trying to re-create something that's very passionately loved, which is basically impossible. There's absolutely no personality to this version; the characters are all paper-thin and forgettable. It's probably no coincidence that I can't remember any of their names.

I'm giving the show one more chance - I want to see an original script. And the only reason why I want to see it at all is out of loyalty to the BBC version. I'm not really a TV watcher anyway, and had I not known about the BBC version I probably wouldn't have paid any attention to this new one. (Maybe Ricky Gervais will cameo as the "Chris Finch" character? Actually, he probably can't... the Finch voice on the speakerphone was clearly American.) Anyway... I can't claim to be disappointed, because my hopes for this show were pretty low to begin with. But until the scripts start getting original, it's got pretty much no shot at all.
I'm just curious enough now to check it out next week. You're right on about the dead air thing. Do you think, though, that the whole idea of mortified fear of embarassment is more a British-humor thing? John Cleese always believed that, which is why Fawlty Towers is sometimes so excruciatingly tough to watch.
John Cleese even spelled that out, in "Fish Called Wanda", when he has that monologue about how the British are so desperately afraid of appearing human. Maybe that's why the BBC version of "Office" works and an American version is inevitably doomed; most Americans go out of their way to make fools of themselves.
I had forgotten it was in A Fish Called Wanda! I always thought it was in an interview or something. Thanks for the reminder. :)
I don't think it is only a British thing.

There are quite a bit of American examples of using the "long pause" - Chris Guest's mock-docs, CYE, and even, sometimes, Arrested Development.

I was concerned, like you, that they didn't use the "long pause", especially after the article that I think you linked to the other day - the one that talked about the lack of laugh track, etc...it went on and on about how that "pause" was what made it work.

Let's see what they do with original material. I'm willing to give them another shot.
Those three examples you gave are all good, but they have unique qualifiers - obviously, CG makes films, which have a different set of pacing rules; CYE has profanity and no commercial breaks; AD as long pauses but also lots of quick interplay and banter. AD also has the best ensemble cast on network television, hands down, and that goes a long way.

The BBC cast of Office had a great chemistry, too; this NBC version has yet to prove that they're anything but puppets.
Right, but again, none of them are British - the suggestion was made that only the Brits like the "long pause" in their comedy.

I thought it was brilliant, but I'v enot watched the BBC version so I'm guessing that's what taints it; which I totally understand. I'm all about the originals. It seemed closer to Curb Your Enthusiasm to me...the quasi documentry and what seems to be a lack of scripted dialogue.
The BBC version is vastly superior in every way. You might be better served, then, by waiting until the NBC version dies.
I thought it was great, but I'm yet to see the British version yet. If watching the British version is going to keep me from enjoying this one, then I'll wait until this one gets cancelled.
That's the best course of action; the BBC version is truly something special.
I was disappointed. I, too, was not expecting it to be great, but I was kinda hoping it would be at least an enjoyable watch. It couldn't decide whether or not to be a complete replication of the original or a broad Office-the-movie-type satire. It came up lukewarm on both ends.
This is why I'm hoping that an original script will free them up a bit to create something new; this was simply a shitty re-enactment.
Luckily for NBC, which bought the rights to the British comedy, only a relatively small number of viewers in the United States have seen the BBC version. Those happy few should try to erase every trace from their brains - Eternal Sunshine of the Digital Cable Mind - because the NBC series, though it pales in comparison, is still funnier than any other new network sitcom.

thats' a quote from an article in this week's NYT. and i pretty much agree with it. i guess I'm just the lucky one. I love the BBC version and I actually liked the Americanized NBC version, too.

and maybe the awkward pauses are not as long as the british would have us suffer through, but they are there, and still more ballsy than most network sitcoms would be.
The quotes in that article MUST be for an upcoming episode; they're all quite funny, actually. Especially these:

"Is there a term besides Mexican that you prefer?" he asks Oscar, the office's only Hispanic. "Something not so offensive?"

and

"As Abe Lincoln once said: If you are a racist we will attack you from the north."
I actually appreciated the "Gareth" replacement, because he was the only one in the entire show who WASN'T shamelessly aping his BBC counterpart.

Odd, because he came off to me as the most mimicky. All the way down to the bizarrely clipped speech cadences and the cheek twitching tics that signify a failed attempt to hide embarrassment.

I agree with you that the lack of a long pause reflects a capitulation to U.S. television norms, motivated not only by the urge toward quick-cut sit-com pacing but also by the 8 missing minutes (i.e. commercial time). Commercial time also plays into it in that the actual BBC version of The Office, as opposed to the BBC America version, is much better because the agony is relentless--no breaks. But to some extent the lack of awkward silences works because Americans are uncomfortable with silence not only in their TV shows, but in life. When someone says something stupid or embarrassing, the most likely response of your average white-collar wage slave in this country is to say something like "Ooooh-kaaaaaay" or "Aaaaaaaanyway" to try and break the tension. If the show tries too hard to replicate the original's cringing tone, brilliant as that may have been in the British context, it will fail because it will not ring true to its object.

I actually thought this one was pretty funny. Granted, though I've seen almost all of the BBC versions, I'm not the biggest fan. But I watched this NBC one expecting a train-wreck and found myself laughing out loud every now and then. I think they have the potential to come into their own. The BBC version is so incredibly slow at times, so picking up the pace is not a bad thing in my view. I think Steve might pull it off if you give him a chance.

I too found the "Gareth" character the only one without any substance in the new version. He seemed to be the biggest sit-com element... a jerk without reason... where the original is just a hopeless, but well-meaning spaz.
Absolutely, no question. I should've been clearer in my original post - I think the new Gareth is a douchebag. I just appreciated that he was doing something different.

I've now read or seen little bits of upcoming episodes, with brand-new dialogue and situations, and it seems to be genuinely hilarious. So I'm hopeful that there'll be some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.

Then again, this is a sitcom, it's not like a cure for cancer. I take this stuff way too seriously.