The Office Review

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by Simon Crust Aug 1, 2005 at 12:00 AM

    The remake. Universally disliked by almost everyone with the same basic question. Why? In the film world, remakes are all too common, rarely do they outshine their originals, yet still they continue to be made. When we look at TV, remakes are a rarer breed, since buying the rights and broadcasting the show as a whole in a new country is far, far more common. However, when a show is judged to be quintessential to its country of origin, then a remake might be feasible. Just like their film brothers, TV remakes rarely live up to their originals; the archives are litter with examples. A famous example is the two Red Dwarf pilots, filmed and never picked up. Others that were picked up, but are just as painful, might include Dear John (UK to USA), Mad About You (USA to UK) and Who's the Boss/The Upper Hand. All watchable if you didn't know about the existence of the original, yet all pale when compared.

    So then, our feature presentation, the NBC remake of The Office, already an uphill battle, as NBC had proved how not to remake with a disastrous attempt at Coupling. Not to mention the BBC version was already well established on the BBC USA channel and had a distinct following already. However, not to be deterred, executives brought creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant from the UK to over see the pilot, by all accounts all went well and both left giving the show their 'blessing'; a good omen perhaps. Once the show was announced it immediately attracted negative comment from fans and critics alike, all of whom cited the reasons I have already given, but nevertheless the pilot was commissioned and made. From this pilot, a near shot by shot remake of the original, a full season was then commissioned, full being a further five episodes, bringing it in line with the BBC version, and this is where the two shows start to differ, the Office USA starts to become 'Americanised'.

    As I see it there are some problems with the Office USA. As with any work space the environment takes its lead from the manager; in this case Steve Carell playing Michael Scott. Carell has a very different approach to management compared to Gervais. Gervais' Brent was a lovable buffoon of a character, totally inept but ignorant of the fact, oblivious that his behaviour is ridiculed by his staff, yet he is still likable. Carell, on the other hand, plays Scott with a very dark malicious streak, he thinks nothing of the most cruel 'practical jokes' and still takes them too far, this makes him very unlikable. From this top tier we move down the workspace to find the other office workers; Jim Halpert (John Krasinski; the Tim character), Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson; the Gareth character) and Pam Beesley (Jenna Fischer; the Dawn character). These three still retain traits of their original persona, most notable the developing relationship between Jim and Pam. However, I never felt convinced of their characters; it was as if they were playing, rather than being. This may have a lot to do with the American environment; the pace is very much British, but when set to America it seems slow; we know that most American people are not afraid of a camera, so to see a lot of characters being somewhat shy and furtive seems a bit false. Amplifying this would be lack of furtiveness when the camera pans around the office, there are very few of the short glances to camera that made the British version so believable. As the series progresses the further from the BBC it gets; this is a good thing as comparison becomes harder, thus it has to stand on its own merits; I'm glad to say that it starts to do this. Scott becomes more buffoonish and perhaps more likable, the developing relationship between Jim and Pam becomes more endearing and Schrute become the scapegoat to the 'office pranks' more; the comedy becomes more subtle and the show is better for it.

    So, after a rather shaky start, NBC seem to be heading in the right direction, certainly the show in its native land is gaining high praise after an initial poor reaction; a second season is inevitable. This too is good as the continual development of the characters as each of the actors finds their place can only bring more praise. It is a fresh approach in an otherwise over saturated sitcom environment and this is what may bring its success, even though there is still some way to go. If it will be such a success outside its own shores is another matter. It still has not outshined the original and I doubt it ever will, making global success problematic. However with American money it might even go beyond the two seasons and two Christmas specials produced in Britain and this may prove its winning formula.

    The Rundown

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