The Office Season One
Starring: Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, B.J. Novak
Series Creators: Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, developed by Greg Daniels
Here's the deal: I didn't like The Office original version at all. I'm not going to get into it; since I only watched two episodes, I'm not really in a position to give a credible review. I'll just say that I didn't find it funny, and leave it at that.
I bring this up for two reasons. One, to explain why I just got around to watching the highly-acclaimed American version of The Office. Since I didn't like the original, I figured there was no reason to check out the remake, Steve Carell or not. But I kept hearing that the show was different from the original and that it was really good, so I was curious (of course, I heard that the original was the best thing to ever be on television, so I had reasons to be suspicious). When some friends wanted to watch it in my presence, I was receptive.
The second, more important reason for my admission is that this may be the only review you'll ever read about this show that isn't a comparison to the original British version. Except to say that I watched more than the first two episodes. In fact, I watched those first two episodes (and the next three) twice.
I'll probably be watching the sixth episode again, and maybe the five with commentary tracks once again. So, I guess what I'm saying is that I enjoyed it. Of course, when you're only dealing with six, twenty-two minute episodes, it doesn't take long to watch the episodes multiple times (the entire season takes a total of 2 hours and 15 minutes). Still, my desire to re-watch the episodes I'd already seen when I bought the series for myself is an indication of my enjoyment for them. The series is flat-out funny, with characters that are interesting and developed enough to make me want to invite them into my living room on a weekly basis.
The centrepiece of the cast is Carell, who hilariously plays the painfully unfunny Michael Scott. It's a tough gig, being funny at being unfunny, but one Carell excels at. Scott is an oafish mid-level manager at the office in question (the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in Scranton, Pennsylvania), a man convinced of his own hilarity and beloved status amongst his employees, completely unaware of how true the opposite of each belief is. Scott says some of the most offensive, insensitive things I've heard on TV (well, other than HBO), but does so without a hint of hostility or self-awareness. He's not trying to be mean, it's just that he's a horrible person.
For me, Carell isn't even the highlight of the show. A lot of his stuff is both funny and painful to watch, so it becomes a bit too much at times (although, I'd say it works more often than it doesn't). Instead, I find John Krasinski's Jim Halpert to be the funniest character on the show. Jim is the office smart-ass, who uses stealth humour to tolerate Michael and practical jokes to torture the sociopathic Dwight Schrute (played by Rainn Wilson to embarrassingly hilarious perfection). Jim's a young guy who's pretty good at his job, but can't imagine himself doing it for the rest of his life. I can relate.
The best reason to watch The Office is for the relationship between Jim and secretary Pam Beesly (the super-cute Jenna Fischer). They flirt throughout the day, while denying any romantic feelings for the other, as Pam is engaged to the oafish Roy (David Denman) from the warehouse. The relationship is portrayed perfectly by the pair, with subtlety and sincerity, sharing small looks and smiles that neither recognises for what they are, quiet enough for each to believe that they're just "good friends", or "brother and sister". The show is funny, and its observations on office culture are strong, but it is this relationship that will bring me back for season two. I like character development more than plot in my television shows, so this looks promising.
Ultimately, it's hard to judge a six-episode season. The show never really hit its stride, but was picking up steam with each episode (ending with the semi-cliffhanger "The Hot Girl" episode, guest-starring Amy Adams). It definitely showed enough promise to suggest that this is a show worth watching further. At just over two hours long, it is perfect sampling size, so if you were interested in it at all, then go ahead and pick it up. Think about it: it's a much smaller time commitment than King Kong. Hell, it's a smaller time commitment than the DVD version of The 40-Year-Old Virgin! If you enjoyed the original version of the show, and give this one an honest try, you should find stuff to like. And if you didn't like the original version of the show, then you should still have no problem enjoying this version. I would know.
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