Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Office confessions

I have a confession to make. It's not something I'm proud of, but it's something I need to get out into the open.

I like the US version of The Office more than the UK version.

There. I've said it. That feels so much better.

Before the predictable round of "how can you say that?" begins, please understand that I fully appreciate the USA's patchy history when it comes to Americanising UK shows.

When it was first announced, I was as vocal as anyone in expressing my outrage. We all remember the pitiful US retreads of Absolutely Fabulous, Men Behaving Badly, and Coupling.

But the thing is, the US producers of The Office get it. They really do. Everything we love about the UK version is there. And with the possible exception of romantic protagonists Jim and Pam (c.f. the UK's Tim and Dawn), the US actors are not simply impersonating their English counterparts.

Steve Carell plays the manager with the same level of mawkish awkwardness, punctuated with moments of likeable pathos, as Ricky Gervais, but in a peculiarly brash American fashion that makes it, if anything, more effective. (Sample dialogue to a new employee: "Wow, you look exotic. Was your dad a GI ?")

Rainn Wilson brilliantly channels the slimy essence of the UK's Gareth into corporate soldier wannabe Dwight. He manages to be, simultaneously, more unlikable and more worthy of our pity. (Sample dialogue: "Security in this office is a joke. Last year, I came to work with my spud gun in a duffel bag. I sat at my desk all day, with a rifle that shoots potatoes at 60 pounds per square inch. Can you imagine if I was deranged?")

The number of episodes (52 compared to the UK's 14) also means that we get to know the supporting cast of weird and irritating seatwarmers. So you truly appreciate the moments where the fat sleazy accountant turns out to be the drummer and lead singer in a band that seems to play nothing but Sting and Police covers.

If you've not seen the US version in silent passive protest at the gall of the US producers, please swallow your pride and watch it. Your funny bone will thank you.


Sarah said...

I haven't seen the US version and can handle a total of eight minutes of the UK Office (the cringe factor is overwhelming). To be fair, the Brits do some rubbish versions of US shows. Did you ever see the English "Who's the Boss?"