The premiere of The Office on NBC gave me stirrings of optimism for the network situation comedy again. Anyone who dismisses it harshly because it’s not the original does not realize how much of a breakthrough this is: no laugh track, pained silences, a real environment anyone might work in, characters who take insults uncomfortably and seriously. This is exactly what we need in situation comedy now.
Though it’s not near the original’s perfection, this remake has retained all the right stuff to make something amazing in its own right. The main flaw I can see is that Steve Carell hasn’t found the depth of character in the obnoxious manager than progenitor Ricky Gervais did. That said Carell is still hilarious, managing to make the unfunny shtick of a middle manager hilarious. And if the show goes as long as it should, he’ll find something akin to the sadness in David Brent.
Selecting Greg Daniels to shepherd the American version of the show was the best move anyone could have made. Daniels previously worked on King of the Hill which had a tradition of using uncomfortable silences as well. The two shows are also similar in that they focus on real people in places far from media capitals New York and Los Angeles, with stories that reflect those people’s concerns.
From what I’ve heard the later episodes, which completely depart from the British scripts, are even better than this solid retranslation. Considering that the show will have one more main character to play with and more uniquely American issues (race will obviously play a far bigger role here than Britain), I have high hopes that this will be loved for it’s own merits.