Apr 28, 2011

[TV] The Office US: Season 1

The Office US: Season 1For whatever reasons they may have, US network television studios love to "borrow" ideas from other countries. One can trace this pretty far back to shows like Three's Company with more recent examples being the SyFy adaptation of Being Human and the AMC adaptation of The Killing. It does make business sense I suppose - why invest in coming up with new and original ideas when you can just pay for the licensing rights for an existing idea that has done well with other audiences. It just becomes a question of how well the show becomes adapted to US culture and if the core ideas that given the show its identity continue to make sense in the new version.

I'm not saying that I fully condone or support this practice - TV and movies should be about original ideas and not just "sure bets" from a business / investing perspective. But I'm just a consumer of their entertainment products after all - what do I know?

This show is somewhat notable given it ushered a new wave of adaptations of other British TV shows. I'm not claiming it's the first, but given the longevity of the program, it does deserve certain notice. And at the end of the day, I was surprised at how the show really started to grow on me.

And yeah, this is yet another program introduced to me by my partner. Go figure.

NBC's The Office is an adaptation of the BBC series of the same name. It's a sitcom that heavily employs (and perhaps pioneered) the mockumentary style of filming. The show was developed for American audiences by Greg Daniels whose previous work at the time included Saturday Night Live, King of the Hill and The Simpsons.

The show focuses on the daily office lives of the Scranton, Pennsylvania branch of fictional paper company Dunder Mifflin. For reasons unknown, it seems a camera crew has been given permission to film almost all aspects of the workplace including classic reality TV style one-on-one interviews / confessionals by the characters. The camera crew in itself becomes more and more of a character in the series - but pardon me for getting ahead of myself.

The office is filled with uniquely quirky characters starting with Michael Scott (Steve Carell), who is the Regional Manager in charge of the branch. The show is positioned as an ensemble sitcom so no one character is truly the "lead" in this respect. More prominent characters include Pam Beesly (Jenna Ficher) the receptionist, rival salespeople Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) and Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) and new temp employee Ryan Howard (B.J. Novak). There are a whole host of other characters to cover but that would take up too much of this review and thus turning it into a badly done Wikipedia entry. So I'll leave things here for now and leave you readers to explore on your own should you decide to do so.

The first season was only six episodes long given it was a mid-season replacement. It did make it feel more like a British serial in this regard given a 6-episode run is rather typical of a lot of British shows.

Michael Scott (The Office)Image via WikipediaThe main goals of this first season are to introduce us as audience members to the different characters in the show and the roles they play in the company. Given we have full representation of many departments including sales, accounting, HR and distribution via the warehouse, there's a lot of potential interaction to be had. At the center of things is Michael Scott, who seems determined to somehow make the office a "fun" family environment despite his often politically incorrect slurs and pathetic attempts at comedy. Pam is engaged to Roy Anderson (David Denman) from the warehouse crew although it's clear that she and Jim share some very strong chemistry as friends and co-workers.

This first season starts out a tad awkward given the uncouth leadership style of Michael Scott and the rather offensive / painful / embarrassing sense of humor he seems to employ that made the show a little difficult for me to appreciate. But it was a combination of the Jim-Dwight pranks and the Pam-Jim relationship that really helped to get me curious enough to continue to watch the show.

The Office started out as a close copy of the original British TV series, however by the end of this first arc it's clear that the actors and the writers were beginning to get truly comfortable with their roles. And that made a world of difference come the next season. This premiere gets 3.5 awkward mancrush moments between Michael and Ryan out of a possible 5.

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