The Office: An American Workplace - Season One

The Office: An American Workplace - Season One


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

With the ground-breaking success of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s The Office, it came as no surprise that some form of spin-off or continuation would follow. Despite the fact that the humour was quintessentially British, an American adaptation was commissioned under the helm of King Of The Hill writer/director, Greg Daniels. Upon hearing about the plans to Americanise another Brit-hit, it would be fair to say that a great many (including myself) felt more than a little sceptical about its chances across the water. Vis-à-vis, not much was expected.

The action of the American version moves to Scranton Pennsylvania, where the workers of paper-company Dunder Mifflin struggle through the daily-grind of 9-5 office work. Boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell) thinks he is popular and funny but, in reality, the only one who likes him is suck-up Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson). Constantly annoyed by this duo is the underachieving Jim Halpert (John Krasinski), who is also in love with engaged receptionist, Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer).

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Attempting to translate shows from the UK to the USA has never met with great success in the past (Coupling, we are looking at you). On this occasion, the task is made even more daunting by the fact the show in question is a critically acclaimed and Golden Globe winning cult hit. Co-writers/directors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant crafted something that hit a nerve with many viewers while changing comedy forever. Taking their approach from This Is Spinal Tap and with hints of I’m Alan Partridge thrown in, their show is one of the most memorable in recent television history. Fact.

Unfortunatly, the same cannot be said about season one of its American counterpart. For the first few episodes – particularly the pilot – entire sketches are taken almost word for word or simply rewritten to be more recognisable to Stateside audiences (which, to be honest, I’m not sure they will get). Removing all the originality, this results in a diluted version of its predecessor with only a handful of funny moments.

Thankfully, things pick up from the forth episode, The Alliance, onwards as the show starts to take its own direction. We see two classic Dwight moments, the actors start to find their feet and the blossoming romance between Jim and Pam starts to really take shape. Best of all, though, is the dynamic between ‘normal guy’ Jim and ‘office twat’ Dwight. Though we relate to Jim, Rainn Wilson often steals the show as Dwight – sometimes just with a simple stare or smirk – as he is the sort of guy who asks if you have tickets to his “gun show” and will move the watercooler closer to his desk to learn the office gossip about downsizing.

Unfortunately, our replacement for the Brentmeister general doesn’t quite nail the role like his predecessor. Although Steve Carell is an undoubtedly talented actor with fantastic comedic ability, his shouty boss frequently overplays things and lacks the subtlety that made Gervais’ Brent so watchable. There are a few moments when he shines – such as not using the Arabs during Diversity Day as that would be too explosive, “no pun intended” – but most of the time its all too much.

Given that bettering the original was always going to be impossible, the show does well to generate some laughs and give us characters we can invest in. As the first season works best when it breaks away from the shackles of the British version, let's hope Season Two will continue in its own direction with Steve Carell delivering in the way I know he can and taking the loudness down several notches. One thing though, if he sort of fuses Flashdance with MC Hammer shit and starts dancing, I’ll be off quicker than you can say Wernham Hogg.

Reviewed on: 14 Nov 2008
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The Office: An American Workplace - Season One packshot
US Version of the Ricky Gervais hit.
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Director: Ken Kwapis, Ken Whittingham, Bryan Gordon, Greg Daniels, Amy Heckerling

Writer: Greg Daniels, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, BJ Novak, Paul Lieberstein, Michael Schur, Mindy Kaling

Starring: Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, BJ Novak, Angela Kinsey, Kate Flannery, Leslie David Baker, Brian Baumgartner, Oscar Nunez, Paul Lieberstein, Phyllis Smith, Craig Robinson, David Denman

Year: 2005

Runtime: 240 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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