Now Watching: “The Office”

So I’d never been interested in this show before, but there it was one day on TV. I left it on because there was nothing else.

And you know what?

“The Office” is HILARIOUS.

I’m talking, currently, of the American version. I’ve made it now via Netflix to the second episode of season 2 (not watched yet). So far there have already been two borderline classics, “Diversity Day” and the brilliant episode “The Dundies”. I’m also currently watching the first episode of the British version.

Here is my after-ten-minutes-of-episode-1-plus-Wikipedia take on the British version vs. the American version: The British version is unbelievably, insanely depressing. Very funny, but HOLY CRAP. I know how both series end, and that alone says it all. The British version just ends with the boss being fired after begging to keep his job. The American version makes a point to give a happy ending to everybody.

Michael in the American version is clueless and selfish, but he means well and this is enough, along with him simply being completely pathetic, to make him innately likeable. David Brent is a complete and utter asshat, completely pathetic as well but with no likability whatsoever. This isn’t, in itself, a bad thing, because Ricky Gervais nails the role. It’s just a fundamental difference in attitude.

The moment that truly defines the difference between the British and American versions of “The Office” is when Pam stands up in “The Dundies” after Michael is heckled and asks for her Dundie award. Michael has a great moment of redemption as well when he gives Pam the award for whitest shoes instead of the award for longest engagement. This is the moment where, instead of loathing Michael, you start rooting for him instead. This moment basically never arrives in the British version (I know this not from watching it but from reading about it, but you can really just tell that the British version is far more cynical, and David far more of a dickhead than Michael is).

Another defining difference, which I know from reading about as opposed to watching it (yet), is how the shows deal with their downsizing storylines: David accepts a promotion (later denied to him due to a failed physical), and throws his employees to the wolves: Michael travels down to corporate personally to stand up for his employees. Michael fails, and the Scranton branch is only saved because the boss of the other branch got a promotion, but Michael tries. It’s a Pixar rule of storytelling executed to perfection: You admire a character for trying more than for succeeding.

You can probably tell that I prefer the American version. I’m cynical, but I define my cynicism in a particular way. The British version is just bleak and hopeless. The American version gets dark, sometimes horribly dark, but the characters are much more likeable. As much as I love Martin Freeman, I like the American version of his character more. He’s more charming.

Both are definitely worth watching, though. No question. Highly recommended.

Standout episodes so far: “Diversity Day” (very, very funny), “The Dundies”, “The Deposition”, and “Dinner Party”. Whatever the name of the episode with the gift baskets and GPS as well (anybody know the name of that one?).

Watch it. Love it. It’s hilarious.

And, just as importantly, both versions are very, very funny. Steve Carrell is the man.

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10 Responses to Now Watching: “The Office”

  1. Ilíon says:

    … Steve Carrell is the man.

    And he’s one reason I’ll never watch it. I mean, even aside from not having a TV at home and turning on the one at my hotel only sporadically (it has been at least a month since I last turned it on).

    There is just something about Steve Carrell — I mean, just looking at him — that I can’t stand.

    • I get that to an extent. He has a sort of “asshat” look to him. But he is just too funny in “The Office”.

      I honestly didn’t think I would like it, but I really loved it.

  2. Drew says:

    The American version is definitely funny, and I’ve watched a good bit of it, but I have never become a true fan because it is too dark and has a lot of awkward humor. A lot of the episodes even seem to have downer endings. One comparable show that I like more is Parks and Recreation. The latter show is way brighter in general, without any awkwardness, and basically all of the characters are nicer to each other.

    • See, I don’t mind the darkness. “The Deposition” and “Dinner Party” – “Dinner Party” especially – are really, really dark, and really, really funny. It’s the hopelessness of the British version – the idea that you’re just stuck in a Hell you can’t escape forever – that makes it different from the American version. In the American version, things get dark, but there’s always some sort of hope. Also, the British office is just meaner.

      I like it, by the way. Just not as much, and it’s a somewhat personal preference.

      “Parks and Recreation” looks funny. Pretty much just “The Office” but a little brighter.

      • Jakeithus says:

        The Office and Parks and Recreation are almost perfect television, I can’t say which I like better. The Office takes a sharp dive after Michael leaves but pulls it up at the very finish, while Parks takes a season or two to get going. Both shows manage to turn even the most minor cast member into a hilarious and somewhat deep character, which is incredibly rare in the sitcom world, and is a big part of the reason for their success I think.

      • I watched several seasons of P&R (stopped at the time skip, it was a good point for me), I definitely echo, “start at season 2.”

        Also, Ron is my spirit animal.

      • I’ll be looking forward to Parks and Rec after I finish my Office run.

        Just got to the end of season 3. There are some charming moments. When Jim breaks in on Pam’s talking head at the end to ask her on a date is a great moment. Another sentimental highlight is when Michael buys Pam’s painting of Dunder Mifflin.

        Jenna Fischer is terrific in her role. Really, the whole cast is outstanding.

        As for funny highlights…Prison Mike. Oh, Prison Mike. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen anything funnier. “You my friend would be da belle uv da ball” *kissing noises*.

        The cast must have cracked up so many times.

  3. Conor says:

    Oh man, the second season of the American version of The Office is one of best seasons of any sitcom ever. It’s pretty damn close to perfect. And don’t forget to watch the British Office’s Christmas Special, as that is how the series TRULY ends.

  4. Randy P. says:

    “David Brent is a complete and utter asshat, completely pathetic as well but with no likability whatsoever. This isn’t, in itself, a bad thing, because Ricky Gervais nails the role.”

    It wasn’t much of a stretch for Gervais, I’m sad to say.

  5. Nah, best office humor (and on netflix) is:
    from the Americans: Better Off Ted
    from the British: the IT crowd

    Less episodes, you can get through them both in a week. 🙂
    (best, funniest cop hour show is “the Good Guys”, the SERIES not the MOVIE that everyone thinks of)

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