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The Office: UK

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I did not jump on the bandwagon - it's one of those things that excited/connected with/stunned me from the very first teaser trailer. I wish I'd done it but was glad that those who did it did it so very well. I felt different this morning after watching it (final episode) last night. It's been compared unfavourably with Mike Leigh but, even though I like a lot of Leigh's work, I think this is even more sympathetic and superior in many ways to his stuff. It deals with the spirit and can have you laughing, cringing and devastated one second to the next. The word genius is really not out of place. One for the ages...a classic...I LOVE THE OFFICE! I had to give it a mention...

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Hmm, I was beginning to think there would be no one to discuss The Office with. I take it you saw the Christmas special? What did you think?

[spoilers] I was very impressed, I must say. The second series was good "drama," and amusing at times, but not as consistently funny (in a laugh-out-loud kind of way) as the first series. The Christmas special was both.

I thought it was great that they allowed Brent to find someone in the end, when it would have been so easy to give him the expected let's-all-have-a-laugh-at-how-pathetic-he-is sort of ending. I even liked the way Neil and Chris (I think those are the names--Brent's previous boss, and his loudmouth friend) were exposed as pr*cks as well---when he told them to f*ck off, there was a certain amount of triumph, as if we had suddenly discovered we liked Brent after all, and wanted to shout at the screen: "You tell 'em, Brent!"

Hmm, Dawn and Tim: Was that too contrived? Too convenient an ending? I mean, it wasn't ridiculously crass or anything, but I get the feeling the writers were pushing it to the edge to avoid simply giving in to the audience's wish for them to get together---and then in the last five minutes they caved in to the pressure and threw in the happy ending. Or am I being too harsh? I guess I would have been totally disappointed if they hadn't got together. In general, I thought the way the whole relationship was developed throughout the second series was masterly. Certainly one of the major hooks that kept me watching.

And the final scene: Nice. The way the writers managed to reverse our sympathies (ie. towards Brent) throughout the course of that final episode was very clever. There was Tim agreeing to meet Brent for a drink, and saving him from embarrassment; Brent's gradual opening-up and being honest about himself; his finally-down-to-earth conversation with his date; the group photo at the end.

Very well done to the Beeb, I say.

I assume you have heard the Americans have bought the concept for their own version? Watch this space!

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Btw, what is your opinion on Partridge? And do tell more about the links with Mike Leigh. What were the unfavourable comparisons?

Also, for our American and Canadian friends (trusting you haven't seen this show yet): The Office.

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Alright folks, would there be a clue as to how to navigate the BBC site soas to find BBC-America? Be nice to give this a try, but how does one know what might be shipped over here?

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The unfavourable review which mentioned Mike Leigh's stuff as superior to The Office was by Victor Lewis-Smith (TV critic in a London's Evening Standard paper) and was just about the only negative review I've seen. There are similarities I suppose in these lives of quiet desperation but, as I mentioned, for me Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are if not more sympathetic at least less condescending and sarcastic (I doubt, for better or worse, that Leigh would've ended as these specials did). Partridge is a great creation but The Office is outstanding not because of the parts that were funny. I never really watched it for a laugh, even the bits that were funny had to be watched through my fingers (the motivational speech in series 2...) but because - am I going over the top? It's really what I think - such a perceptive look at workplaces right now but with characters and problems that are timeless. The characters are so well written - I think we already know the pregnant woman in the specials too well after only a few minutes of screen time - that sometimes Brent seems the least convincing character. He's always grounded however by the humanity that slips through - no character or situation is black and white; Neil is the better boss and less if a prat than Brent but he's also rather too slick, for example, and Tim suggesting Gareth for promotion. I know some were unconvinced by him being allowed some happiness but as soon as his date was introduced it was all so believable that, as with Tim and Dawn, I didn't feel 'cheated' at all. I have to admit that I very rarely cry at stuff but did choke a bit when Dawn opened her present in the car. I think this scene, when we really thought it was the end, also made the eventual outcome believable and almost a relief. I found the second series, as with the second special, with the scene set, to be richer than the first. It also wasn't too neat an ending with Brent asking Neil to leave the group photo. Non-British based friends, a word of advice: catch this before it's re-made (with a laughter track?). Gervais has been on Letterman and hasn't the first series been already in the US?

Casting notes for US version:

[MICHAEL SCOTT] 34-44. Michael Scott is the manager of the office and the boastful unreliable narrator of the documentary. He is a legend in his own mind, who thinks he is a comic genius, fountain of business wisdom and his employees' cool friend. He believes in his version of reality with the sincere enthusiasm of a nine-year-old child thinking he can do karate. However, the documentary reveals the truth: he is a buffoon, a pathetic mid-level bureaucrat overdue for a mid-life crisis, whom decent people pity as a "sad, little man" when his inappropriate behavior hasn't appalled them into silence. Horribly over-confident, he is a trainwreck of bad leadership characteristics, only redeemed a bit by his childish enthusiasm. Despite continual proofs that he's an ass, he clings shamelessly to his deluded self-image like a shipwreck survivor clinging to a scrap of wood.

WE NEED: an actor who can play a juicy comic character. Someone with an expressive face to get a laugh on a smug look. Someone with the heart of a nine-year-old, but who plays between 34 and 44. Someone whose face and physique do not command natural respect (i.e., not buff and handsome). Boyish, not rugged, Capable of high-spirited, sunny energy as well as small, specific acting...SERIES REGULAR

[DWIGHT SCHRUTE] Late 20s-30ish. Dwight is the team leader and Michael Scott's sidekick. He actually admires Michael Scott, although it is unclear if this is due to Scott's personality or Dwight's officious inclination to look up to whoever is above him in the hierarchy. Dwight is obsessed with survival, personal security tactics, and other grandiose nerd action fantasies, probably because he got his ass kicked a lot as a kid. A volunteer policeman on the weekends, he takes any excuse to go on a power trip in the office. Yet his survival training appears to be more Gilligan's Island than Green Berets.

Although aggressively horny, he has no idea how to behave with women. His unpleasant social habits and annoying personality suggest an unsocialized loner, a sort of Caliban or Gollum. If stuck in an elevator, he would probably start drinking his own urine after ten minutes. His lack of social skills render him the butt of office jokes and thus bearable. If Scott is redeemed by having the heart of a nine-year-old, then Dwight can perhaps be pitied for his interior teenage geek.

WE NEED: someone who can be believable as a geek. Someone who has no desire to be likeable or please an audience, except through total identification with his character. Someone who can seem reasonable to himself while saying insane things, who understands the comedy of playing it straight. Late 20s-30ish...SERIES REGULAR

[JIM NELSON] 30ish. Jim is a sales rep in the office, who has to share a workspace with Dwight. He is an ordinary, decent person with good taste leading a life of quiet desperation. He likes people, is a good listener and wanted to be a psychologist. His clever sarcasm and takes to the camera are little defense against the vulgarity that surrounds him, although they make Pam the receptionist laugh. You wish he would be more assertive in love and at work. After playing with Pam, his chief enjoyment in the office is using his superior social and emotional skills to prank Dwight, although you get the sense that when he indulges in his immature impulses he is letting the environment defeat him.

WE NEED: someone likeable, around 30, who can get laughs by raising an eyebrow or doing a take to the camera. He needs to be pleasant-looking enough for you to root for him to get the girl, without being a hunk in any way. Although hidden by his ordinariness and bad haircut, Jim is the romantic lead...SERIES REGULAR

[PAM BEESLEY] 26-29. Pam is the receptionist and Jim's friend. Pam is decent, reasonable and friendly. She has the manner of a nice kindergarten teacher or a future mom. She is an ordinary woman with a

sense of humor. She allows her loutish boss and fiance to push her around some, but can exhibit flashes of working class toughness in protecting her friends. She's not cynical or a smartass, although her way of disagreeing is a gentle sarcasm. She's not arrogant or glamorous or overtly sexy, but she is cute compared to the other office workers, and she loves to play with Jim, who understands her better than Roy, her

fiance. Jim and Pam probably would not have met without being thrown together in the office, but they have become true friends, and their flirting is more serious than they acknowledge.

WE NEED: Pam needs to be soft and kind and vulnerable. Pretty, too, but definitely not a head-turner--more of a likeable, accessible pretty. A working-world girl-next-door type, who can deliver sarcasm with a light touch, yet a touch of the tragic waif. Pam is the other romantic lead. Around 26-29...SERIES REGULAR

STORY LINE: "The Office - An American Workplace" is based on the hit BBC show "The Office." The American show is aiming to capture the humor and poignancy of the original. It is a single-camera, mockdocumentary that portrays in a realistic style some ordinary American office workers trapped in a confined space with their immature, inappropriate, bizarre or deluded co-workers and one horribly overconfident supervisor...

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Yeah, I thought the Mike Leigh comparison might be something to do with being patronizing or condescending towards the characters.

I must say, I have never thought that about Leigh -- on the contrary, in fact. Life is Sweet is the nearest he comes to that, I think, but even then he just manages to avoid it. When I compare him to, say, Willy Russell, who I think really is patronizing towards his characters (eg. especially in Educating Rita), what strikes me about Leigh is precisely how much respect he shows his characters. Leigh is quite the genius in the storytelling department, in my opinion.

The Christian periodical Third Way also gave The Office a less-than-glittering review as well, btw.

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The Evening Standard review spoke of The Office as a kind of watered down version of Leigh's stuff, but the finals specials really worked for me and I couldn't see Leigh ending quite like that so I felt the negative comparison a little unfair. I like Leigh's stuff especially Life is Sweet and Naked, but the performances can lapse into broad caricature - especially Career Girls - which doesn't happen in The Office whose characters are much more layered I think. One of the deftest storytelling touches I've seen was from a Leigh short however, called (something like) The Birth of the Goalkeeper of the 1980 FA Cup Final.

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Missed this thread due to the title and the fact that the "view posts since last visit feature doesn't seem to be able to handle a new year!"

I love the office, tho I am a a bandwagon boy (not having a telly). I new Gervais from the 11 o clock show where I didn't find him very funny, certainly his vulgarity switched me off faster than his jokes switched me on.

I thought the ending of the Christmas special was brilliant. As Alvy said they could have just left us to laugh at Brent as a pathetic loser, but they gave him some dignity. I thought tho that part of the show's brilliance was that it gave you a fondness for Brent even tho' he was such a muppet. He was just so out of his depth, I think the first ending did this a bit as he tried to mask his disappointment at missing his promotion. certainly by the time he was on his knees begging for his job back at the end of the second series I really felt for him, and so it was nice that by having a happy-ish ending leaves you feeling with affection rather than outright derision. I actually can't think of enjoying hearing someone say "F*** off" more than I did when he said it to Finchy, the pratt he used to idolise.

The Dawn & Tim ending, maybe I just the kind of Schmo that they pitch at but I would have felt cheated if they hadn't got it together. I think it was the Lee character who takes all the plaudits here tho. Somehow with very little screen time he manages to convincing play someone who lovs someone, but at the same time knows little of what that means and is totally unaware of the ways in which he lightly crushes her. He gives he enough to make her stick with him (until the end), but clearly is damaging her, without ever meaning to. He's just a bit self absorbed.

As for buying it in www.benson's-world.co.uk import to the US and I've always found them very reliable.

The Golden Globe win is outstanding but much deserved. I just really hope that they can manage to make the US "Office" do to American Audiences, what the original did to us over here.

Matt,

an office manager who now has an anti-role model whom he fears becomming.

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I have been watching the Season 1 DVD, and I will agree, "The Office" is a work of genius. I love how the timing of the comedy is impeccable and the characters are very real. It's a refreshing change from most American situation comedies where the characters are very one-dimensional and the humor very broad. I like how the Brent character is not the kind of boss I am used to seeing portrayed on TV or in movies, either a tyrant or an obsessive neurotic. Instead, in Brent's monologues, we are able to see him from his point of view, how he sees himself as a legend in his own mind. The audience sees him just as the people in the office see him, and cringes. And "Freelove Freeway" was a total hoot.

And the best part: NO LAUGH TRACK!

I'm afraid to see an American version ruin it, though.

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Guest Russell Lucas

Yeah, it's totally worth the hype. I had to employ all of my ocular dexterity to avoid the above spoilers. Season 2 hits US DVD next month and I absolutely can't wait to find out how it ends.

The subtle comedy, the various little touches that you find sometimes not until a second viewing, are so compelling. And the absence of manipulative music, laughtracking and commercial cues lets the writers and actors both take their time and surprise us with the absurd humor and well-textured characters.

I guess the Mike Leigh comparison arises from the fact that, at the end of it all, the directors clearly care about the characters and their foibles. Still, the comparison seems otherwise inapt, though I'd agree that the inclination to lump these guys in with the Christopher Guest films falls short because Guest's characters aren't really as cared-for or round as these ones.

I find that I'm adjusting my tie much more these days.

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: Season 2 hits US DVD next month and I absolutely can't wait to find out how it ends.

Oh to really get that you'll have to wait until the Christmas special DVD is released.

But it ends really well. IMHO

Matt

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Guest Russell Lucas

Hmmm. Perhaps I'll need to look into tracking down videotapes of that special. Is it still being aired on the BBC, or on BBC-America?

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Well it was just two episodes that were a Christmas special. I'd reckon the next time they'll air will be next Chyristmas, but as I don't have a tely then I'm a bit ou of touch with when they repeat things these days. And no idea about BBC America. Remind me near Christmas and I'll look out for it, and try and video it for you (tho it'd be in PAL format I'm afraid!)

Matt

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I've heard Gary Cole mentioned to play the role of David Brent for the American version. I still cringe at the idea of an American remake because it's going to try so hard to be something it isn't.

I can't get enough of this show. Ricky Gervais was born to play this role.

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Jim Weed wrote:

: I've heard Gary Cole mentioned to play the role of David Brent for the

: American version.

Hmmm, and wasn't he in the movie Office Space, too?

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Gary Cole as Lundberg in Office Space was hilarious. But, he wouldn't work as David Brent. He doesn't have the bizarre goofy demeanor that Ricky Gervais has. The two characters are quite different, but each is brilliant in its own way.

If they're going to use Gary Cole, then instead of trying to copy The Office, why don't they create a TV series based on Office Space? Lundberg and Melvin would be great characters to base such a series around.

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Guest Russell Lucas

I will be happy to pretend the U.S. remake doesn't exist.

Season Two hits shelves April 20-- can't wait.

My wife tried to wake me when Gervais was on Letterman last week. She says he's so much like Brent in real life that it's disappointing to her; she (and I) are so enthralled by the depth and texture of his comic "acting" that we don't want to believe it's just him in a tie.

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Guest Russell Lucas

SPOILERS FOLLOW

Here are my thoughts on the first four episodes of the Second Season:

We watched the first four episodes of Season Two last night, and not even five minutes into the first episode my wife is turning away from the screen because she can't watch Brent put himself in these insanely awkward contratemps. But he just can't stop himself. The introduction of all of these new people, who have actually done honest work under a competent boss, makes for most of the heightened tension because Brent's self-delusion doesn't tell him when he's trying too hard and when he's failing miserably.

I acknowledge that it's painful to watch, but I really like the turn the show has taken for a couple of reasons. I know this second season is "it" (aside from the apocryphal X-mas special), so I want to see things played out to their logical conclusions. If the show had four of five seasons to waste with inconsequential filler, I'd love to see another season of Brent and the crew having a laugh.

I don't know if this sort of thing is typical of British comedy, or fairly unique to this show, but I love the way the show is able to deliver comedy with consequences. Freaks and Geeks is like this, too, but the typical American comedy is really incapable of communicating anything actually meaningful about the human condition. Your typical network sitcom has to turn down/off the laugh track, and the actors have to affect a deliberately earnest style of speaking. Here, the shift from farce to tragedy is seamless. What's more, it's totally believable, and even welcome. One reason I can't invest in sitcoms is because of the limited emotional range and the lack of things which actually affect or change the characters. This show is willing to let things catch up to Brent, to take the "sad, little man" and actually give him a run that shows how sad he is.

But it's not just Brent who's getting comeuppance. Dawn found every reason not to get rid of Lee for Tim, and now she has to watch Lee leer at Rachel and ask Tim whether he's screwed her. Our sitcoms play these kinds of dynamics off with one or two pregnant pauses, and perhaps a brief stare off-camera. This show (through four episodes) is just pounding her misery into the ground. And Gareth's immaturity and fetishization is more than just a quirk to laugh at-- he's saying some bizarrely hateful things that really follow from his stunted ego.

There are still some serious laughs, even if they are punctuated by moments of real agony. The motivational speech...Gareth's fire drill diagram...Brent moving the wheelchair girl around like a piece of furniture...the mere ring tone of Gareth's cell phone...Chris Finch taking the birthday girl from behind.

These people really resemble human beings. This show is really fantastic.

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I've heard Gary Cole mentioned to play the role of David Brent for the American version. I still cringe at the idea of an American remake because it's going to try so hard to be something it isn't.

I can't get enough of this show. Ricky Gervais was born to play this role.

Gervais has given high marks to the American pilot. Especially the guy who took over his role (the Daily Show's Steve Carell). It's actually getting accused of having got it right. So maybe folks might have to reserve their judgement a bit more.

According TV Guides review of the pilot, they kept the style of the show, they kept what was funniest, and only "updated" pop culture references to reflect American pop culture.

smile.gif

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Guest Russell Lucas

It's funny that the "wassup" references seem so hopelessly out-of-date to us seeing this thing for the first time in late 03 or 04, but those first episodes aired there in the fall of 01, when that phrase was still lame and old, but less so than now. Now, it's almost a retro, ironic reference. I loved it.

A reviewer at Aint-It-Cool panned the pilot of the American version.

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The reviewers at AICN are not reliable. Hell, TV Guide is more reliable for reviews.

Who you gonna believe? Some fan boy or the guy behind the original?

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Russell,

Glad you've been enjoying The Office second series. It is class but as you say does also move on from part one. I think what works well about it is that it is essentially satircal rather than sit com. There aren't really any jokes, except those that Brent cracks followed by those long painful silences, but (as Homer says) "Its funny because it's true". Most British comedy isn't quite like this either, but there is perhaps a better tradition of satire. Python, Not the Nine o' Clock News etc. were mainly reproducing aspects of British life and exagerrating / trivialising / surrealising them to make them funny. I guess what's so brilliant about the office is that there's so little exagerration. It's actually like they wrote a serious series, and then called it a comedy, and simply by that move took us out of the situation enough to see its foibles.

It's great, and if you've not got past episode 4 then the best / worst is still to come.

Matt

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Guest Russell Lucas

Yeah, Matt, we finished it off, and-- wow. What an ending. There's so much to like about this show and the turns they took.

What's really distinctive is the way in which the show somewhat comes around to not lauding the slacker culture, which is fairly unheard-of in contemporary films and shows. We-- like the others-- can see why you'd rather work for Neil from Swindon rather than David Brent. At the end of the day, his "have a laugh" approach doesn't do anything apart from furthering his desire for attention.

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Hummed versions of Disco Inferno (Burn Baby burn) have gained new cult status over here due to the scene where Brent matches Neil's dancing.

Tell you what though. The Office certainly makes it hard to be an Office manager who's reasonably analytical. Talked about feeling the pressure.

Matt

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