First Review: The Office

Ever seen the American version of Fawlty Towers? I’m not surprised. The Atlantic is floating in British TV formats that the Americans have sunk. Very occasionally they manage to get it right: Queer As Folk, All in the Family, Three’s Company.

When Ricky Gervais on-sold the rights to The Office he ensured producer Ben Silverman understood its charms. Silverman, who also has Ugly Betty and Kath & Kim, resisted multicam shoots, live audience and laugh tracks. The comic cast, particularly lead actor Steve Carrell, was also astutely selected.

The fact that the show hasn’t worked in Australia can be put down to two points: 1) that we had already bonded with the template original -a fate which befell our local Queer Eye– and 2) that Ten didn’t persist long enough with it when it had a sluggish start. So it’s pleasing to see them try again.

In ‘Gay Witch Hunt’ boss Michael Scott (Carrell) is taken to task for inadvertently calling his accountant Oscar, “faggy.” As it transpires, Oscar is not out to his workmates. Vacuously, Scott defends, “I call everyone faggy! Why would anyone find that offensive? I would have never called him that if I knew. You don’t call retarded people retards, you call your friends retards when they’re acting retarded.” With all the subtlety of a giant shovel, Michael digs himself a bigger hole.

Michael soon looks at everyone with homo-suspicion. “There could be others… I need to know so I don’t offend anybody else….Could Oscar and Angela both be gay and having a gay affair?”

Suddenly everyone is alert to political correction. Dwight (Rainn Wilson) tries to buy a personal Gaydar detector. “I think they sell it at Sharper Image.” And in their trademark monologues, one woman begrudgingly admits to watching Will & Grace. “But it’s so loud,” she moans. How true.

Eventually Michael fumbles through an apology to Oscar in front of his workmates. “Did you know that gay used to mean happy? When I was growing up it meant lame. And now it means a man who makes love to other men.”

Greg Daniels’ (King of the Hill) script is defiantly offensive, and a most delicious use of subtextual comedy to drive home points about acceptance and identity. But that’s beside the point.

First and foremost it’s a darn good laugh.

The Office ‘Gay Witch Hunt’ airs 10:25pm Monday August 27 on TEN.

5 Comments:

  1. Some reinterpretations of shows work and some don’t. I KNEW Queer Eye simply wouldn’t work here. The guys came off as overly pretentious, and none of them had the “charm” of the US guys. Not only did the Aussie version bomb, but it dragged the US version along with it. And to think that it used to rate in the high 1.5+ million range back in the day.

    I was annoyed when they announced a US version of The Office, and I guess I’m still sort of bitter due to the lack of originality demonstrated by the US networks. Hell, I don’t even consider the first season of the US Office to be a legitimate season of the show as it was such a soulless bland rip-off of the UK original.

    I’ve seen bits of the second season (US version), and it wasn’t as bad as i thought it would be, so I’ll definately be tuning into the second season.

    When will American networks learn and play programs from other territories? Would Kath & Kim be nearly as charming if they were Americanized? Jeez. Get over yourselves. There’s a whole world out there.

    End rant. 😛

  2. Unashamed Fan!

    OMG! C10 is at it again!!This is the first ep of the third season. It opens the season following a huge romantic cliffhanger at the end of season 2. By jumping in like this, viewers will be missing heaps of back story, character development and some if the best TV URST (unresolved sexual tension)in ages! This series is one that is a real ‘grower’ and it takes a few eps to get into it. And it really only found its own voice and feel about 1/2 way through the first season. But if you stick with it, you’ll be rewarded with some great writing and a brilliant ensemble performace. But who is going to watch if it’s not going to make any sense??? Bah! Get ye to a DVD shop or download site now or miss out on a gem of a TV series.

  3. I caught this show occasionally, when it was on late sunday nights and it is good. It would be great if 10 could re run the first 2 seasons ( maybe minus the first couple of episodes that were copied from the uk version ). 7.00 pm weeknights seems like a good slot.

  4. When Channel 10 first tried this with season 1, the show was pretty average. Especially if you were comparing it to the UK one which we had all seen – it was no contest. By the time they got up to season 2 (which is when the show got very *very* good), they had already bumped it to 11pm timeslot or whatever with irregular airings.

    I’m glad they are trying again because seasons 2 and 3 are fantastic. I prefer it over the UK one now, mostly because theres more characters and depth… and Steve.

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