The Office: An American Workplace, BBC3

by | Dec 12, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say of you liked it

An endearing homage to one of the funniest shows of the past decade that delightfully adds its own American affectations to the potent script.

What to say of you didn’t like it

A soiled simile of Ricky Gervais’s classic which substitutes perspicacious wit with the stampeding hooves of blunder.

What was good about it?

• The casting is uniformly excellent with Steve Carrell as Michael Scott seemingly only possessed by the cogent spirit of David Brent rather than simply aping Ricky Gervais. While Rainn Wilson and John Krasinski project the natural bickering instincts of Dwight (Gareth) and Jim (Tim) with abundant comic verve

• In addition to the reverential mimicry, there’s also indelible evidence of wishing to stand apart from the original and this is also achieved successfully. Jenna Fischer’s turn as secretary Pam brings a timid vulnerability to the role to keep her distinct from Dawn. Rainn Wilson’s Dwight Schrute, meanwhile, is physically much bigger than the pallid, weedy Gareth Keenan who always looked like the runt of the litter perhaps joining the TA simply to secure a square meal; Dwight’s bulkiness and manic wide-eyes, in contrast, make you believe that when he pins on his sheriff’s badge at weekends he’s looking to crack a few reprobates’ skulls and even get involved in a shoot-out at a 24 hour garage.

• With the hilarious source material, it would take a company with the comic ineptitude of ITV to peel away the humour like auditors stripping assets from a liquidated company. All the best bits from the first episode are apparent such as Michael initiating temp Ryan into the humorous ambience of the Dunder Mifflin paper suppliers by pretending to sack Pam for “theft”. This was performed expertly as there was a close-up of Scott’s smug conceit before panning out to reveal a silently sobbing Pam.

• And the spot when Scott is in conference with his boss Jan Levinson-Gould (or “Hillary Rodham Clinton” as Scott calls her) and he is interrupted on the speaker phone by US equivalent of Finchy, who makes a few lewd remarks about Levinson-Gould, still evokes the same unbearable embarrassment as the original.

• Some of the new gags in the script are worthy of the original such as when Scott explains why he won’t inform staff of their branch’s possible down-sizing, “I’m not going to tell them. A doctor wouldn’t tell a patient if they had cancer.”

What was bad about it?

• While Dwight’s imposing frame is a good tool to make him separate from Gareth, it did dim the humour of when Jim put his stapler in jelly (or “jello”), as you just didn’t believe it would scare the ursine Assistant Regional Manager (“No. Assistant TO the Regional Manager”).

• As it’s produced by major network NBC, puritanical American censorship laws mean there is no swearing or crude jokes, which rusts the reality of the original somewhat. It most keenly apparent when Pam stormed out after Scott’s little ruse got out of hand. “You jerk,” she screamed, but this lacked the emancipated venom of Dawn’s “You w**ker” which suggested years of accumulated loathing rather than just a stock, banal insult.

• As with any American remake shown here, there’s always a sense of that huge flaw that infiltrates much of the British attitude towards our “special relations” across the Pond. While Britain seems content to occupy the servants quarters below stairs bemoaning the ignorance of their wealthy American lords and masters with embittered and often false assumptions to maintain a sense of deluded cultural superiority (“they can’t do irony”, “they have no history” or “LA’s so utterly superficial”); the moment America embraces a British product whether it’s The Office, Coldplay or Simon Cowell the brilliance of each are enhanced by a plethora of gushing media articles entitled “How Simon swayed Yanks”, as if US acknowledgment of excellence is somehow far superior to anywhere else in the world and that to be an “A-list” star you have to be famous there when, in fact, the majority of its output is broadcast in the form of a satellite sewage pump disgorging the execrable likes of Ashton Kutcher and Good ChFFFarlotte on our shores.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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