A Worthy Remake
The Office--the original British version--was hilarious. It was dry and witty and very low key at times--though it could get silly, too--and is one of the funniest shows I've ever had the pleasure of watching. It ran two short seasons and had a two hour special to round things out. The special was awesome. The seasons were great. The show just sparkled, from the beginning to end.
The cast was brilliant, with Ricky Gervais--one of the creators of the show--as the boss, David Brent, being particularly impressive. He played Brent as a complete jackass, a sleazeball, an egotistical idiot who was so full of himself that he could not recognize the reality that constantly stared him in the face. And yet, he was always just shy of being overbearing as a character. You could watch the show and squirm in your seats at his antics, but you never actually would turn off the television and stop watching. It never became too much. It bordered on it at times, but it never crossed that line.
The balancing act within the show was impressive. The humor came straight from uncomfortable situations, from long and awkward pauses, from just the right comic beats. Time and again, it could have devolved into a disaster, but it never did. It was consistently hilarious.
So an American remake airing on NBC seemed like a complete disaster in the making. I read the news with great trepidation and even when Steve Carell was cast as the boss--now named Michael Scott--I still did not even dare to hope that the show would be any good. Yes, Steve Carell is genius, hilarious, a master at comic timing. Just watching him perform on The Daily Show over the years makes that clear. But it did not matter that he was hilarious--there seemed no way that even his talents could manage to move The Office away from its place as a disaster-in-the-making.
And yet, somehow, the show is funny. Now, I've only seen one episode so far, but it showed considerable promise. It certainly was not as good as the original British version, but it still played very well. There were laughs, the cast was largely likable, and Steve Carell did a pretty good job of playing a role that had already been perfected. I don't attribute the show's success simply to Carell's work, though he does do a great job. Instead, it seems that Ricky Gervais is not only talented at creating a hilarious British comedy, but is also pretty damn talented at then translating that comedy to American sensibilities. From what I read, he played a large role in adapting the show for NBC and it seems to have worked out beautifully.
The cast is solid enough, though the first episode would suggest that it is not nearly as talented--as a whole--as the cast from the original series. Still, these people seem funny and competent, able to take this show forward into future episodes. Carell, as I already said, does a great job of taking on the main role. He plays the character in an even harsher manner than Gervais did in the original, and it is yet to be seen if this can be maintained. Brent is brutal under Carell's stewardship and he could easily slip too far into unlikable territory--a troublesome development that Gervais managed to avoid. But the character was rough in the first few episodes of the original, as well, so we'll see if he becomes a bit more likable over time--or at least sufferable, to be more specific.
The other standout in the cast is Jenna Fischer as Pam, the secretary. She is instantly enjoyable and alluring, even more so than the character was originally. She brings a sly sarcasm to the role that benefits the character greatly. And she is someone that the audience can easily empathize with and root for, setting her up early as the show's emotional center.
We'll see how the future episodes go, but so far things are looking very good. I had little hope that this remake could succeed, especially with the track record NBC has had of late with sitcoms. However, against all the odds, they managed to succeed. Color me shocked, but happy. I'd love to reexperience these characters and--if the show is successful--see their storylines evolve beyond the limits of the original series.