The Office US So Far

I’ve made it into Season 4 of The Office US, and am enjoying it immensely; it’s a more colorful, less naturalistic take than the UK version, but nonetheless hilarious, and sort of plausible.

The first season in particular hews extremely close to the source material, and the minor differences (“downsizing” instead of “redundancies”, a pencil-fortress instead of a pencil-wall) stand out. Steve Carrell is a different brand of idiot boss, still insanely insecure, but much more of a juvenile, well-meaning goofball, and his powers of self-delusion are much stronger than Ricky Gervais’s character. Fortunately his hair becomes normal in Season 2. The production values are higher, and the show is less of a mock-documentary and more of a satirical drama; awkwardness abounds, but it’s less the “silence and eyes-bulging reactions” of the original.

I found Jim more likeable than Tim – his pranks are less mean-spirited (I feel like Tim was acting out against a subconscious sense that his life was ebbing away) and occasionally he feels bad about them. Dwight is a nutty survivalist beetroot farmer with no friends and a truly evil smile – at least Gareth had buddies to go out drinking with, and Dwight’s boss is far more wary of him than David was of his underling. Todd Packer barely turns up – I found him pretty repulsive, with none of the Chris Finch’s undeniable charisma. Michael is much more of a total idiot, but he has his occasional sympathetic moments (even if you want to strangle him ten seconds later).

The rest of the cast is filled in too: the uptight Angela who likes cute things, the revolting Kevin, Ryan the MBA intern (talk about credential inflation from just being college-educated in the UK), chatterbox baby-craving Kelly, alcoholic Meredith, doleful HR divorcé Toby, and so on. Andy is a nice addition – an over-familiar, over-competitive, go-getter who repeatedly draws attention to the fact that he graduated from Cornell – lending the series a distinctly American flavour. The lengthy seasons allow you to get to know the characters, their good and bad – my opinion of Jan moved all over the place as the plot developed, and Ryan’s development is very interesting.

There are so many excellent lines – here’s a sample:

* “I’m going wherever they value loyalty the most.”
* “We are going to sell that to charity.”
* “No, your job is being my friend.”
* “I wanted people to laugh as I approach, and applaud when I left.”
* “AIDS is not funny. Believe me, I have tried.”
* “There is such a thing as ‘good’ grief. Just ask Charlie Brown.”
* “The eyes are the groin of the head.”
I loved Season 3 Episode 12, when you see the sales team in action – even Phyllis and Duane, who I hadn’t been able to imagine in their roles. Additionally the Scranton office’s advertisement in Season 4 Episode 5 is actually very good.
As of Season 4, The Office is one of my favourite TV series.

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