Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Problem with the American Office

As soon as I mention that the British Office is high on my list of best comedy shows of all time, you will most likely jump to the conclusion that I dislike the American Office because it suffers in comparison with its superior source material.  I may be in denial, but I firmly believe that I would have given up on the American version after two episodes if the original had never existed.  Among my list of complaints:

The Tone - The show has the style of a documentary, but it is never even remotely realistic.  I suppose that the same could be said of Arrested Development which had a similar style, but that show never pretended that there was actually a documentary crew filming the proceedings.  The American Office has every character look at the camera constantly - smiles, eyerolls, looks of disgust, looks of discomfort.  The show is constantly screaming, "This is really happening!  Can you believe it?"  The gimmick gets annoying after a while and it doesn't mesh with the often cartoonish performances, which brings us to my next grievance.

The Performances - I kind of hate all the performances on this show, but I'll single out my least favorites.

Steve Carell/Michael Scott - He is at the center of the action and his character is terrible.  I loved Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and on The Daily Show, but he can be painfully unfunny here.  The actor seems uncomfortable most of the time as if he doesn't have the courage to take the character to the truly unlikable places that would make him funnier.

Rainn Wilson/Dwight Schrute - This character seems to belong in a UPN sitcom.  He is ridiculously broad, playing to the least-common denominator of the audience.  Some of his lines are funny, but Wilson butchers them by taking them too far.  (See also Ed Helms/Andy Bernard and Brian Baumgartner/Kevin Malone)

John Krasinski/Jim Halpert- He is the audience surrogate, the normal guy whose job is to be constantly amused and/or disturbed by the wackiness around him.   This is the character who abuses the looks-at-the-camera technique.  He seems to do it in every scene he's in.  It makes him come off as a smug prick - far from the "nice guy" he's supposed to be.

The Over-the-top Plotting - I understand that you can't really have a show about nothing be entertaining, but this is a show that is supposed to be somewhat realistic and comes up with one absurd plotline after another.  Michael forces the whole office to go ice skating during the workday!  Dwight takes Ryan on an adventurous road trip to his beet farm!  Michael tries to frame Toby by planting drugs on him!  Admittedly, many of the plots that the show uses could conceivably happen, but the show tries to have it both ways and this just doesn't work for me.


  1. Meh. After season 1, I really don't think that The Office US is trying to be realistic... and it's not pretending to be.

  2. I love the UK office and I love the American office. Although both set in an Office and 4 of the US characters are roughly based on the UK one, they're totally different shows. Agree with the above, US Office is not going for docusoap approach, more of a sitcom than anything....and a funny one at that! :)

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  4. are you expecting reality? it's not supposed to be, it's a tv show- an extremely hilarious and creative tv show