Monday, October 17, 2005

I know it seems pretty dumb to write about a TV show on an internet-based medium, but I can't keep quiet about NBC's American retooling of "The Office".

I mean really, its all about THIS


I don't have anything against Steve Carrell. I think he's usually pretty funny on the Daily show, and his sort of robotic ├╝ber-stupid character in 'Anchorman' was pretty good, but he just can't pull off the kind of range it takes to cover Ricky Gervais' performance in the original version of "The Office".

I fell in love with "The Office" last year, probably a year after most people who are into it did. I had heard about it, but somehow it just eluded me. When I finally did see it, it just killed me! Granted, I grew up with my dads Monty Python records, so understated British humor resonates with me, but I really thought it was incredibly funny stuff, powered in no small part by Ricky Gervais, as the intolerable David Brent.

The whole thing that made the original show was the Brent character, an infantile, puerile boss who truly believes that he is charismatic and funny (an entertainer as well as a boss) that has the adoration of his staff, when it is abundantly clear that he doesn't. The supporting characters are just the right combination of pathetic and endearing. In the new show, the characters simply aren't pathetic enough. Sure, they have bad hair, but you can tell if they had gotten the callback for 'The O.C.', they'd be showing up for work in swim trunks right now.

To describe just how bad it is, imagine watching a group of celebrity impersonators...Marlyn Monroe, Elvis, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean (pick your own get the idea) but instead of speaking english, they all speak Hindi or something equally incomprehensible. Thats what the NBC version is like. When I watched it, I felt like the actors got dressed in the outfit of The Office, and just felt like they could do or say whatever they wanted to, and somehow people who liked the original show would like it just as much, because it looks the same.

"Look at me! Im dressed up as David Brent! Its funny, right? Just like the BBC version! Hey! Look! Hey! Its the backdrop you like! The Office! Get it? Im like David Brent, but Im American, and the Office is in America! Get it? Hey!"

At any rate, I couldn't even get through the whole first episode that I watched. I had to turn it off and watch an episode of the original to get the bad taste out of my mouth (brain?). They just got it so wrong. I know Ricky Gervais had an executive producer credit, but I think he just wanted his name on it because it was his creation originally. At the end of the day, it just makes the original look better, and he probably knew that was going to happen.

What really drives me nuts about the whole thing though, is the fact that American TV networks can't just run a show created by the BBC as-is. This sort of remake happens all the time and rarely yields good results (All in the Family was based on an english show..a rare exception but certainly not recent). If a show is funny on english TV, why can't it just be funny on American TV too? Just buy broadcast rights and show the damn thing as-is! Whats the worst that could happen? It couldn't be any worse of a flop than the remake.

I know that a lot of english slang isn't immediately familiar to the U.S. viewing public, but would it be a national tragedy if people didn't know what a 'tosser' was and had to look it up? We do have the xxx internet these days. Its almost like american TV producers think that its some kind of well-kept secret that theres another country across the Atlantic, with people who speak english thats sort of like ours but with slightly different inflections and vocabulary, and if they showed TV shows made by that secret country, there would be chaos and rioting.

Or maybe they just dont want people to know that entertaining TV can be made for much less money than they spend over here.