der office?

February 19, 2007 at 5:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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The Office is, without question in my mind, the best comedy on television right now. Each episode continues to elicit my gape-mouthed surprise at the clever writing and long -considered story arcs. Lately, the show has begun to attract big names. Harold Ramis directed last season’s finale and this season’s premiere, Joss Whedon and JJ Abrams are slated to direct this season, even the creators, Gervais and Merchant, came back to write an episode a few weeks ago.

I wonder, though, if part of its success may stem from low expectations. It’s fair to say as much has been blogged about the surprise of the success of the office as has been about the success itself. The first season was so shaky, with its desperate mimcry of the original, I gave up on it quickly, though not wholeheartedly. I’ve always had a soft spot for Steve Carell. To then check in midway through the second season, to see the characters deepen and grow and see gags pay off half a season after they were set up has been such a pleasure, i’ve become a regular and loyal viewer.

Still, I can’t shake the sneaking feeling while watching each episode that it is going to begin a turn into its inevitable downward spiral (as the third season of Arrested Development completely tarnished the brilliance of the first two). The premise of The Office is a high-wire act. The heart of the show has always been Jim and Pam, yet that will-they, won’t-they dynamic can only convincingly shift so so many times. Michael and Dwight are both charicatures that often veer into unbelieveabilty, if not outright insanity. A certain degree of suspension of disbelief is required for all sitcoms. Situations are exaggerated for effect, slights are magnified impossible insults, minor conflicts are played as heroic battles. Michael, as in episodes like Phyllis’ Wedding or Diwali, has developed almost autistic responses in large social situations. And does Dwight, as in the episode, Ben Franklin, really, honestly believe that is Benjamin Franklin is alive today? For now, other characters and situations are grounded enough, and the documentary style itself is so naturalistic as to overcome these oversized personalities. Yet as characters continue to act more and more bizarre without reprecussions, and as the “documentary” conceit falls further and further into the background, can it help but fail us?

Dunder Mifflin Paper

The New Yorker : Tad Friend : The Paper Chase

All this handwringing is inspiried by a very well-phrased article in the New Yorker a few weeks ago about the “The Office”, it’s transition from the UK to the US, and an appreciation of the US version. I’ve read plenty of commentary about The Office, and I found this the most elegiac, well-written love letter so far. Early in the article, Friend drops this little tidbit:

While Gervais and Merchant’s decision to end the show well before it jumped the scone was admirable, NBC’s decision to air an American version, beginning in the spring of 2005, seemed deplorable. The show’s cult of admirers was outraged; the New York Observer wrote that, to much of Hollywood, “this smells like another colossal failure in the works.” It was as if the network had announced that it was going to take a British institution like “Pop Idol” and remake it with a jingoistic title like “American Idol.” (Since then, Québécois, French, and German networks have rolled out local versions of “The Office”…)

I haven’t been able to find out anything more about these series but it would be interesting to see what directions they’ve gone in…

The Office : Deleted Scenes

The Office website on nbc.com doesn’t put up full episodes free (they’d prefer to sell them through iTunes) but they do post three to four deleted scenes from each episode, sometimes eliminating entire story arcs from a show, mostly related to the supporting characters. I’d say it’s worth a half hour of your time if it weren’t for the full commercial between each clip. If you’re going to get the DVDs, you can wait for these.

jenna’s blog : Of Office Emmy Cheers and Acting Careers

Also, inexplicably, at TV Guide, a couple of the office cast members are keeping blogs. “Pam”, Jenna Fischer, wrote a long, really great post about her experience “making it” in Hollywood, offers advice to aspiring actors, and advice on what she’s done to keep herself creative and committed. A great read for anyone interested in what happens behind the stage or struggling in a creative field.

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