/ media

This American Office

So, we're underway. The Office--a hysterical comedy about the banality of corporate office working life--put on by the BBC for a couple seasons, has been brought across the Atlantic, and American network NBC is trying its hand at putting first class comedy on American air.

So far, so good.

You may recall my gushing about the original BBC series. It deserved all that and more (and got it, from lots of critics). So when I heard they were going to try and get this series to fly on American television, I began to steel myself against the watered-down writing, and the inevitable bad ratings that it would garner. Just last year, another very funny show on BBC, "Coupling", was absolutely horrible when rendered on American television, and I feared the same fate for Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant's creation.

The pilot episode aired last Thursday, and I was amazed to see that they basically lifted the entire script from the BBC series' pilot, nearly verbatim. No laugh tracks, plenty of uncomfortable pauses, and shots of copier machines monotonously running through their paces. Funny stuff that I once thought I had to go to the U.K. to see. But here it is.

Last night, the series moved to its regular program spot, and the new episode featured a beginning departure from the BBC script. The basic themes are the same, the characters and plot lines the same, but there are subtle additions and rewrites that are making it a new, American version. And it's still really really funny.

One of the interesting things to watch for is the substitution of American slang, iconography and geography for their British counterparts that appeared in the BBC series. For example: redundancies are now downsizing, jelly is now Jell-O[tm], a puff is a queen, Camilla Parker Bowles is now Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Slough is now Scranton. As someone who loves the British vernacular, I find it interesting to see what the writers choose to "Americanize", and how they choose to do it.

In many ways, I envy those who have not seen the BBC series because they have no frame of reference for this fine show. I hope it catches on, but then again, when you read reviews like this piece of crap, you realize that most of America wants titties and laughtracks between their beer commercials, and dammit, just can't be bothered with having to figure out for themselves what's a joke and what's idle chatter.

Good luck to Steve Carell and the cast of NBC's The Office!