Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Never, ever, ever give up

Here and there on these pages I've shared my admiration for Ricky Gervais' two brilliant series, The Office and Extras.  Like a lot of fans, I sort of resented any dilution of my beloved shows.  So I never gave the U.S. version of the former even a try, thinking it wouldn't work and would just be awkward.  I never saw more than  a half episode or so here and there at other people's houses.

And in any case I'm always late to pop culture hits.  I watched the entire run of The Sopranos for the first time this summer, six years after its much-discussed finale.  So it was with my dive into the American Office.  I have begun to watch it, just eight years after it began.  Was it awkward and dull?

Well, the first season was.  It started as an interesting experiment, but ultimately, I think, a failure.  That deadpan, dry-as-dust, bipolar (self-deprecating-then-self-inflating) British humor doesn't flow as well with an American accent.  I think, for example, there couldn't be an American version of Fawlty Towers that made any sense.  The first seasons of Steve Carrell's Office was an imitation, a baby brother trying hard to imitate his successful big brother but not realizing those teenager's moves don't fit his frame.  And so the cringe-inducing woodenness of Michael Scott was just that --- cringe-inducing.  It was just too awful the way he put his foot in his mouth constantly and then give a frozen smile, like an autistic man who doesn't know how to take part in a conversation.  Awkward but not funny.

But, since I am a finisher (as I've also remarked several times on this blog), I plowed through it, and into the second season.  And I'm glad I did, because about the fifth show into the second season, it became much better.  The writers let their characters be people, not types.  They learned to like the characters and let them have triumphs as well as flaws.  It became a warm, witty show that I'm currently enjoying very much.  I do hear that the quality slips near the end of the show's run, but even if this level lasts for just four seasons, then that's a lot of high-quality material.

I do hope, however, the Pam-Jim thing is resolved earlier than the end of the show.  Romantic tension is sweet and heart-warming for maybe two or three seasons.  After that, I can't see there'd be any charm in it.  The British Office only lasted about twelve episodes and a sublime, unexpectedly tender Christmas finale; with its much longer run, the U.S. edition can (I hope) truncate some of its story-lines and move on to others before they get tired tropes.

No comments: