The Office (USA)
I should start with a nod and acceptance of the original UK version of The Office. It is superb British comedy, but the honest truth is it's not as good as the American version. Sorry Office fans, it's not. The USA version started off closely based on the UK one, the UK characters still have their USA counterparts even to this day. The original season heavily borrowed from the UK series due to time and scripting constraints as it was green lighted to come in as a replacement show partway through the year. But it's so much more than the UK one ever managed to be, it's managed to put a wonderful spin on the setting (which is Dundler-Mifflen's Scranton branch) and expanded it's own universe to incorporate more characters, plot and situations.
When you watch the first season, it is very easy to sneer and say "It's a rip-off of the UK one, they've just used the same plots!" and that's true, for the first season. But once you get outside that and into the second season (and onwards) the show becomes a very different and original beast. Steve Carrell as Michael Scott (USA's David Brent) is a very different character when compared to Ricky Gervis. While David is a pathetic weasel of a man, slimey and completely unlikable; Michael Scott is a far more complete character. He's still cringe worthy, pathetic, idiotic and well, the office clown. But there is a more vulnerable side to him, it feels like he's really trying to get it right. That he does actually care about his staff and he does want to be liked. But he just doesn't quite understand how to get it right. Steve has managed to bring a vulnerability and softness to the character that makes all the wrong things he does more understandable. He's added additional dimensions to the character that have allowed the writers to develop Michael Scott and show him not as a jerk but as a man who just doesn't understand people and society correctly.
The rest of the cast is also fantastic, but it's the other three "main" characters that make it, Rainn Wilson is superb as the part hick, wannabe action man Dwight Schrute, bringing a wonderfully pathetic level of macho to the show. He's got the attitude of a farmer, the skills of a survivor but the personality of a much weaker man. John Krasinski as Jim Halper is also fantastic, providing a wonderful "everyman" for the viewer to identify with and along with Pam he provides both many comedic and romantic moments. The way that John looks at directly at the cameras during the more outlandish moments sells them wonderfully. Last of all is of course Jenna Fischer as Pam Beesly; who I've talked about before in this blog. The relationship she has with Michael, Jim, Dwight and pretty much the entire office is fantastic. Just about every man in the show (apart from Dwight) seems to find her attractive and enjoy propositioning her inappropriately.
This is not to take away anything from the supporting cast, they're all fantastic in their roles. Each of them willing to sit back when the plot doesn't really need them and enjoy what's going on. Angela, Kevin, Creed, Kelly, Ryan, Meredith, Phyllis, Andy, Oscar, Toby and the brilliant Stanley are all fantastic characters in their own right.
The Office is a must watch show in so many ways, it follows the tradition of 'cringe comedy' from Fawlty Towers by being hilariously painful to watch and tributes the style of the original UK version without being a direct rip-off. It's the best comedy show being aired on American TV right now.
The Office (USA)