Thursday, March 31, 2005

I have some bad news.

I love NBC's remake of The Office.

I know, I know, this goes against everything I believe in. As a huge fan of the original, I downloaded the US pilot months ago, just to see how wretched it could be. I never got around to watching the whole thing, though; I watched the first couple of scenes, with the American cast awkwardly reenacting bits from the British pilot, just to confirm what we knew even before Red Dward: It's Just Not The Same.

The series has finally premiered, though, and after the pilot, the episodes are mostly new, with occasional bits pasted in from the original. In this week's episode, the David Brent character (who I know has a different name, but for now we'll just say Brent, Tim, Gareth, etc), played by Steve Carell of the Daily Show, is ordered to host a diversity day after he quotes a Chris Rock routine in the office. In true Brent fashion, he attempts to show how accepting and non-racist he is, which only makes things worse.

Carell, let's be clear, is not Ricky Gervais. But he still reminded me of that guy everyone has worked with (or been, as the case may be), who is determined to be "The Funny Guy" and stays in your face long after the joke ceased to be funny (if it ever was to begin with), the desperation becoming ever more visible, until you're just embarrassed for him and wonder how such a person can function with so little dignity. And frankly, I'm amazed that that's being allowed on American TV, which even now in the 21st century, can't seem to get past the "wackiness ensues/lesson is learned/let's hug" comedy paradigm.

Of course, that's just one episode. It may have been a fluke, or as it goes on it could get further and further from the original appeal of the show until it's unwatchable. And the original has such cachet that I'm really afraid we'll be subjected to an endless parade of inappropriate guest stars. But so doesn't suck. And really, isn't that all we can hope for from network TV?

Copyright 2004 Rich Bowen

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