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August 05, 2008

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I was talking to a (male) friend of mine a couple of weeks ago about The Office, and discovered that while our S.O.s both love that show and watch it every week, both of us watch it for the first 8 minutes and then can't take any more. The urge to cringe becomes too strong.

But I can offer a link to our nation's greatest newspaper, re The Office.

An Office fan? What would you think I'm an Office fan? Right, the t-shirt. Actually, it was a Christmas present from my kids.

Screw Jim and Pam (well, not simultaneously), the real Office romance is Dwight/Angela, a match maid in uptight, high-strung heaven.

I was trying to think up my favorite Office moment, but I realized between Creed's mung beans, a telephone filled with nickels, Angela accusing a customer of having tourette's after she clearly indicated a corporate apologetic position, Toby receiving a punishment of KellRy, Dwight winning his fellow top salesman over with a speech by Mussolini and Michael's new gigantic flat screen television, I realized it would be easier to just obtusely list a bunch of potential candidates and get back to the work I'm supposed to be doing.

Watch season 2, Pubby, it's brilliant. The show really turned a corner starting with Christmas Party and stayed strong all the way to that season's finale. Interestingly, I think all four seasons have sort of followed this trend: The first 6 or so episodes are pretty good, and then somewhere at the end of November sweeps, they hit their stride and really get moving.

Also, I can proudly state that one episode was filmed at the Hooter's near my apartment (since my apartment is right by Warner Bros., nearly everything on NBC and the CW is filmed by my apartment, so it's actually not something to brag about).

Season 2 was definitely the high point of the show. Season 4 was a disappointment, Michael when from funny stupid to too stupid to believe. I really hope the show gets back on track next season.

OT - i can haz impeechmint?

A new book by the author Ron Suskind claims that the White House ordered the CIA to forge a back-dated, handwritten letter from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam Hussein.

Suskind writes in “The Way of the World,” to be published Tuesday, that the alleged forgery – adamantly denied by the White House – was designed to portray a false link between Hussein’s regime and al Qaeda as a justification for the Iraq war.

I think the American version of The Office is hilarious, however, I can't stand it. Not because it's bad (it's not, it's great), but because of the format. Because the story lines are stretched out over dozens of episodes, so little happens in each one. The British version, though excruciatingly hard to watch at times, at least had brevity going for it. Things moved along. The relationship between Tim and Dawn was resolved over the course of 12 episodes and a special. Jim/Pam seemed endless to me when I was watching it. It reached a point where I just couldn't take it anymore.

For me, the key is that Jim *is* the cool kid, but this only gets him in trouble. His problem--argues the show--is that he's too cool to have any real goals, but it doesn't mean that in an overly simplistic anti-slacker way: the show illustrates how he can't ever leave the office because he's having too much fun being the smartest person in the room, too much fun attacking Dwight, and too much fun having the oh-so-romantic thwarted romance. (I've blogged about it here))

As for why it's so good, I think the Jim/Pam romance is a good example of what the show mnanages to do so well: take a story about people (in this case, their personal romance) and make it *really* about the impossibility of being human in an inhuman environment like the office. Even Michael Scott, after all, hates his job and hates his life, so he invents a fantasy of what his job and life are like: instead of corporate cog, he thinks he's a paternalistic father figure who everyone loves, and also a wonderful prankster, so that he can believe they're laughing with him, not at him.


Gotta agree with zung.

I sometimes have the same reaction as Jake, though; I sometimes cringe. I think it's a combination of embarrassment at Michael's social ineptitude and discomfort with the more deadpan style of comedy.

Living with the grandkids has kinda cramped our TV style--so I don't have much to say about this--I'm going to have to wait for the SpongeBob open thread.

Is this “guy” comedy I wonder? The few episodes I’ve seen I found to be hilarious. My wife however detests it, so we just don’t watch it.

i can haz impeechmint?

no, not can haz.

impeechmint cat is not on the table.

At this point there's hardly any comparison between the original BBC Office and the American version. The American version is still, at heart, a sitcom. It's a very good sitcom, and one that has done a good job stretching the boundaries of what a sitcom can do but it still, in the end, resembles the Mary Tyler Moore show more than it does the BBC show. That Office was just pure concentrated humiliation and venom - probably too strong for most tastes. I'd say the BBC version is like a shot of fine aged whiskey, the American a six pack of an excellent microbrew.

"Is this 'guy' comedy I wonder?"

My sweetie watches it religiously, whereas I never did before now. She's not a guy.

Hey, Ugh.

Sad to say, both The Office and 30 Rock go to the Island of Broken Comedies. No matter how they try to trick it up, the product placement is completely obnoxious.

the real Office romance is Dwight/Angela, a match maid in uptight, high-strung heaven

There hasn't been much of it, but I'm loving Darrel and Kelly. He doesn't put up with her BS but clearly cares about her. It's second only to Phyliss and Bob Vance, Bob Vance Refigeration in being a relationship based on mutual respect.

But Dwight and Angela is awesome, from the first sight of naughty Birkenstocks onward.

The show has great actors (able to convey feeling in a glance), writers and directors. (Mindy Kaling is magnificent -- actress, writer and fashion blogger.)

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the product placement is completely obnoxious.

Tivo and other DVRs made product placement necessary. If commercials are being skipped, the show itself has to have commercials. At least The Office tends to be up-front with the placement, so to me it's not as obnoxious as it might be.

"Is this 'guy' comedy I wonder?"

Ditto Gary. My wife loves The Office. She may be more into it than I am.

I have a hard time regularly watching currently running, weekly shows. I'm very bad at being aware of what's on on any given night, so I tend to watch re-runs of The Office a lot more than new episodes. They're on every night on some channel(? -see what I mean?), so I can just randomly stumble upon it. I'm heavily dependent on digital cable for on-demand viewing of shows I like, such as Mad Men. I lost the trail of The Riches and I'd like to get back to watching Breaking Bad. On demand will be the only way.

Open theads are supposed to be all about my TV viewing habits, right?

I'm all in favor of web-casts to catch up on shows, with 2 caveats:

1. Have an option to show captioning. I think that Flash allows something simular to closed-captioning. The ADA ruling on captioning should address all media, and all content, not just what is shown on TV or at the theater (thus, special features would also be covered).

2. Keep the show up for at least 4 weeks. If a network takes a show down before the writer's fees kicks in, they should have to pay the writers for 3 weeks based on the viewing of the first 2 weeks.

Rain Wilson (Dwight) was on Fresh Air a couple days ago. Definitely worth listening to the podcast.

"The ADA ruling on captioning should address all media, and all content, not just what is shown on TV or at the theater"

You're saying that if, say, Hilzoy, or anyone with a blog, wants to upload an mpeg they've filmed, they should be fined (by what agency?) if they don't provide close-captioning?

Or who exactly should and shouldn't be covered under your proposed online mandate?

Rich, Gary, coming from a guy who asks for transcriptions of every video posted here.

When hilzoy becomes a network and posts videos supported by ads, then, yeah, she should be fined if she doesn't provide captioning as an option. Fair enough?

"Fair enough?"

I wasn't asking about fairness; I was trying to get some idea of who you think should and shouldn't be required to do closed-captioning. Are you saying it should only be stuff that's made by cable tv networks, then?

If you'd rather not discuss what you suggested, that's fine; I was just making conversation; no need to be unpleasant about it.

As a fan of the British original, I approached the American version cautiously at first. However, it quickly grew into its own thing, faithful to the spirit of the original, but with its own flavor and plots. Some of the episodes have been lackluster, but they've created some real classics.

The Fresh Air interview with Rainn Wilson is good, and Jenna Fischer did a great one not long ago as well. (Further back, Mindy Kaling and some other Office writers were on Fresh Air, and Mindy talks about the Diwali episode she wrote.)

I was a BBC snob at first too, but after catching up with Season 2 of the 'Merican Office, I was a convert. The creators of the American version, unlike most remakes, appear to actually *get* what the original is going for. I'm dying to see the German and French versions, too, to see the continental spin on quotidian hell (though you lose a bit of the underlying tragedy of the British and American versions when you add a 35-hour week and 9 weeks of vacation a year).

The American version routinely manages to be one of the most realistic depictions of relationships on TV, better than most dramas. Pam dates an alpha-male jerk, Michael is simultaneously desperate and shallow, Jim drops one woman for the other, and Jan dates a man she has no professional respect for but is attracted to.

It's amazing how good the show is at showing the boredom and defeat of working life, but also amazing how it shows those forces at work in relationships, too.

The real genius in the US version of the office is in the way they film it. You can't help but get sucked into the Jim/Pam relationship. The talking heads (interviews) with characters make you feel like you're right in the situation with them. It's that you develop relationships with the characters, and they can reach the audience on a very personal level. It's like they become your friends. That's also why I don't consider it to be quite a sit-com. It has some cool "reality tv" aspects that make it that much more personal. Anyways, that's why I believe it's so hard not to get sucked in.

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