Wednesday, December 06, 2006


A TV Critic Compares The Two "Offices"

The article at the link below is the sort of piece that you read for the writing as much as for the content, so I won't bother to synopsize it in detail. It's a two-for-one TV review, comparing "The Office" from the UK with Ricky Gervais to our own homegrown version with Steve Carrel. Both Gervais and Carrel attempt to ingratiate themselves with their employees - to be their "buddy", to wit - each is his own way. Despite the differences in their tactics, both lay themselves open for some excruciating embarrassment. The strangest thing about both shows, from my own perspective as a serial underling, is that I don't think I can recall any boss who tried to be my "buddy" - or even my "daddy" or my "mommy". A few made a feeble effort of "mentoring" me, but most of the time they just told me what to do. Or not. If they did assume an inappropriate role on a regular basis, it was that of a nemesis or at the very least a non-stop insult machine. That indeed was the usual scenario. When they are not playing the clown, both lead characters of "The Offices" invest themselves in a pretentious business patois that is very familiar to me. Steve Carrel is a "karaoke machine of samplings from leadership manuals", which is so appropos on so many different levels that it's not even funny - and I've had at least my fair share of bosses who talked like that.

One key difference between the two programs is that the American version is prettier and sweeter. It is par for the course these days for even our satires to be candy-coated. The characters are generally better looking, the office is itself "brighter and noisier, with more posters, parties and pep" and the "British scabrousness and barely suppressed violence is gone". The American scabrousness and barely suppressed violence exists in real offices though, just not on television.

"Paper Chase" from The New Yorker

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