Imagine four Americans with shaggy hair calling themselves The Grasshoppers and singing Beatles tunes with slight variations. This is essentially the idea behind NBC’s remake of the BBC comedy cult hit “The Office.” When the show initially aired in Britain, it was an unanticipated success with the perfect combination of drama, wit and crass humor. It won the American Golden Globe for Best Comedy, and Richard Gervais surprised everyone by winning Best Actor in a Leading Comedic Role. Although it has its moments, the remake is the latest in a series of futile attempts at modifying a British show to accommodate an American audience.
The show’s premise is the same: It’s a “mockumentary” following the employees at a paper company who hate the drudgery of their jobs. Their boss, Michael Scott (Steve Carrell), is an aspiring comic who proclaims himself to be a “friend first, boss second and probably entertainer third.” Carrell, best known for his work on “The Daily Show” and in “Anchorman,” is hilarious and a perfect replacement for Ricky Gervais. His many impressions and completely unprofessional behavior are the driving force of the show. Unfortunately, Carrell doesn’t get much help from the rest of the cast. Rainn Wilson appears too old to play Dwight Schrute, a blundering social misfit who takes his job title of “assistant to the regional manager” too seriously. Wilson is neither completely grating nor funny and becomes a pale imitation to the British character he replaces. Jim (John Krasinski), a sales rep who does not take his job seriously, makes it his goal to harass Dwight, but is not nearly animated enough; he appears almost too shy and professional for his role. Moreover, the rest of the supporting cast is bland and takes away from the comedic potential of the show.
Aside from Carrell’s antics, another focus is the improbable romance between Jim and Pam (Jenna Fischer), an engaged office receptionist unaware of Jim’s feelings for her. This is the center of the plot and provides the show with a coherent timeline. However, the amusing and adorable office romance lacks development; more scenes reflecting Jim’s interest in Pam are needed.
“The Office” is reminiscent of “Arrested Development” in that it lacks a laugh-track and for the most part, relies on awkward moments on screen for comedy. And thanks to Carrell, there are plenty of them. Everything from him strolling around the office performing Chris Rock’s “Black people vs. Niggers” routine to imitating Hitler forces the audience to laugh and cringe. Overall, the remake will most likely be successful just because of its political incorrectness, unique portrayal of the office environment and, of course, the fact that most Americans have not seen the British version of the show.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars