EXCESS HOLLYWOOD: OFFICE WARS

Allow me to vent a bit about a television show this one time. NBC has remade “The Office,” and my venom can’t be contained by medication or incarceration. Before I rip into that network’s utter stupidity (and that of its target audience), however, some background is in order.

I’m a huge fan of the original version of “The Office,” which is from England. It is a pinnacle of comedy television with characters I grew to care a hell of a lot about in a short period of time. It hit all the right notes, and was one of the funniest shows to ever grace this sinister box known in some circles as the “TV.” It was one of those perfect shows that only come around about once or twice a decade. (“Arrested Development” is another one of those, too, only it’s from America. A shocker!) It did what it had to do in two seasons and a Christmas special, and then it bowed out. Kudos for knowing how to make an exit.

The show was aired here on BBC America. Its combination of subtle romance, ignorant racism, politically incorrect jokes, and realistic characters appealed to all the right people. Astute Americans quickly learned what our cousins overseas knew all along – “The Office” was incredible.

And here we are today.

Executives at NBC decided “The Office” would make a fine show for American audiences who didn’t see it on BBC America or DVD. Of course, it wouldn’t be a direct import, but would be remade for American sensibilities, which everyone knows are crap. That sounds like a good idea to who? That guy down the street with brain damage, that’s who. You know him. He hasn’t been the same since that tractor accident. He pisses on cars and tries to eat rocks. That’s the only guy who thought this was a good idea. Incidentally, his name is Kevin Reilly, and he’s the president of NBC Entertainment.

As of this writing, I’ve only seen the first episode (and, as you’ll come to realize, that’s all I’ll be watching). Ironically enough, Ricky Gervais, one of the creators and stars of the original show, helped out with that episode, which is almost an identical remake of the British version (while future episodes will apparently be brand new and not have Gervais writing them). Lines and plot points were direct rips, and even some of the names were similar. When these things appeared in the original show, they were funny. That wasn’t the case with the American version, and that’s the fault of the actors.

It’s amazing how much of a difference the actors make in this case. If you watched the British version of the show and then the American version (and in all fairness, I was so pissed I turned it off after the first commercial and played Gran Turismo 4 for a few hours), you know exactly what I’m talking about. NBC’s version of the show lacked spark and laughs, which is like the kiss of death for a comedy. It was dull and emotionally painful to watch. Kind of like someone giving birth to twins, only one is stillborn.

I don’t blame Gervais for any of this. He wanted Americans who didn’t see the original show to experience the magic. Problem is, there’s no magic here. The British version was a once-in-a-lifetime deal that will never be replicated, especially not in an American remake. So who is to blame?

The easy answer would be NBC, Steve Carell (who is cast in Gervais’ role as the boss), and the other writers and actors. All of those people are part of the problem, but the main culprit is the American public.

If we were really as free as we claim to be, we could have characters say “cock” on television in a funny manner and nobody would blink. If we were was as smart as we like to think we are, we’d be able to watch a show with British slang and references and actually get them. If we were as smart and free as we like to think we are, we could’ve just imported the damn show and ran it in prime-time as is instead of spending all this money and wasting all this time with a substandard copy. But no, we’re prude, moronic, child-like Americans, and if some kid hears “cock” on television he might get cancer or shoot up a school, so we can’t have a direct import. We have to have the

watered-down, not-very-funny, NBC-lite version. Yawn.

Thanks a fucking lot, America. Once again the memory of something great has been desecrated by a corporation looking to appease the appetites of fat lizards who disguise themselves as the “viewing audience.” You can keep this version of “The Office.” I’ll just watch my DVDs and turn off NBC for a nice long time. Hey, maybe the network can remake “The Prisoner,” but take out all the political and social subtext. Now that would be a winner.

Before I finish this well-deserved rant, I want to run a quote from actor Steve Carell. “Entertainment Weekly” conducted an interview with him and Gervais before the American version of the show appeared. The magazine asked Gervais if people in England were “dismissive of Americans daring to remake” the show. Gervais’ answer was as to be expected, but Carell’s comments speak volumes.

“Our version is done out of love of what they did,” he explains. “I don’t think anyone was hoping or expecting to improve upon the original or even make it as good.”

If this is love, then so is domestic violence. And honestly, Carell, if nobody was “hoping or expecting to improve upon the original or even make it as good,” what’s the point of trying? You’re doomed before you even begin!

Idiots. The entire damn country.

Discuss Doug Brunell’s “Excess Hollywood” column in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>




Posted on April 14, 2005 in Features by
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