AMMAN: When NBC commissioned an American version of the much-loved UK mockumentary “The Office,” many were skeptical. John Krasinski, who ended up playing Jim, famously told showrunner Greg Daniels (without realizing it was Daniels) before his audition that, whether he got the part or not, he hoped they didn’t “screw this show up and ruin it for me.”
His sentiments were understandable. Ricky Gervais’ cringe-comedy was pretty much perfect. So why bother? But nine seasons and more than 200 episodes later, Daniels was more than vindicated. The US version became very much its own show. And a huge success.
It followed the lives of employees at paper company Dunder Mifflin. Regional manager Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) was the equivalent of Gervais’ David Brent. Like Brent, he sees himself primarily as “an entertainer” rather than a boss. He is constantly trying to convince his workers (and himself) that (a) he’s a young, hip ‘buddy,’ not a corporate suit, and that (b) their jobs are way more entertaining than they actually are. His social ineptitude is obvious to everyone but himself. However, unlike Brent, Michael Scott is actually surprisingly good at selling paper. He is also a far more sympathetic character. Michael’s clumsy, forced bonhomie is down to his desperate need for love and companionship. Without family and friends to provide it, he turns to his co-workers.
The US version of “The Office” offers plenty of inappropriate cringe moments, but at its heart the show is a romantic comedy — the story of the slow-burn relationship between receptionist Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Krasinski’s salesman, Jim. It’s a beautifully pitched and honest story arc. There are few scenes of high passion between them, just wonderfully observed small intimacies that can be joyful or heartbreaking, depending on the circumstances.
“The Office” is a brilliant comedy, with a multitude of laugh-out-loud lines, characters whose depth is gradually revealed thanks to fantastic writing, and a group of actors who were perfectly cast.
The obvious joy taken in making the show translates to the audience. The old cliché about a cast being a ‘family’ really does ring true here. “The Office” is a great re-watch, particularly in these times of high anxiety. No matter how much you enjoyed it the first time, it’s even better the second.
That’s what she said.