Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Working Girl Rents The Office (UK)


I really wanted to write a post today about my irrational fear of recessions which turn into the Great Depression 2008, but WG1 convinced me that was a really bad idea since I know nothing about finance or banking (aka why my fears are irrational). Just in case you wanted to know, I also have irrational fears of mice and Amy Winehouse (her beehive filled with crack really scares the shit out of me). 

Anyway, I decided to forgo my previous idea and instead write about my past weekend. While most 20-somethings were partying it up in the citay, I stayed home...in my bed...with ice cream...and watched the original version of The Office on DVD

As an avid fan of the American version of The Office, I expected great things and many laughs. What I did not expect was only 6 episodes. Yes, in the United Kingdom a "series" is only 6 episodes. A full season of episodes in the US is around 22 episodes. So I think you can see why I was disappointed. And color me surprised that The Office in the UK only lasted for two seasons. 6+6=12 (just in case you are mathematically challenged like myself). 

All right so despite my initial shock to learn that I could watch the entire two seasons in one day, I learned that I really love the original Office and that America completely and utterly stole the entire idea and story plots for their own. The American characters Pam & Jim -- yep, they were Tim & Dawn in the UK. Michael, Dwight, Kevin, Jan -- yes, they're all products of the original as well. And the entire first episode is almost exactly the same right down to the stapler in the JELL-O bit (minus the accents of course). 

After you see beyond the similarities of the two shows, you absolutely fall in love with The Office. Ricky Gervais is amazing at making you feel bad for his character socially awkward David Brent, but five seconds later he has the ability to make you want to jump into the TV to punch him for his sexist/racist remarks. His comedic timing is spot on. Which of course leads me to his supporting characters (which there are a lot less of). My favorites of course were Gareth (the Dwight of the show) and Tim (who is just so adorable that I want to eat his little face). Gareth is more weasel-like and smarmy, but a former soldier which makes for great jokes. Tim makes your heart melt. Swoon.

Unfortunately, I think I may be a bit prejudiced when it comes to which I enjoy more. I watched the American show first, and there are more episodes to keep me occupied. There were some things about this version however that I liked more. Overall, it seems more believable. And from watching the special behind-the-scenes featurette on disc 2 I found out that they really shot the show in a real office building (not a set!) and that they were so loud that they were asked to tone it down by the other offices in the building. I also felt like the characters are a tad more believable. Every single one of them seemed like they could work at my office. But I truly think that is the nature of British television - it's all shot in a way that makes it seem more real (unless it's East Enders, sorry but not real at all). 

Also, the whole premise of The Office is that it is being shot as a documentary. Sometimes when watching the American version you forget that, but with the UK version it's obvious because it's choppy and not all the scenes fit perfectly together. But that's the point! So I love that aspect. 

But as an American I am a lover of happy endings. The full circle is something I expect. And The Office in the UK could care less if we want Tim and Dawn to live happily ever after. 

My recommendation is to rent the entire 12 hours when you have a free Saturday lying around. It's a great substitute for bad Lifetime movies. 

24 comments:

LJ said...

Ha Awesome review! I love love the office! I saw a couple of the UK episodes and couldn't believe the how the American version was identical!

I just found this SNL spoof on the office, it will crack you up:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/20337/saturday-night-live-snl-digital-short-the-japanese-office#s-p1-st-i2

transienttravels said...

I actually fell in love with the UK version before the one in the States began so I am really partial to it (though I do love both versions).

You're right though, it is sad that it is only six episodes, when it comes to TV shows, the Brits really like to quit while they're ahead.

Belowen said...

Ahh I watched the Uk office from start to finish a few years back and after my initial fear of just how realistic it was, I fell in love... My friends and I even whip out the David brent dance every now and then LOL I am yet to watch the us version though. Ps:: I'm pretty sure amy winehouse has both crack AND mice in that hair of hers...

june said...

at least you're not a senior in college trying to get a finance / banking job... interviewing and recruiting in this economy is definitely not an irrational fear =(

Johanna said...

I just recently started watching the UK version. I decided a while ago that I wouldn't watch the American until I'd seen the original. The UK version is hilarious though!

Sunny said...

I love The UK Office too. When I just started to watch it I was absolutely sure that it was a reality-show. Later I got to know the actors and disappointed a little, as the guys were just acting.

Anyway, it's a great show.

Lauren said...

My boyfriend is from London and because of this, I was introduced to The Office (UK) before the American one started. Since I was accustomed to that one, I could never get into the American one! they're so similar, yet so different. I like the dark humor of the UK one, but I could see why people like the American one for the Pam/Jim relationship. Personally, I favor the UK one. It's different and fresh.

Also, most shows in the UK only run for two seasons (or sometimes more if they're super popular). They would rather end it on a good note then let it, as we say, jump the shark. Typically they have some sort of special after the last episode (like The Office Christmas special).

Check out the show Extras if you like Gervais's acting. It's super funny and has amazing cameos by American actors (including Harry Potter!)

Great review!

ELI3 said...

Don't feel bad. My wife and I went for years without cable TV, which is difficult when some of your favorite shows are on F/X (Nip/Tuck) and HBO (Entourage, Sopranos). When our shows would come out on dvd, we would buy them and pretty much watch and entire season in one weekend. It would catch us up but then we realized that by not pacing ourselves we were left with another year to wait for new material.

miss orangetree said...

A lot of UK shows that are remade for American television usually use the same script for the first episode or two (they did this for Coupling - bombed in the U.S. but the British version is absolutely brilliant).
The Office rocks no matter what version. And if you want to know how Tim and Dawn end up I suggest watching the The Office Christmas Special.

Anonymous said...

Great review and I have to agree with you on the whole "wanting to write about the recession but not knowing where to begin bit" .. You are charmingly honest and I love your blog!

High School Girl said...

I should really check that show out. It sounds really good!

Dulce estrellita said...

hey i'm from argentina! and i follow you too! i think about this tv show "the office" it's no available here. :( but i like read your blog! Ok you are in mi links! bye, see you

meghan said...

Free love on the free love freeway,
The love is free and the freeway’s long...

That's my favorite episode from Season One (BBC). You HAVE to rent The Christmas Special! It sums everything up for you with Tim and Dawn.

Oh - and if you watch the extra stuff on the DVD for Season 1, you'll see one of the brothers from Oasis singing Free Love Freeway with Ricky Gervais. It's funny!

Fleur said...

I love the UK office. When the US version started, I was skeptical, but once they stopped using the exact same plot lines and dialogue (as in most of the US season one), I was on board. Mostly because of my all-consuming love of the awesomeness that is Dwight K. Schrute. But Tim and Dawn still trump Jim and Pam, at least in my books.

Also, and I feel like the biggest dork for pointing this out, the average season length for most UK shows is 13 episodes, not 6 (as was the case for The Office).

Giovanna Diaries said...

This may shock most....but I just recently got into The Office ala America. I've seen about 3 episodes total....and have just put the previous seasons on my Netflix Queue. I guess now I will have to put the UK version on my Queue too. As if I didn't watch enough television!

emmysuh said...

Huh -- I had no idea that the Office was based on a UK version. I'd probably love it too, I'll have to check it out.

Tassie said...

I am a huge fan of the Office and out of boredom this summer, I rented The Office UK and was disappointed. Their humor is different than ours and I don't always get it.

brandy said...

Great review! I read an article (I think on the Slate wesbite?) that talked about the 4 different countries that are doing the Office- the UK version, the American version the France version and German version (I think I got those last two right) and how the American one was the most hopeful of the four. It's more likely to have a happy ending because Americans need one to really enjoy the show.

I've watched the UK and American versions and though I like both, I have to say I'm definitely more in love with the American ones. This may or may not be because I'm in love with John Krasinski.

MJ said...

You picked yourself an awesome choice of a box set. It's a classic and a prototype to many new style TV comedy mockumentaries.

hookerbaby said...

The first American episode actually used the same script - they didn't try to make it different. They deviated from that script later but kept all the same characters.

I actually really like the UK's way of doing seasons - in North America, we can tend to run shows into the ground, keeping them going long past their expiry date. The shows in the UK finish when they're still good.

Anonymous said...

WG2
I watched the original before the American version came on tv years ago. Watch the entire entire set of DVDS. Ricky Gervais is incredibly talented....and he is a producer of the U.S. version. But he is a master. Glad you enjoyed it!

Lady Glen said...

ohmy I love the UK office. The training day episode in season one is by far the most fantastic hour of television of all time.

A Country Wife said...

Hi,
If you like The UK Office - watch
Extras: Episode 3 with Kate Winslett is fantastic.

http://www.rickygervais.com/extras.php

feelinglistless said...

Short seasons:

This is fairly traditional in UK tv, especially a show like The Office. Partly it's to do with budgets which tend to be quite low, especially on the publicly funded BBC, some it's to do with the fact that most of these things are written by just one or two people so are fairly labour intensive, some it too is because the talent tend to move around a lot more -- many of the faces in the UK Office can be seen in a range of other shows made at the time and probably worked on films and theatre too.