The Office is an epic of a series. As a re-make of the British series written and starring Ricky Gervais, it is perhaps the only time that I have openly admitted that a US version was superior to the UK’s.
It follows “an ordinary American office” at the paper company of Dunder Mifflin in a mock-umentary that spans a decade. Unlike the UK version, where Gervais’s David Brent becomes more irritating and unlikable as the series progresses, Steve Carrell’s counterpart Michael Scott, becomes more endearing and affable. The longevity of the series allows you to see natural character arcs, as opposed to the forced storylines that can dominate sitcoms. The Office is filmed in a single-camera setup, without studio audience or a laugh track, which gives a sense of voyeurism, allowing the viewer to see plots and digressions that many of the cast are ignorant to. Through this, its ‘absurd’ humour fully comes across.
The Office loses some of its grindingly embarrassing moments in the trans lation to US screens, yet it compensates for this with some new and improved characters with more distinguished personalities and lives outside the office. The counterpart for the desperate, military obsessed Gareth Keenan, Dwight Schrute, portrayed by Rainn Wilson, is interpreted as a ‘volunteer sheriff’. Other unique characters feature the tightly-wound Angela, the mysterious suggested criminal Creed, or Ryan, the constantly self-reinventing ‘temp’. As well as the often-absurd comedy and characters, there are themes of empathy and romance that make the show so watchable.
Many of the cast also write and produce episodes, including B.J. Novak and Mindy Kaling. Kaling, Novak and Lieberstein also play regular characters. Credited with twenty-four episodes, Kaling is the most prolific writer on the staff, with much of her character mimicking that of Dr. Mindy Lahriri in The Mindy Project.
The unique mixture of pathos and surrealism creates a series that leaves you mourning its end. It manages to grow on you over time as you become more attached to even the blatantly unlikeable characters.