Friday, April 08, 2005

Never Judge a show by it’s Pilot: The Office.

It's no secret that I love Sit-Coms and I am concerned about the status of the sitcom today. CHILD OF TELEVISION: Where’s Norman Lear now that we need him? When I first heard that there was going to be an American version of the British comedy series "The Office", I thought that this was a bad idea. In my defense when I first heard this news, it was in the wake of a failed attempt to do an American version of the British comedy series "Coupling". I can list a dozen reasons as to why the American version of "Coupling" failed. One reason is dialogue, that was almost copied word for word from the British series, was delivered as zingers. Another reason is that a British show does not have to meet the same network standards and practices that American shows do.

As time went on I started to become cautiously optimistic when I heard that "The Daily Shows" Steve Corel was going to star in the project. Then later I got to see some of the previews. It looked like they were maintaining the integrity of the original series by shooting the show documentary style and not having a laugh track. The pilot episode closely resembles the pilot of the original series with a few changes necessary like geographical and cultural references. I also found the American version slightly more P.C. The Character of Michael Scott can and should get away with his inappropriate sexual and racist comments because he is clueless to the fact that he is out of line. I am sure there are some who have already started their letter writing campaign claiming that the show glamorizes sexism and ethnic humor. All in all I liked the show but I never judge a show by it’s pilot.

The second episode, (Diversity Day) was edgy and funny. I liked that Michael Scott never learns his lesson nor does he have any redeeming qualities. I’ve met people like that. Also the episode does not need to have a moral. Unless you count that there are morons in the corporate world. These are elements in British Television shows that are appealing to American audiences. Look at the success of "Absolutely Fabulous ". Personally I’ve worked for people like Michael Scott and I like seeing them depicted as the dimwits that they are. Unfortunately, as in the "Dilbert Comic Strip" no one ever sees themselves as the stupid boss, they just see their stupid boss as the stupid boss.

If "The Office" stays true to original premise and does not get watered down or dumbed down it may have the potential of joining the ranks of other American Sit-Coms based on British Sit-Coms like "All in the Family", "Sanford and Son", and "Three's Company". This will not be an easy task. When "All in the Family", "Sanford and Son", and "Three's Company" first aired in the 1970's most Americans were not familiar with their British counterparts, "Till Death Us Do Part", "Steptoe and Son" and "Man About the House". Today British shows like "The Office" and "Coupling" can been seen on BBC America or on DVD, so American versions of these shows face built in expectations from their audience. Perhaps instead of just copying a successful British show we need study why these shows are appealing to American audiences because I know more and more people are tuning in to BBC America for their entertainment (and their news too).

To quote Robin Williams on Dennis Miller Live, "This country was founded bypeople who were too uptight to stay in England!"

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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