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If You Don't Know Me By Now...
February 26, 2010 4:56 AM   Subscribe

Extremely bleak, frequently poignant, always hilarious: Hulu is now offering the UK version of The Office in its entirety. That includes two series of six episodes each and the two-part Christmas Special.

Highlights:

If You Don't Know Me By Now
the David Brent dance
Free Love On The Free Love Freeway

Related documentaries and interviews:

How I Made The Office, by Ricky Gervais
Closed for Business

Very Loosely Related:

You're On My Side by Seona Dancing, Ricky Gervais's 80s synthpop band
posted by Rory Marinich (73 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jim and Pam have a baby, but only in an ironic way.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:07 AM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


'cept it's Tim & Dawn in the The Office.
posted by i_cola at 5:18 AM on February 26, 2010


Best. Series. Ever.
posted by newfers at 5:37 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hulu's been doing really well for bringing in the BritComs - Peep Show, Green Wing, Black Books, and of course Spaced. It has inspired me to to start relationship mapping out the shows I like in hopes of finding more.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:39 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I enjoy the US version, but Gareth Keenan is about eight billion times better than Dwight Schrute.
posted by bondcliff at 5:43 AM on February 26, 2010 [14 favorites]


Oh, sweet. They added six more episodes of The Book Group, too.
posted by steef at 5:44 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


No Hulu for me, but when I used to work with a large number of other foreigners in a mostly foreign run school, the DVDs got passed around at work. It was brutal, as I remember. I couldn't turn it off, but it hurt to watch it. The fascinating thing, you could always tell who had just watched the show. They would be unusually quiet at work, and they would spend a lot of time in the staffroom just watching everyone else. You could tell they were trying to figure out who everyone in the office correlated to, well, everyone in The Office. We were so quiet after watching it because we realized just how inane our everyday banter really was.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:48 AM on February 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


When The Office first aired in the UK, I was working for a guy who was more than 50% on the David Brent scale. The best moment was when he strode into our office one morning waving a piece of paper. 'I've got a great list of the best David Brent quotes here!'

He proceeded to sit down and read out his favourite ones punctuated with exclamations like 'I bet you're all glad I'm not like that!'.

The sight of our sub-editor slowly sinking behind her monitor with her eyes growing to the size of golf balls as she tried desperately not to either laugh or swallow her keyboard whole is one that will stay with me to my dying day. We still talk about that day nearly nine years later...
posted by i_cola at 5:59 AM on February 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Not available outside the US? They're BRITISH SHOWS!!

Gr.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 6:00 AM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seconding how bleak the show is...I left the office world like 6 years ago and I STILL can't watch the show, which kills me bc I think Ricky Gervais is a genius. Most of it just makes me totally squirm.
posted by nevercalm at 6:07 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It has inspired me to to start relationship mapping out the shows I like in hopes of finding more.

May be worth adding Snuff Box to your map.
posted by slixtream at 6:16 AM on February 26, 2010


You have to be 100% behind someone before you can stab them in the back.
posted by jeremy b at 6:18 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


They've also got all of Spaced on Hulu, which I have been rewatching. I can really only watch am episode of the British office every week or so, otherwise the similarities between my life and the show would drive me to suicide. However, I am a big fan of describing myself as "basically a chilled out entertainer" thanks to that show.
posted by orville sash at 6:19 AM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


It has inspired me to to start relationship mapping out the shows I like in hopes of finding more.

No mention of The Actor Kevin Eldon? Like Kevin Bacon is to film, I think every UK comedy performer has an Eldon number. Most of the time it's 1, given the amount of stuff he's been in.
posted by permafrost at 6:25 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not available outside the US? They're BRITISH SHOWS!!

I'm surprised it's not on SeeSaw, a similar service in the UK.
posted by vbfg at 6:26 AM on February 26, 2010


Take away American's privacy, tap our phones, rip us off with healthcare shenanigans, let the corporations buy out the government and Wall street take our houses and lay us all off, fine, whatevers, but if Hulu becomes a pay subscription I swear I'll go out and riot!
posted by fuq at 6:30 AM on February 26, 2010


Did someone mention Kevin Eldon?
posted by slixtream at 6:33 AM on February 26, 2010


I had been watching the US incarnation for 4 seasons before I got around to watching the original (please refer to it as the "original" rather than "the UK version". Its akin to saying Oxford is "England's Harvard". Just don't do it.)

Ruined everything for me. Not to say one is better than the other... aw hell, yeah... the original is way better.

The point is, the US's The Office became, to me, like when I served a Balvenie to a gentleman, who then took a sip and asked me to "throw a splash of coke in there."

I almost threw it in his face.

Thanks to the need for ratings and sponsorship, we had to sweeten it. The guy had to get the girl, marry her, have babies, people had to sleep around. We had to take what was a wonderful dark comedy and mix it with the soap opera fantasies Americans need to get through their drudgery. That's America in a nutshell. We can't face the inherent absurdity and banality of life, in the US we have to escape into fantasy world with our trusty SSRIs in the holdster.

I've watched the US version of the Office sparingly over the last couple years. Not to say its bad. Still better than a lot of prime time crap. However, it just doesn't pertain to me like I originally thought it had.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:52 AM on February 26, 2010 [19 favorites]


Not available outside the US? They're BRITISH SHOWS!!

As someone who has a discussion about geoblocking once a month, I'm certain it's the BBC, not Hulu, who's to blame for that.

"We'll license it to you, but if anyone from another country where we could get additional revenue is able to access it, you're dead meat."

"How about Guam?"

"Eh. Your call."
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:54 AM on February 26, 2010


May be worth adding Snuff Box to your map.

Not to mention Ab Fab and Smack The Pony.
posted by fight or flight at 7:02 AM on February 26, 2010


No mention of The Actor Kevin Eldon?

I had Eldon in in a previous incarnation of the map, but his many, many, many one-off appearances made the map very messy given that he's been in pretty much everything on that list.

Maybe I should add a * to the bottom reading "Assume Kevin Eldon is in every one of these shows, at least once."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:05 AM on February 26, 2010


After loving the first, which I saw just after its first run, I couldn't finish the second season of The Office. It stopped being funny and just started feeling cruel.

I like other "mockery" shows -- I'm passionately in love with Garth Merenghi's Darkplace, for instance -- but now that I'm thinking about it, the point-and-laugh kind of comedy that I like also betrays a genuine enthusiasm for the subject. I have a feeling that I could sit down with the Garth Merenghi staff and watch a bunch of terrible New Twilight Zone/Ray Bradbury Theatre episodes and genuinely enjoy them.

I don't get any of that feeling of affection from The Office, though. Maybe it's just me, but it started to give me a creepy vibe of scorn and loathing for its subjects*, which kind of killed the funny.

*a testament to how well it's done, though, is that I can't help but think of the characters as documentary subjects, rather than actors playing roles. No matter what I see Ricky Gervais doing, David Brent still exists as a fully formed human being in my mind.
posted by Shepherd at 7:11 AM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


@robocop: Very good! You should add: The Thick of It (plus In The Loop), Hyperdrive, Not Going Out and The Smoking Room
posted by salmacis at 7:17 AM on February 26, 2010


Thank goodness for the Christmas special. If it had ended at the end of the second season, I'm not sure I could have taken it.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:19 AM on February 26, 2010


I don't get any of that feeling of affection from The Office, though. Maybe it's just me, but it started to give me a creepy vibe of scorn and loathing for its subjects*, which kind of killed the funny.

Since the two objects of most of the audience's scorn - Brent and Gareth - are largely based on the co-creators, I doubt there's no affection, and in fact the christmas finale seems to be very affectionate
posted by criticalbill at 7:20 AM on February 26, 2010


Well, we can debate the merits of the two shows forever, but they've becomes very different animals. The British Office was dealing with a constrained schedule, so it's focus was very tight on David, Tim, and Dawn. The American version has had much more luxury to flesh out the remainder of the office employees, and I'd say it is by far one of the best ensemble casts on television. There was no Creed in the British version.

Additionally, Gervais's version was rooted in one sort of response -- a tendency some English people have, especially in formal environments, to just freeze when something uncomfortable happens. Gervais's genius in the show was stretching out those moments indefinitely -- David Brent would spend the silences trying to dig himself out of whatever hole he had put himself into, inevitably worsening it. It was excruciating, although hilarious.

They tried that with the first season of the American Office. Didn't work. Not that there aren't Americans who clam up when something embarrassing happens, but that wasn't native to the cast or the characters the show was developing. So, instead, when Michael Scott does something embarrassing, he is met with a barrage of angry or sardonic responses. And because Steve Carrell has limned his character as being hypersensitive to criticism, that tends to put him in an snit of defensiveness, or even sends him on the offense, whee he is an especially awful human being. It works in a very different way the the UK version, and is considerably less squirmy, but, then, once again, you end of with the pleasure that is Creed.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:25 AM on February 26, 2010 [19 favorites]


I watch both and I love both....how? Because they are different shows! The Office, UK is bleak and sharp and sometimes excruciating to watch. The Office, USA is funny and charming and sometimes goofy. Michael is not David, Jim is not Tim, Pam is not Dawn. It is like trying to compare hot, spicy curry to peach ice cream. Both have their place.

Due to our love of The Office, UK and The Smoking Room and The Royle Family, my husband and I just spent the last year watching all the British comedies we could get our hands on. Quite often we would find that the first episode of a new series would leave us puzzled, sometimes cold, and it would take 2 or even 3 episodes to pull us in. Often the shows that made us work the hardest were the ones we enjoyed the most. This would not work on commercial television in the USA where you have to captivate your audience from the get go.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:26 AM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks to the need for ratings and sponsorship, we had to sweeten it. The guy had to get the girl, marry her, have babies, people had to sleep around.

To be fair, the original only lasted two seasons. The first two seasons of the US version were pretty tame compared to some of the Madcap Hyjinx they started getting into around season four.

Also, SPOILER ALERT:

The guy did the girl at the end of the original.

Also, I've been trying to pin down just what the difference is between David Brent and Michael Scott. Both make me cringe, both are stupid, but they're different and I just can't figure out why. Brent seems a bit meaner, but there's more. Thoughts?
posted by bondcliff at 7:28 AM on February 26, 2010


The Christmas finale really is an amazing piece of screenwriting, because it achieves the near-impossible: it redeems the entire character of David Brent in one line of dialogue, and that one line is little more than "fuck off."

It's like a ninja move: one tiny, deft stroke, and all of a sudden it's clear exactly what this poor person has been missing, and how he can become something more without betraying the character we've been squirming along with for years. A tiny shred of self-respect goes such a long way - especially in Slough.
posted by bicyclefish at 7:30 AM on February 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


Bondcliff: The difference is that Michael Scott is an idiot who's trying to be a good boss. David Brent is a camwhore, in a sense. He's not just a narcissist, he's a celebrity hound.

Gervais talks about his in an interview I couldn't find online. The Office isn't just about the workplace, it's about the idea of celebrity and how it's affected society. That's its genius, which I think is looked over by most people that see it. If you watch Extras, Gervais's next show, and then go back to The Office, it's a little more noticeable.

The horrible thing about David Brent is that there are subtle indicators that he is a good boss before the show begins. People seem to like him, until he fucks things over, shiftily staring at the camera all the while. Jennifer thinks he's competent. The board thinks he's a good man. He goes out drinking with the people he works with and they're affectionate for him. But he's so determined to become somebody famous that he's willing to lose everything, and he does.

That's why the original Office is leagues beyond the American Office, which is really not a mockumentary anymore. It's a sitcom. The camera crew shouldn't still be there, people shouldn't still be forgiving Michael. In the original, David is not forgiven. As soon as he starts pulling these stunts, he's reprimanded, he loses power, but he keeps going. He wants to make this false celebrity David, that the world will remember.

And there're still hints of the good boss throughout. David is funny, fleetingly, until he crushes everything with his camera panderings. He's got a good rapport with people when he's not trying to be this false persona. We don't hate him because he tells racist jokes. We hate him because after he tells the jokes, he tries to justify to BBC that he's not actually being racist. Remove all those justifications and he's a pretty cool guy.

That's what crushed me when I saw the series. Tim and Dawn were tragic, and the scene where Tim unplugs his microphone is one of the greatest moments in television history, but what kills me is the slow, slow decline of Brent. In the American Office, people let Michael get away with everything. In the original, Brent is fired, loses his consulting job — which was yet another indicator that he was truly held in high regards — and, in the climax to the second series, has to drop his character and beg for his job back. Which is denied.

The Christmas finale sees the conclusion to his character arc. After being fired, he blows all his money trying to become a famous singer, and then to appear on microcelebrity shows. He's trying to milk the fame he doesn't have. The only person who recognizes him realizes what a fool he was. His redemption, at the very end, comes when he realizes he cares more about this terrific new woman he's met, tells Chris and Neil to fuck off, and goes on his way. That's the final scene in the entire show, as the final credits roll: David asking if the crew needs anything more, saying "Cheers," standing up, and finally leaving the camera.

With all respect to people who love the American Office, which is a moderately good sitcom, the original is a masterpiece, both in its writing, its acting, and its direction. The writing is what grabs me, though. The way the show manages to be about these two things at once, about office life and about celebrity culture, and how it tucks the one so subtly into the other, blows my mind. It leads to some brilliant sight gags, too: The janitor who, when he's on camera, can do nothing but stare at the screen, is the one I'm fondest of. Comparing the one to the other is like comparing Cheaper By The Dozen to The Royal Tenenbaums. There're vague similarities in concept and plot, but the one is infinitely warmer, funnier, and fonder.

The Office managed to celebrate the small glimpses of compassion and humanity we get out of these people in an infinitely shitty situation. Tim's passing up on the job offer to Gareth, who never realizes who he's in debt to; Lee's buying Tim a beer as apology for shoving him against the wall; Tim's hands in Dawn's hair; Neil and Rachel's dance. One moral I drew from the show was never to work in an officeplace, yes; but the more important thing I took from it was this: We are all trying to be good people, even if all of us are failing.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:46 AM on February 26, 2010 [80 favorites]


Also, as an actor, I am continually devastated by Tim's final monologue in the series. Admitting he wasn't expecting a happy ending, or an ending at all. That life goes on, even if things rarely change. It's Samuel Beckett as office employee. I would love to be able to convey such subtle cues with my face.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:54 AM on February 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


Rory Marinich: Yep. That's it! Thanks.
posted by bondcliff at 8:00 AM on February 26, 2010


I don't think that's fair. Michael Scott is different from David Brent, but that's just a difference, not a problem. Michael Scott is, it should be noted, a very good paper salesman. It's the reason he stays on despite his incredible incompetence as a manager. And, in some ways, his incompetence doesn't matter -- he has a good staff, despite their idiosyncrasies. That branch can sell paper, and we're not just told that -- we're repeatedly shown it.

Michael Scott's personality is not about seeking fame, but instead an overwhelming need to be loved and respected, which he doesn't feel the need to earn, but instead assumes is owed him and he already has. He thinks he's the cool boss, the one who is everybody's friend, and much of the comedy in the series comes from watching what happens when Michael comes face to face with reality -- that people think he's mean, and a buffoon. I guess he does have the quality of wanting be be a celebrity in one sense, in that he always wants to be the center of attention, and can't stand it when he isn't.

It's a different character, but a valid one, and I think Steve Carrel's performance in the role is astonishing. Yes, the American version is a sit com. Nothing wrong with that. It's one of the best sit coms American television has produced.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:01 AM on February 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Astro Zombie — definitely! The Michael Scott version isn't at all a terrible show. It's just not a brilliant one. For every moment of hilarious gutbusting genius, or even the occasional moments of breathholding fondness, there's a lot that comes across as just awkward padding. And, while the show's impressive in how long it's managed to keep itself good, I still get that nagging feeling of: Why are the cameras still here? I know that's not fair.

Possibly it's just that I don't like sitcoms very much. With the exception of Arrested Development, I can't think of any that I genuinely love. They drag things out, they avoid progressions, and they give me this constant feeling like I have to devote too much time for too little reward. Even Seinfeld, which was marvelously tight and funny, only barely made the cut for me where I kept thinking it was worth watching. (Arrested Development, of course, has managed to reward me not just that first time but on four subsequent rewatches, but Arrested Development is barely a sitcom. It broke every rule.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:07 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Warning: Hulu bleeps the cursewords.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:08 AM on February 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Additionally, Gervais's version was rooted in one sort of response -- a tendency some English people have, especially in formal environments, to just freeze when something uncomfortable happens.

And that doesn't translate at all into American humor, because American humor is about repetition and response.

The first episode of the American Office was pretty much straight reads from the UK Office, and American audiences responded very poorly to this because Michael was just too mean. I also think it didn't hit the right tenor of how American offices work vis-a-vis British offices, that people like Michael-as-David actually don't last too long within a corporate structure because the structure eventually tires of them and sacks them.

The second episode, though, was Diversity Day. The climactic scene has Michael, having made the office "confront stereotypes" about race through a horrid game of Guess My Ethnicity, encounters Kelly, the Indian customer service rep who had been out of the office most of the day. He launches into this stream of Indian-as-7-11-clerk slurs right into her face -- it's just part of the game after all.

And this is the moment where the UK and US Office versions fork -- Kelly slaps Michael. In the UK version, David would have gone on for another minute as the room got more and more silent and Kelly stood frozen. But in the American version, there's a response to the repetition, and the resolution -- Michael exclaiming joyfully "See, that's what I'm talking about!"

I also think what's helped with the American series is the idea that the branch office is successful -- wildly so, in fact -- despite the incompetence. I think that's something most Americans can relate to, the idea that their company is actually doing pretty well because they're busting their ass and despite the Peter Principle ruling the management structure. In fact, it seems like the main work lesson from the American Office is Never Join Corporate.

The American Office has more episodes a season (22) than the UK Office had total counting the Christmas specials (14). Of course the American version will be spread thin by comparison. I don't think that discounts in any way that there's been some serious brilliance in the US version, it's just the UK version is superconcentrated by comparison, like drinking Ribena straight from the bottle.
posted by dw at 8:09 AM on February 26, 2010 [6 favorites]




Thanks for the recommendations as to what to add, all. I admit I've been limiting myself to shows I like, as opposed to mapping a wider scope.

(I'll also admit that I liked People Like Us much more than The Office, but I suspect I'm in the minority there.)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:14 AM on February 26, 2010


With the exception of Arrested Development, I can't think of any that I genuinely love.

Comparing the US Office to Arrested Development is unfair, since AD was always on the verge of cancellation and was therefore working on a compressed schedule. It never had a chance to get long in the tooth.

30 Rock, which you could argue is the first semi-successful child of the genre Arrested Development created (given that's driven by recursion and insanely good comedy writing), is getting long in the tooth. Season 4 probably resembles what AD's season 4 would have looked like -- people getting meaner, leaning on too many tropes, at times completely unrewarding.

One thing I've found odd is how poorly Arrested Development has done outside the US. It's almost too American. I think you can say the same thing about the UK Office -- it's almost too British. But given British comedy is still a bit of a novelty for Americans vs. the cultural slumgullion the US pumps into the UK every single minute, one could see why Americans would be more willing to excuse the British idiosyncrasies of The Office while Brits would be less likely to "get" the inwardly-American humor of Arrested Development.

(Not saying Brits don't watch Arrested Development, just saying it doesn't seem to have had the cult impact there the way the UK Office has in the US.)
posted by dw at 8:25 AM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


oh, and Time Trumpet and Newswipe
posted by henners at 8:26 AM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I found Arrested Development and Nighty Night to be kissing cousins, at least. I liked the broad comedy and wordplay of AD, and without that, I found Nighty Night a struggle to get through.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:31 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


...And that doesn't translate at all into American humor, because American humor is about repetition and response.

I think you aren't being quite fair here. One of the criticisms that Gervais' character keeps making in Extras is that his role in a successful sitcom is beneath him (since it is all catch phrases and wigs). Which is to say, some aspects of the English audience do seem to believably like repetition and response...like this.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 9:03 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Christmas special is absolutely the best television I've ever seen*. Bloody brilliant. And David Brent's nightclub appearances are sheer hilarity - the Dating Game sequence is possibly the most jaw-droppingly cringeworthy bit of the entire series.

*The Extras' wrapup special comes close
posted by porn in the woods at 9:19 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


If Extras had been as original a show as The Office, that finale might take my nomination for most brilliant finale. It was brutal. But something about Extras, genius as its second series was, felt less cohesive. Possibly it's the lack of strong supporting characters: Beyond Maggie and Greg and Barry and whatshisname the agent, the characters don't feel real and essential to me like even the smallest Office residents were.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:39 AM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The guy had to get the girl, marry her, have babies, people had to sleep around.

Also, SPOILER ALERT:

The guy did the girl at the end of the original.


I know.

Did you see the rest of the sentence?

In the original was there a CG update stating "After this, they lived happily ever after with a quirky wedding and a cute baby who will somehow be injected into the plot lines as soon as we clear this menacing shark?"

As I recall she left Lee came back, kissed Tim, and it was understood they were together, and I didn't see anything after that. Granted at that point I groaned, turned off the DVD in mild annoyance, and went out for a pint, so it is quite possible I missed something.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 9:58 AM on February 26, 2010


For people in the US with basic cable, the original Office has been playing on [adult swim] every Friday night. The shows start with a quick introduction by Gervais. I remember watching the original series on BBC America, the same network gave the US Trailer Park Boys (even though it of course, is not a BBC product). I bought the first series on DVD years ago and love watching it.

I think the difference between the US version and the UK version can be summed up in the different opening songs. The Office UK opens with a melancholy song and scenes of a dreary office estate. The US Office is all chirpy and happy and bright and shit. The US version's boss played by Steve Carrell is just too goofy. If that part was turned down a few notches, I'd probably watch it.

The only real similarities between the two shows it they both take place in paper company offices. After destroying Coupling, NBC got a hit on its hands by making a completely different show. NBC optioned Peep Show as well and it never made it to air.

I'd pay for a subscription to the best of BBC and Channel 4 because it is better than the dreck on the hundreds of channels I pay for now.
posted by birdherder at 10:12 AM on February 26, 2010


Granted at that point I groaned, turned off the DVD in mild annoyance, and went out for a pint, so it is quite possible I missed something.

Yeah, you missed the big Ewok party at the end.
posted by bondcliff at 10:14 AM on February 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


As an Ex-pat Brit in the US I've watched both versions and I have to agree that the original is superior. Still, I know that in franchising the show they were very careful to pitch it to each respective audience, so that might be why the US version just doesn't resonate with me. It seems to play for laughs which is something that the UK version never does and that's why it doesn't really gel with me.

And this is the moment where the UK and US Office versions fork -- Kelly slaps Michael. In the UK version, David would have gone on for another minute as the room got more and more silent and Kelly stood frozen. But in the American version, there's a response to the repetition, and the resolution -- Michael exclaiming joyfully "See, that's what I'm talking about!"

I think that says what I've been thinking about both versions. It's the difference between embarrassing and mortifying. The UK version may seem cruel, but it's all lead by David Brent's total inability to see himself for what he is. The great thing about the Christmas Special is that it's pitched so perfectly. There is a happy ending but it's so understated as to be really quite affecting.
posted by ob at 10:14 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


After destroying Coupling, NBC got a hit on its hands by making a completely different show. NBC optioned Peep Show as well and it never made it to air.

They also optioned The IT Crowd, which might have done well if they'd learned from The Office and Americanized it, but from what I read from Richard Ayoade at the time, they tried to just reshoot the original scripts with him and a couple of American actors, and the result was just terrible.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:18 AM on February 26, 2010


I hope that one day, UK audiences will get a chance to see Parks & Recreation. (Of course they can if they really try.) For me, it is the best TV in the world right now and has benefitted from the learning curve the production people have gone through in adapting & developing the US Office from the original.

Seriously, I cannot express just how fucking fantastic that show is and I live in mortal fear of its cancellation.
posted by i_cola at 10:33 AM on February 26, 2010


Gervais once called the American office a "remix" rather than a "remake." Think of it that way. You need not compare them and crown a winner.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:54 AM on February 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


l33tpolicywonk: "Warning: Hulu bleeps the cursewords."

Why do they do this? Did they license some bowderlized BBC America version of the show? I've watched movies with nudity on Hulu before with no editing, so it's not some misplaced "protect the children" mentality.
posted by graventy at 11:07 AM on February 26, 2010


IIRC, the IT Crowd actually filmed a pilot and was set to become a part of the NBC schedule but never materialized because of how bad started out.

i must say it made me quite sad, because the IT Crowd was a show i quite literally flew through. its a shame, because i think a show like it would really do well (either as an online hulu-only kind of show or on regular TV)

and if you like Gervais, you really should watch "extras"...theres some absolute LOL moments that are a part of the show...
posted by knockoutking at 11:08 AM on February 26, 2010


I've watched movies with nudity on Hulu before with no editing, so it's not some misplaced "protect the children" mentality.

Well, yeah. Yeah, it is.

The only thing I would note is that you have to have a log in account to view "adult" content. That's their CYA. They have some database that states you claimed to be 18+ in a form somewhere before you got a log in account to see said nudity and cheesemongering.

Yeah, and AdultCheck and NetNanny kept me from downloading porn at 15.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 11:14 AM on February 26, 2010


The U.S. Office also has an episode written by Gervais and Merchant, episode 9 season 3 "The Convict."
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:19 AM on February 26, 2010


Rory M., agree totally. The final episode of Extras is sheer genius in its depiction of the hollowness of fame and all that. Just brilliant writing by the two of them.
posted by Duug at 11:38 AM on February 26, 2010


Well, true. The only reason for editing is "protect the children", but I know I've watched R-rated content on there before. I feel like if they were bothering to cover their asses they'd go all out instead of some editing here and none there.
posted by graventy at 1:00 PM on February 26, 2010


The IT Crowd is sufficiently silly- in an often utterly absurd sort of way, as in Moss and the German- that I'm not sure it would really work well on US TV.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:05 PM on February 26, 2010


Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now,
There isn't grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!

Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those air -conditioned, bright canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
Tinned minds, tinned breath.

Mess up the mess they call a town-
A house for ninety-seven down
And once a week a half a crown
For twenty years.

And get that man with double chin
Who'll always cheat and always win,
Who washes his repulsive skin
In women's tears:

And smash his desk of polished oak
And smash his hands so used to stroke
And stop his boring dirty joke
And make him yell.

But spare the bald young clerks who add
The profits of the stinking cad;
It's not their fault that they are mad,
They've tasted Hell.

It's not their fault they do not know
The birdsong from the radio,
It's not their fault they often go
To Maidenhead

And talk of sport and makes of cars
In various bogus-Tudor bars
And daren't look up and see the stars
But belch instead.

In labour-saving homes, with care
Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
And dry it in synthetic air
And paint their nails.

Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
To get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
The earth exhales.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:26 PM on February 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


The best part of the US Office is definitely the large ensemble cast - it going on for so long does have drawbacks, but it has permitted it to explore all of these secondary characters and give them all life and interesting stories.

Toby for instance is more complex than actual leading characters of other shows. As are many of the Office's background characters.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:33 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope that one day, UK audiences will get a chance to see Parks & Recreation

Agreed. DJ Roomba is the finest comic creation since Mr Creosote.
posted by Sparx at 1:53 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]




Excruciating, gut-wrenching, sobbing-in-your-tea joy. I don't think I could watch it again.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:33 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The interesting thing about the finale of Extras, coming from a US perspective, is that it mocks a part of British TV that never gets exported.

It's like how people from outside the US are always shocked that the top sitcom in the US is Two and a Half Men.
posted by smackfu at 2:41 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Shit, I'm shocked that the top sitcom in the US is Two and a Half Men.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:45 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


They should make a new category on television and call it Two and a Half Men so we can say the top sitcom is something else. Two and a Half Men is definitely the top Two and a Half Men on television though, no doubt.
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:03 PM on February 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thank goodness for the Christmas special. If it had ended at the end of the second season, I'm not sure I could have taken it.

I won't watch the special for this reason. It feels like a cheat to me. In the world I know, it would end exactly like the end of the second season, and life would grind on in misery. The UK version is much closer to what I have personally experienced in corporate America. The US version is funny, but it doesn't hurt in the same truthful way.

And maybe there are regional differences in how people react to things - I once had a coworker tell a hideously bigoted joke and an entire office froze into statues as the person telling it went on and on, oblivious to the disbelieving pained looks all around her. After it was over, we all stood in shock and then, after what felt like an hour of silence, someone awkwardly changed the subject.
posted by winna at 7:42 PM on February 26, 2010


Well, we can debate the merits of the two shows forever, but they've becomes very different animals.

summary for brevity's sake: gervais was about the uncomfortable silences, and brent's squirming failure to get out of them. carrell has been about his hypersensitivity and the angry backlash against him.

I think this is well put, and pretty much spot on. but I don't think it's the whole story. i first encountered the show as the british version, but now when I re-watch it - as a huge fan of the american show - I feel like something's missing. and after a little while of giving it some thought, I think I know what it is. the british one was about the silences, and/or the kind of stunned shock at such a breach of decorum, because no one was willing to be as garish as brent was being, even in telling him off for his rudeness. the comedy was that he was so willing to draw attention to himself that he would behave THAT rudely within that culture. Maybe American culture is more comfortable with self-obsession (editor's note: almost certainly) and that's why they had to add something more to it. Because in Michael Scott, we have that self-obsession. But we also have the almost totally unapologetic racism, the sexism, the ignorance, the childishness. And what it ultimately boils down to, from Michael Scott, is the imposition of his worldview on everyone else in the office. So much of that show is centered around Michael Scott's head spinning when someone alerts him to an experience that does not fit his very white, middle class, sheltered world view. And the episodes tend to revolve around his desperate flailing to push against that new viewpoint, to reinforce what he already believed rather than confronting and accepting the new.

I believe they set out, when writing, with exactly the idea that Astro Zombie mentioned. And I think the maybe unintended result has been to draw a razor blade across the stretched balloon of our self-perception as Americans. The obsession with exceptionalism, the paternalism, the guilt of privilege, racism, sexism and even the neo-colonialism of modern america are on ridiculous display in Michael Scott. It's kind of amazing that the american version should have this characteristic where the british version doesn't, when you consider that Britain's reputation as an imperialistic oppressor has been almost totally overshadowed by America's own brand of global imperialism and - just as with Michael Scott - how America's flailings on the world stage are largely the shadow of us imposing our worldview on everyone else in service to our own selfish interests.

I mean, the show's just fucking funny on its face, and I love it. But I can't help but marvel that it seems to have this characteristic, even if it's accidentally.

small note: this is not in any way meant to imply the american version is better, or vice versa. just to detail what i perceive as being the differences.
posted by shmegegge at 7:42 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh fuck. did I just get post-modern on The Office? I hope not.
posted by shmegegge at 7:42 PM on February 26, 2010


shmeggage, the best description of Michael Scott that I ever heard was that he's essentially eight. He's naive, ignorant, and almost completely lacking in empathy- he simply does not understand that other people are, well, people. He buys into every narrative he's ever seen in a movie or on TV, and gets upset when people don't conform to how he thinks things should work. And it's not in a sociopathic way- he's simply a narcissist, craving the love and adoration of everyone and not fully able to understand why he can't simply have everything he wants.

What makes him an interesting character, to my mind, are the steps that the writers take to make sure that he's at least somewhat sympathetic- he may put his own feelings and desires ahead of everyone else's, but he's rarely openly malevolent, and he's capable of occasional empathy and realizing that he's gone too far. This is what I felt was missing from David Brent, and why I prefer watching Steve Carrell.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:34 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Shit, I'm shocked that the top sitcom in the US is Two and a Half Men.

It's not that terrible. You want to be shocked? According To Jim lasted eight seasons.
posted by dw at 10:45 AM on February 27, 2010


It's not that terrible. You want to be shocked? According To Jim lasted eight seasons.

God took the wrong Belushi.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:52 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now,
There isn't grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!


This is the poem "Slough", by Sir John Betjemen, probably never been here in his life. "Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough, it isn't fit for humans now." Right, I don't think you solve town planning problems by dropping bombs all over the place. He's embarrassed himself there. Next, "In labour saving homes with care, their wives frizz out peroxide hair, and dry it in synthetic air, and paint their nails-" they wan to look nice. What's the matter, doesn't he like girls? "And talks of sports and makes of cars, and various bogus Tudor bars, and daren't look up and see the stars, but belch instead." What's he on about? What, has he never burped? "Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough, to get it ready for the plough. The cabbages are coming now, the earth exhales-" He's the only cabbage round here. And they made him a night of the realm. Overrated.

(FWIW, Betjemen's daughter has claimed: "My father told us when we were children that he regretted the poem being published and he has suggested as much in his letters. He wrote it when he was still quite young and it was a political polemic against town planners and the like. It was included in a book of his poems by his publishers and I don't think he was aware it was going to be put in.")
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:26 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


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