The Office/The Office crossover
January 28, 2011 5:00 AM   Subscribe

Michael Scott meets David Brent.

David: "Where you working?"
Michael: "Dunder Mifflin."
David: "Any jobs going?"
Michael: "Not right now."
David: "Just let me know..."

Ricky Gervais on the cameo and Steve Carell's departure from NBC's The Office.

And for trivia buffs: Wikipedia's page on the multiple versions of The Office worldwide.
posted by crossoverman (61 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just when I thought I was all Gervais'd out, this comes along and makes me miss David Brent so damn much! And it reminds me to watch the original series once more, since the US remake rarely makes me laugh...
posted by newfers at 5:04 AM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


this comes along and makes me miss David Brent so damn much!

Concur.

nd it reminds me to watch the original series once more, since the US remake rarely makes me laugh...

Really? I love both versions. I really, really thought I was going to hate the U.S. version. I think it's been one of the funniest shows on TV in a good long while these days. it's had it's ups and downs but the first three seasons are absolutely hysterical, and their are gems after those seasons too.
posted by IvoShandor at 5:12 AM on January 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


*there . . . no sleep, to little sleeps
posted by IvoShandor at 5:13 AM on January 28, 2011


This managed to simultaneously fill me with unbridled joy and unabiding sorrow.
posted by hecho de la basura at 5:14 AM on January 28, 2011


I stopped watching the US version a couple of years back, but for a while it was one of the best sitcoms on TV. It wasn't quite as remarkable as the UK version, which is its own beast. Both own a piece of my heart, though, which is why I love this clip so much.
posted by crossoverman at 5:15 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Agreed, hecho de la basura...
It's been a while since either of them made me laugh, and I miss it so!
posted by quentiniii at 5:16 AM on January 28, 2011


Hug.
posted by saturday_morning at 5:23 AM on January 28, 2011


This managed to simultaneously fill me with unbridled joy and unabiding sorrow.

That's what she said!

Ha ha ha ha ha huh
posted by orme at 5:26 AM on January 28, 2011 [17 favorites]


Eponysterical.
posted by knave at 5:34 AM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


OK, now they've done everything right? It can end now.

I loved the first few seasons, but it's 7 seasons in (which is like 70 in TV years) and it's gotten pretty repetitive.
posted by keratacon at 5:36 AM on January 28, 2011


This and the return of Parks and Rec last night made my Thursday full of win.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:09 AM on January 28, 2011


Sometimes, when you see somebody post a comment in the wrong thread, you so desperately wish that it was the right thread after all. The world becomes so interesting.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:09 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The UK Office is still the place my mind goes when it wants to tickle itself.
posted by Decani at 6:20 AM on January 28, 2011


That's what she said!
posted by Sebmojo at 6:20 AM on January 28, 2011


Seeing as I started laughing before I saw the clip at the very mention of it, I was obviously going to enjoy this.
posted by ob at 6:27 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also love that when asked if he's English, David Brent replies "Big Time." Because, as we all know, there are ranks of Englishness.
posted by ob at 6:31 AM on January 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


For some reason, I thought that Ricky Gervais had already appeared in The Office as Michael Scott's annoying doctor/friend*

Given this (incorrect) assumption, the cameo appearance was really confusing to me. I didn't understand why the two characters were pretending not to know each other when their relationship had already been established. Thankfully, this post (and IMDB) cleared everything up.

* according to IMDB, I was thinking of the character Gervais played in Louis C.K.'s sitcom, Louie.
posted by calcetina at 7:01 AM on January 28, 2011


Was this a one off or does it portend a David Brent role post-Michael Scott? Can't watch vids at work.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:12 AM on January 28, 2011


That was fun. I'm a little bit sick of the US version of the office by now. But that said it's been a remarkable adaptation. The UK office only ran for a little bit more than the equivalent of one US season, the US office was able to take that skeleton and create 4 good seasons or so before running the thing completely into the ground.

The biggest difference/weakness is that Michael Scott is mostly a good person who just happens to be terribly mentally ill if the particular episode demands it where David Brent is a much more consistent character.
posted by I Foody at 7:14 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Was this a one off or does it portend a David Brent role post-Michael Scott?

At the end, he asks if there are any job openings, and Scott says no. Brent says to keep him posted.

In the context of Carell leaving the show, I suppose you could read that into it, but there's a tone of finality at the end, and I'd be stunned if Gervais would step back like that. The Office is pretty much done.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:25 AM on January 28, 2011


I have to admit that I have done a complete 180 on the US version of the Office. Hated it at first, but have kinda fallen in love with it while watching reruns on my local station. It really is a talented cast.
posted by puny human at 7:33 AM on January 28, 2011


It's weird how the narrative conceit of "filming a documentary" sorta comes and goes depending on whether the writers feel like dealing with it. Over the last couple seasons, it seems like they just kinda completely gave up on it; David Brent doesn't seem to notice a camera at all here.

Oddly, I'm noticing that I don't actually mind that. I kinda like how the faux-documentary-with-interview-asides aesthetic has now become normal enough that no ostensible film crew even needs to be acknowledged anymore, and characters can just give interview-soliloquies at random, with no real-world logic behind the question of when they do or don't notice cameramen. It's kinda like we're going back to Elizabethan drama that way, which I find fun.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:39 AM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Jim and Pam's wedding should have been the last episode of The Office.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:40 AM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Dr. Zira - Parks and Rec actually returned last week. I hadn't realized how much I'd miss on Swanson and Andy Dwyer until it reaired and then this week they totally hooked up.
posted by maryr at 7:58 AM on January 28, 2011


You had me at meat tornado.
posted by kmz at 7:59 AM on January 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


The Gervais video from the link from the OP (Ricky Gervais on the cameo and Steve Carell's departure from NBC's The Office) is actually here. The other link has other stuff, but the Piers Morgan/Gervais interview is disabled on that link. CNN has it enabled on YT.
posted by beelzbubba at 8:21 AM on January 28, 2011


I too loved the original and hated the idea of an American remake. I was smug with schadenfreude when the first episodes were crap. But you know, I have to respect the fact that they recognized the problem, and came up with a solution that remained true to the spirit of the show while making it work for an American audience. What they did to that show between the short first season and season two should be film school required study for how to save a struggling TV show that hasn't quite hit its mark. (I can talk about this at great length, but will spare you.)

That said, I really don't think they should continue it beyond this season. I won't say it's gone on too long, though they probably could have done it in a season or so less. But I don't think the show has any reason to be there without Michael Scott. Once his basic character arc is resolved (a la David Brent's redemptive moment in the Special where he tells Chris Finch to go fuck himself for insulting the woman who we know can save Brent's soul if he doesn't screw it up) the show is over. It's done what it set out to do. They've resolved the Jim and Pam story. They sort of try to come up with replacement storylines for us to follow, but the only one that's really got any traction is none other than Michael and Holly. Once that's gone, what we're left with is characters we like not really doing anything that would matter to us if we didn't already like them. That's something. It's more than Shit My Dad Says has going for it, for example. But it's not going to keep the show at the heights it once occupied. Better to say thank you and bow out gracefully.
posted by Naberius at 8:46 AM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


(I can talk about this at great length, but will spare you.)

I wouldn't complain.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:53 AM on January 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's weird how the narrative conceit of "filming a documentary" sorta comes and goes depending on whether the writers feel like dealing with it. Over the last couple seasons, it seems like they just kinda completely gave up on it; David Brent doesn't seem to notice a camera at all here.

It's possible The Office has been doing this sort of thing, too, but there's a moment in last season's Parks and Recreation where Leslie is in someone's house talking to them and then turns around to the camera crew to do an immediate talking head segment, and the camera crew she's clearly talking to in the second shot is completely absent from the first. That was the point where I realized that they'd completely stopped trying to even pretend in their framing device, but, like you said, it still works without me believing there's some documentary being filmed.

That said, I think it would be really cool if someone put together an actual documentary out of the clips of the Office, because I think it does tell a compelling story about the dynamics of managers vs. employees and how an idealistic person who is friendly and good at his job can turn into the boss everyone hates.
posted by Copronymus at 9:23 AM on January 28, 2011


Jim and Pam's wedding should have been the last episode of The Office.

Except that Michael Scott is really the hero of the show.

Also, the wedding episode kinda sucked.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:24 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


That said, I think it would be really cool if someone put together an actual documentary out of the clips of the Office, because I think it does tell a compelling story about the dynamics of managers vs. employees and how an idealistic person who is friendly and good at his job can turn into the boss everyone hates.

Have you seen the series of articles on ribbonfarm, where dude tries to codify this?
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
posted by Greg Nog at 9:34 AM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'd be stunned if Gervais would step back like that. The Office is pretty much done.

I doubt the show will end this season, because it's a cash cow. It SHOULD end, but it won't. Like almost all American network shows, it will keep going until it fails in the ratings. It will basically keep on going until it totally sucks.

On his blog, Gervais has pretty much said he's NOT going to replace Carrell. He didn't say it point blank, but he said something like, "Let's see. I could do all the work of actually appearing on the show every week. Or I could just continue to get a paycheck for doing nothing. Hmmm...."
posted by grumblebee at 10:06 AM on January 28, 2011


Although, as I said above, I'm pretty sure the show will keep going until it sucks, I am not convinced the suckitude will start when Carell leaves -- even though he's my favorite thing about the show.

What's clear is that his departure will force the writers to go in a totally new direction. That could mean veering into horribleness. Or it could mean they find some totally new, exciting way to tell stories.

If I had to place a bet, I'd bet on the former. But I've seen the latter happen before, so you never know.

I think the WORST thing they could do would be to replace Carell with someone who plays a very similar character. If the ARE going to keep the show running, it's time to innovate.
posted by grumblebee at 10:08 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or it could mean they find some totally new, exciting way to tell stories.

*crosses fingers for 22 minutes of Creed Bratton per week*
posted by Greg Nog at 10:12 AM on January 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


I enjoy the American Office; it has been uneven the last two-three years, but still reliable for a smile or a laugh. I was greatly thrilled to see this occur on last night's episode - a beautiful touch, and to me, a complete nod to the fact that the series is near its end. They are making the last curtain calls and self-aware nods to the audience.

As Naberius has said, the fundamental conflicts of the show are resolved (or close) - Jim & Pam; Holly & Michael. Michael's exit appears (to me, at least) to be well set-up - in order to be with Holly, he has to leave. There is no other tension or character(s) left on the show to make it worth the attempt to continue. It would degenerate into one note gags pretty quickly.

I would love to be surprised, but don't think that even a brilliant casting choice to replace Steve Carell and some brilliant writing to make a vibrant, different character than Michael Scott will change the fact that the show is losing its driving force.
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:12 AM on January 28, 2011


an idealistic person who is friendly and good at his job can turn into the boss everyone hates

Are you talking about the original The Office or the U.S. version? Michael Scott is not an idealistic person. He is not friendly. He is not good at his job.

Michael Scott is, at his core, a terrible person. He tries to pretend to be a nice person, but ultimately is always selfish and despicable. The writing and acting are so brilliant that they make that despicable, selfish, terrible person also a sympathetic character who the viewer doesn't totally hate.

David Brent is, at his core, a pretty good person. But he thinks that he needs to be popular, so he does and says things that he thinks will make him more popular and successful but that backfire.

If David wasn't dumb, he would be a good person. If Michael wasn't so dumb, he would be a villain.
posted by The World Famous at 10:25 AM on January 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


I was having trouble seeing Gervais as Brent last night. He's lost too much weight. (Good for him, though.)
posted by SpiffyRob at 10:49 AM on January 28, 2011


Michael Scott is, at his core, a terrible person.

I disagree with this. But ultimately it comes down to how you define "a terrible person." Certainly, he's done some terrible things and has some terrible attitudes. So if that is enough to make him terrible in your eyes, it makes sense that you see him that way.

But he's not a sociopath. There have been many episodes in which he's been going down some terrible, selfish road, and then his conscience pulls him back.

I seem him as small, frightened person. Carell has laid his neurosis too much on the table for me to every hate him.

I loved Gervias's performance (in general, I'm a bigger fan of the UK version), but your response to the two characters surprised me, because I feel the opposite. I think David Brent is FAR less redeemable than Michael Scott.
posted by grumblebee at 10:58 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I agree that Michael is not a sociopath. But I think that only makes him more despicable. He is capable of recognizing that he should not act the way he does, but he does it anyway. Michael's conscience only kicks in when he recognizes that his selfish designs have failed. If he were competent, he would accomplish his self-serving ends and his conscience would never kick in.

I, too, see him as a small, frightened person. I don't hate him - for precisely the reasons you set forth. But the reason he's a small, frightened person is that he is in incompetent villain. He tells us and himself that he is good and kind. But it is not so. We want it to be so. But it simply is not.
posted by The World Famous at 11:06 AM on January 28, 2011


I have to respect the fact that they recognized the problem, and came up with a solution that remained true to the spirit of the show while making it work for an American audience.

What's the problem they recognized? I'd honestly like to know what you're saying.

Michael Scott is not an idealistic person. He is not friendly. He is not good at his job.

If there's one gold star that can be attached to Michael Scott's name, it's this: he is one damn good salesman. Over and over again, the show has reinforced his ability to sell paper, even in the worst circumstances. Someone was an idiot when they promoted him to manager, but he's a success at his craft.
posted by meese at 11:19 AM on January 28, 2011


Please note that I'm not arguing with you, because, in the end, it's a subjective call.

But one of the redeeming things I see about Scott is that he likes people. Yes, he's very selfish. Yes, when he tries to entertain people, he's chiefly doing it to get strokes. But, as Carrell plays him, I DO get the feeling that he genuinely wants what's best for those around him.

There are a zillion caveats to that. If he has to choose between what's best for, say, Jim and what's best for himself, of course he's going to choose himself. He's a selfish, selfish man.

But there have been many episodes where he's shown a genuine desire to help.

Often, on the show, the joke is that Scott is pretending to help by actually doing something self serving. And we can see through his lie.

But sometimes the joke is that he's genuinely trying to help but screwing it up through stupidity. But in those cases, his motives are pure.

There have been several episodes where he's given Jim advice about how to handle his (Jim's) crush on Pam. Of course, you can interpret these as attempts to say "look at what a relationship guru I am" or "I'm doing this to make Jim be my friend," but I think, at least in some cases, it's reasonably to interpret what he's doing as an attempt to be genuinely helpful.

What I think is brilliant about Carrell's performance is that it's all-of-the-above. It's layered. For instance, last night, I saw the episode where Corporate had closed down Scranton. To save the office, Scott drove to New York to meet with the CEO and convince him to keep Scranton going. He camped outside the CEO's house for hours.

Okay, why did he do this? You can say -- and I can't argue with you -- that it was for selfish reasons. In fact, I wouldn't try to argue with you, because I think he DID do it for selfish reasons. But what I saw in Carrell's performance -- and, of course, this is just an interpretation -- included many other layers.

He was trying to save the office...

- because he was trying to save his own job, and
- because he wanted to look like a hero, and
- because he wanted everyone in the office to like him, and
- because he had stupidly bought into a Hollywood version of reality, and
- because he genuinely cares about the people who work under him.

I feel like if, say, Jim got fired, there would be a part of Scott who genuinely felt bad -- FOR JIM. To me, someone like that can never be a terrible person.

In the same episode, the boss at another branch -- that one Jim went to work for -- screwed everyone over by jumping ship in the middle of a big deal and taking a job at Staples. Jim turned to the camera and said, "Say what you like about Michael Scott, but he's never do that!"

Wow. I never thought I'd be standing up for a weak, selfish, silly FICTIONAL character.
posted by grumblebee at 11:29 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's the problem they recognized?

The first episode was basically using the script from the first-episode of the U.K. version. And all the actors seemed to be trying to mimic their U.K. counterparts.

After trying and failing at this (it felt inorganic and forced), the entire creative team (actors and writers) changed direction. They turned it from a copy of the U.K. show to its own show.

What's funny to me about the difference-of-opinion The World Famous and I are having, is that I thought, in an attempt to mimic Gervais, Carell's first try at Scott made him too unsympathetic. I don't mean that Gervais's character was totally unsympathetic. But I think he was LESS sympathetic than Carell's later attempt. But Gervais has this fun sharpness about him that makes him funny (to me, at least) at his most mean-spirited. It didn't work for Carell. When Carell tried to play the character that way, he came off as not-funny unpleasant.

Carell softened the character to match his own personality. He made him more baby-like.
posted by grumblebee at 11:35 AM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


You make some very compelling points, grumblebee.
posted by The World Famous at 11:39 AM on January 28, 2011


David Brent is a well-meaning, deeply insecure prick who desperately wants to be liked but whose social radar and feedback mechanisms are totally shot. That is why he is so magnificently, toe-curlingly hilarious.

I cannot comment on Michael Scott because I have not seen enough of him.
posted by Decani at 12:32 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


At this point, I feel compelled to link a clip from the UK Office that never fails to render me helpless and agonised with laughter. It's not all about the Scotch egg, but the Scotch egg is what guarantees at least one comedy orgasm.
posted by Decani at 12:42 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Still hoping one of them is revealed as the Scranton Strangler. Outside of that, who cares?
posted by unixrat at 12:47 PM on January 28, 2011


blocked due to copyright grounds so link borked. - mirror?
posted by lalochezia at 1:09 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, okay, I'll go into this, because people keep asking, and because others have described the character work in ways pretty much directly opposed to how I see it. This will take a while. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I'll start with the UK version because the US version originally tried to copy that, then evolved when copying it didn't work.

The Office is kind of an inversion of a style of comedy writing called Center and Eccentrics. In Center and Eccentrics, you have a main character who is a pretty normal person, someone we identify with, who is surrounded by "eccentrics" who obstruct his plans and the comic tension comes from him struggling to overcome them. One of the most clearly drawn examples is Green Acres. Oliver is a pretty normal guy, by comparison. He drastically over-romanticizes rural life, but he's clearly the straight man on the show. Every episode is about Oliver trying to fulfill his vision of being a proper gentleman farmer, and failing because he's surrounded by a pack of comic lunatics, (led by his own wife!) who always frustrate his plans.

The Office turns this inside out. David Brent is the eccentric. Except for Gareth, who is really just an extension of Brent, everyone else in the show is pretty much normal. They're not funny. Excepting the Special, which is indeed special, David just sails blithely through his little world, fucking up their lives at every turn. In many ways, he's the villain of the piece. It's particularly important to note that David doesn't want anything. He has no unresolved tension (again, until the special). In most shows, there's a central question that the show is ultimately about. Consider Friends. Despite the big ensemble cast, despite all the many storylines that run through it, at the end of the day, Friends is about Ross and Rachel. First episode, Rachel suddenly enters their world - wearing a wedding dress no less - and fretting about whether she's thrown away her future by skipping out on her wedding, and Ross falls in love with her on the spot. There's the question. Will Rachel's future be saved, and will Ross get the girl? That's why the last episode is about Ross and Rachel finally getting together for good.

The Office has no such question. David doesn't want anything that he doesn't have. He's happy as a pig in shit in his little Burnham Hogg world. This is one reason the writers needed the Tim/Dawn storyline, because it was the only source of forward momentum. Otherwise it would just be David making people miserable, making himself look bad, and ultimately getting hung out to dry.

That's where the humor comes from in the UK Office. David finally goes too far in some way, and just has to sit there with nowhere to go, while the show holds those moments. Sometimes the show is just laugh out loud funny, but often you're laughing more because you're so uncomfortable. That's a style of humor that works well for the British, and a subset of Americans who love British comedy. But it doesn't play mainstream in the states.

That's what the producers discovered when they essentially remade the UK Office in the first US season. It's very much like the original, because they're using a lot of the same scripts. It flopped and it flopped hard. For one thing, American audiences want to like the main character, and David Brent/first Season Michael Scott just aren't that likable. They're something to be tolerated and survived.

So how do you make Michael Scott likeable while still keeping him as the problem character who blunders through the show messing up everyone else. They did several things, starting with a physical makeover. Note how different Steve Carell looks, immediately in the first episode of Season Two. He's lost weight. He dresses better. He's got a better haircut. The supporting characters are also more eccentric. This was probably driven more by the fact that they were doing more episodes in a season than the UK show ever did, but it also helps smooth out the curve a bit. Michael causes more damage because he's in charge. Imagine Creed as the manager. He'd be even worse.

But there were three things they did that were key. Despite his general ineffectiveness, Michael really is a very good salesman. What his bosses take as inefficiency and cluelessness actually works very well for him. When the chips are down, he manages to land key accounts and save the day (this is mostly told rather than shown, but we do see it once, when he lands the county school account when Jan is about to mess up the close).

Second, they really put Michael's heart out on his sleeve in a way they would never do with David Brent because it's enormously not English. Yes, he's massively incompetent and has horrible social skills, but he just wants to be loved, and he genuinely cares about his people. Just as he occasionally does the right thing as a salesman, he occasionally does just the right thing as a person, as when he's the one guy who shows up at Pam's art show and gives her precisely what she needs at that moment.

So he's socially incompetent, which is why he causes so much comic trouble for everyone around him, but what drives him is something we can all identify with. He just wants to be loved. And we see plenty of evidence of why he feels so desperate for this, his longing for a happy family life that always eludes him because his tendency for inappropriate and grandiose gestures that scare people away. (Even while recognizing that they're inappropriate, the romantic in us appreciates the grand gesture.)

But third, and probably the single most important thing they did, they gave him corporate types to work with who are, for all their competent professionalism, far worse than he is. Critical moment because it's in both shows more or less. In the US version, they've closed Scranton, and they're going to give the regional job to Josh Porter. While Michael is doing the stupid but grandiose gesture of camping out on the CEO's front porch to argue their case, Porter proceeds to leverage his new position into an even better position with Staples, effectively selling out his own people. Jim, who is now one of those people because he fled from Pam after she rejected him at the end of Season Two, has a talking head where he says what may be the one key line about Michael Scott in the whole show. (Paraphrasing here, I may have the wording off.)

"Say what you will about Michael Scott, he would never do anything like that."

And that's what ultimately makes Michael Scott a good man. He may be insensitive and stupid. He may annoy the living shit out of you and make it hard to do your job. He may fill up your life with his neediness and bizarre schemes. But he will never stab you in the back, and there's plenty of others who will. Michael is loyal to the end, and that's something Americans find it very hard to dislike.

In a broader sense, one of the interesting things about the show is that the main character starts without a driving want, we learn to infer one for him over the course of the show. We see what he needs, even if he lacks the self-awareness to want it. This is necessarily much more compressed in the UK version where it pretty much all happens in the Special, when David finally meets the right woman, and suddenly we want him to not screw this one up. It's almost as satisfying when he makes the right choice and mans up to defend her against his supposed friend as it is when Dawn finally comes storming in to claim her man.

With Michael, they've been able to build that over time, particularly with Jan, who was just so awful to him. And then he meets Holly, and they rather brilliantly take her away from him to hold in reserve for whenever the show is winding down or Carell is leaving. You know that he and Holly are perfect for each other. Their dinner parties would probably be as horrible as the Michael/Jan one was, but they'd make each other happy. So now that they've basically resolved the main question about Jim and Pam, this one, which didn't even exist for several seasons, has slowly and organically grown to the point that it can carry the show.

There. I know some of you will disagree with this, and I'm sorry it went on for so damn long. But that's my take, and why I'm really impressed with the US Office from a strategic, writers' point of view.
posted by Naberius at 1:36 PM on January 28, 2011 [30 favorites]


Ack. What I forgot - I knew there had to be something - was that, when David Brent gets a chance to sell out his own people for his own advancement, he jumps at it. He just fails because he's incompetent. That's the crucial difference between him and Michael.
posted by Naberius at 1:41 PM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Michael Scott is a far more sympathetic character than David Brent. I think he lacks the cruelty of Brent, and we've been allowed to see his vulnerabilities to make him more sympathetic - particularly where his relationship with Jan was shown. It was really at that point that I began to warm to him more.

"Dinner Party" still makes me cringe with embarrassment, mostly for Michael in his pathetic attempts to impress his guests and in tolerating the abuse heaped on him by Jan, until he reaches breaking point. Jan's comment (in the "Goodbye Toby" episode) about why she chose to be impregnated by artificial insemination at the time she was living with Michael ("If I was 22, and I had lots of time to have lots of children, then sure, let's let Michael have a shot at one of 'em. But, honestly, I need to make this one count.") is one of the cruellest put-downs imaginable.
posted by essexjan at 2:12 PM on January 28, 2011


Some years ago my old boss, an English ex-pat, mentioned in the break room that The Office (UK) was his Favourite Show Of All Time. I could only ask "You know that it's fictional, right? A comedy? It isn't *supposed* to be an instructional series for managers."

I know it's a great show; I've seen short clips and Gervais is brilliant and the writing's excellent. But I simply can't watch it; I can't invite that into my living room.
posted by MarchHare at 2:16 PM on January 28, 2011


Naberius, those were great posts. And they make me realize how lucky we are to have these two shows. (I am in the group that thinks both versions are great, with a slight preference for the U.K. version.)

We're lucky on the one hand because it's nice to have good comedy to watch. But what I mean is that it's really cool to have two versions of the same basic premise with such interesting differences.

It's common for the US and the U.K. to do versions of each-other's shows (normally the US steals from the U.K.), but usually one of the two is good while the other is a total failure.

It's neat to be able to hold both of these similar but different worlds in my head.

One thing that I respond to is Michael Scott's theatricality. I imagine some people just find it absurd, even if they enjoy watching it for the comedy. But I relate to it in a complicated way. I guess I have a Michael-Scott side to me -- a part of me that sees the world though operatic/comic-book/Hollywood lenses. I am generally self-aware enough to not act on that part of myself, but I can feel it inside me.

One of my favorite moments in the U.S. "Office" -- one of my favorite moments in ANY comedy -- is [ SPOILER: ] the episode where Scott gets told he has to declare bankruptcy. After denying his predicament for a while, he finally realizes he has no other choice. At which point he walks out onto the main office floor, and proclaims in a booming voice, "I. DECLARE. BANKRUPTCY!"

To me, this is funny on so many levels. It's funny that Scott thinks that's how you declare bankruptcy -- that you literally declare it. It's funny that he's doing something so absurd in front of his co-workers. It's funny that, of course, this isn't going to help his financial situation at all.

But mostly, to me, it's funny because Carell plays it so seriously. He has a look in his eye like he just reached the peak of Mount Everest and he's claiming it for the motherland. And you get this great window into his whole psyche, in which everything is the size of that Bugs Bunny cartoon that's a parody of Wagner's "Ring Cycle."

And I'm partly laughing because there but for the grace of God go I. I would never make that particular mistake, because I know what declaring bankruptcy means. But if I thought it actually meant "declare it out loud," I'd be at least momentarily tempted to give it my all, the way Michael Scott does.

In the end, I wouldn't, because I'd be embarrassed to act to BIG in front of people. So Scott is braver than I am. And, in a twisted way, I admire him for it.

Now, here's the interesting thing: he does it well. He doesn't declare bankruptcy well, because that's not the way you declare bankruptcy. But he DECLARES well. He totally, 100% commits to it without any self-consciousness.

Which is something Scott can do but Brent can't. I NEVER feel sympathy with Brent, when he was doing his comedy and his music videos. Because he's always so self-conscious while he's doing them. WHILE he's doing them, he's thinking, "Please like this please like this please like this..." Whereas Scott just dives into the deep end, fails spectacularly and THEN gets self conscious. Or he's self-conscious before -- but then he gets brave and takes a risk. It's a totally absurd, wrong-headed risk, but it's heroic, because he gives his all to it.

I honestly can't imagine David Brent ever being good at anything. But I CAN imagine Michael Scott being good at musical theatre or improve comedy. He'd have a LOT of work to do, and his fear and selfishness would probably keep him from succeeding. But I think there's just a CHANCE he could succeed. And so a part of me is cheering him on.

And that's the thing about his relationship with Holly: when they're silly together, they're genuinely enjoying being silly. They are not self-conscious. When David Brent is silly, it's ALWAYS to gain something. The point is never the silliness -- the theatricality -- itself. It's fearless performance.

Remember that [SPOILER:] agonizing moment when he kissed Oscar? Again, it was complicated. It was stupid and homophobic and done for the wrong reason (and it was the wrong thing to do)... but he DID it. It was really hard for him and he overcame his fears. I can't help but admire that, even as I'm cringing and realizing that I'm watching a selfish, prejudiced, silly man.
posted by grumblebee at 2:25 PM on January 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


A lot of what I would have said has already been covered by grumblebee and Naberius, but can't let this topic go without riding my number 1 Office hobby horse: Jim is Michael with some slightly better breaks. He's already started acting like a selfish jerk with increasing regularity (in recent episodes, his throwing a snowball at a completely unprepared Dwight and his suddenly dropping out of Andy's seminar just to avoid an awkward encounter), and my hope for the finale is that they make the transformation clear instead of hinting at it like they have so far.
posted by Copronymus at 3:00 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Wasn't there a brief subplot where Michael Scott *did* try his hand at improv theater, and torpedoed himself because of his constant need to be center stage? Or did I make that up in my head? Doesn't really undercut your point, either way, just thought it was interesting if it actually happened.)
posted by kyrademon at 3:01 PM on January 28, 2011


Yeah, that happened. Michael kept pulling out a gun and shooting everybody in his improv scenes because that, he claimed, was the ultimate dramatic act.
So the instructor made him surrender all his guns, but didn't count on Michael also having the one in his sock.

Anyway, The Office without Michael Scott would be like that disastrous, truncated final season of Alf in 1988, after Alf had quit the show.
posted by Flashman at 4:04 PM on January 28, 2011


Thanks Naberius, for an excellent comment.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:34 PM on January 28, 2011


Regarding the idea that The Office is dead after Carell, Paul Lieberstein had a bit to say about their new direction:
Despite the looming loss of Carell, Lieberstein (as well as several other writer-producers-actors on The Office we spoke to last night at an NBC party) seems pretty damn upbeat about the second half of the year, and beyond. "This time last year there was probably a lot of dread," Lieberstein admits. "But right now there's a lot of excitement. We're having the kinds of conversations we had in seasons one and two about, 'What is the show?' It feels like we ... can really influence the show in a way we couldn't last year. It feels really cool."
I think it could reinvigorate the show a bit and really change things up. The Michael schtick has rather run its course. As an eccentric, you can only go so far before you wear thin. The lesser-eccentrics still have material and room to explore, and a new main character to help shift focus and change gears might really be fun to watch. I'm not willing to write it off just yet.
posted by disillusioned at 3:33 AM on January 29, 2011


Flagged, sorry. The video was removed from youtube.
posted by chairface at 9:01 AM on January 29, 2011


Flagged, sorry. The video was removed from youtube.

The same video on the NBC site - which is hopefully accessible to everyone.
posted by crossoverman at 2:45 PM on January 29, 2011


Greg Nog:
*crosses fingers for 22 minutes of Creed Bratton per week*

I would be okay with this. He's so ... Creed ... that 22 minutes of him shopping for produce at the supermarket would put me on the ground laughing.
posted by chinesefood at 10:57 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Creed's reaction when his name was mentioned in Dwight's list of people who'd had sex in the office was incredible last night.
posted by SpiffyRob at 6:08 AM on February 11, 2011


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