A Pale Imitation

NBC is remaking the classic British sitcom The Office, and after the first episode, I have to say that it’s not quite a flop, but not quite great either. It’s like one of those streetcorner artists who paints an imitation of a Van Gogh — sure it’s not a bad painting, but it’s definitely not as good as the original.

The Americanized remake takes essentially the same plot and characters and tries to shoehorn them into a US context. The problem with that is that British humor is not like American humor. The Office is a very British show, and that British humor just doesn’t translate well to the US. Steven Colbert (who has to step into the sizable shoes of the brilliant Ricky Gervais) does a decent job, but he’s far too affable to pull off the character.

And that’s the problem with the American version of The Office — it’s just a pale imitation of the original. Everything’s the same as the original, but the edges have been worn off. Of course, without that edgy sense of humor you just don’t have The Office. Even when reenacting one of the most cruel scenes from the original, the remake pulls its punches.

That being said, even as a pale imitation of the original, The Office is still better than every sitcom currently out there. The refreshing lack of a studio audience and a laugh track along with the cinema verite style of the original. However, one wonders if the American version would dare follow the even more cruel humor of the second season of the British original. NBC deserves credit for trying to shake up the moribund format of the sitcom, and The Office will hopefully find an audience, but for those of us who have had the privilege of seeing the original, the remake has a ways to go before it can step into its sizeable shoes.

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