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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Televison: I Love 'The Office' 

I came across AA-S XLent blogger Sarah Lindley's post about "The Office," and it made me realize that I had not yet mentioned the new NBC sitcom.

Calling it "new" is actually a misnomer. "The Office" is an American translation of the cult BBC comedy. To tell the truth, when I first heard of its debut, I had -- much like Lindley -- mixed feelings. But after seeing a few episodes I think it's probably the best comedy since "Seinfeld."

Like its British counterpart, "The Office" is an irreverant look at life in the workplace, and all of the awkward day-to-day situations we find ourselves tip-toeing around in real life. Except no one tip-toes in this show.

Though not as crude or coarse as the BBC version (the FCC would have a field day with the Slough crew), characters in the NBC "Office" are just as honest, confrontational and non-PC as the blokes across the pond, and you know what? Except for Steve Carell as Michael Scott, Dunder-Mifflin's division manager, I like the Americans better.

Last week's "Diversity Day" episode was by far the funniest thing I've seen on television in years. After that I feared that the show might have peaked in its second episode, but the Scranton bunch put my fears to rest with a laugh-til-your-sides-hurt jab at insurance plans.

Diversity? Insurance? It doesn't sound like much, does it? Then you see Carell "quote" President Lincoln ("Don't be a racist, or I'll attack you with the North") before having his employees place notecards with ethnic groups on their heads and act out stereotypes to learn about racial sensitivity. Or you'll watch underling Dwight (the American version of Gareth) demand that the others disclose their diseases when he sets out to slash the medical plan ("Who wrote 'hot dog fingers?'").

Unlike formulaic themed sitcoms and goofy family shows, "The Office" puts the characters at the forefront, and like "Seinfeld," lets their interactions guide the way. It might not be wholly original, but it's far above most of the crap on TV.


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