Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Later, schmater

You waited a long-ass time for any kind of updates, so who am I to be coy? Here then is the David Brent vs. Michael Scott deliberation, only a year or so too late to be timely:

David Brent vs. Michael Scott: Would You Rather…?

Here is the basic timeline of my Office-obsession: Had watched and enjoyed the BBC version on BBC America back in the day. Definitely found it funny, awkward, etc. Even back then, I remember observing that it got better upon rewatch because when you know what’s coming, you can sit back and just laugh. Knowing exactly what horrible, offensive, racist, sexist (or special combination of all of them) thing David was going to do or say took the edge off.
Then came the American Office. Blah blah blah sacrilege, hopeless, didn’t-they-learn-from-Coupling-cakes. Turns out it is a-MAY-zing! (TM Kelly Kapoor). I bought both S1 and S2 DVDs after Thanksgiving last year and burned through them in less than 2 weeks. Then I bought all of the S3 eps I had missed on iTunes. And the addiction was born. I will spare you the true force of my shippiness; suffice to say that in my world, JG = Jammy Goodness and it is something I require soon (PAGING GREG DANIELS). But that is not what this post is about.
Clearly, they made conscious choices with the America Office to differentiate it from the BBC version. Arguably, the biggest deviation is the portrayal of everyone’s fearless leader, Michael Scott. Go back to S1 and he has more of the jerky, self-centeredness that was David Brent’s core. Since then he has evolved into an awkward, oftentimes clueless schmuck who nevertheless has good intentions in his heart. Almost everything he does, from embarrassing routines through almost ruining Phyllis’ wedding, comes from a desperate need to be loved and validated. Because we are shown this soft underbelly and the occasional, unexpected moments when Michael actually does not fuck something up, we root for him. Steve Carrell is simply too nice a guy to believably play an irredeemable asshole for any extended period of time.
I’m absolutely in favor of this tonal shift; I think it makes the show funnier overall and certainly more palatable for American audiences. However (OMG, a point to all of this) because we root for Michael Scott, it makes it *worse* knowing when he is about to do or say something awful. I promise you, I wouldn’t willingly sit through Gay Witch Hunt again without fast-forwarding through the Michael-Oscar kiss. In fact, 99% of the time when I rewatch an episode (which is at least once every week and sometimes more than once) I have to skip the Michael bits.
I recently re-watched Series 1 of the BBC Office and found myself actually looking forward to the worst of David Brent. He is such a spectacular trainwreck, and Ricky Gervais just owns Un!Comfortable! like no one else, that it is more fun to root against David. Not in a vindictive, hope-he-gets-fired kind of way, but in a gleeful, my god, what else could possibly happen to make this worse way? Which is I think ¾ of the appeal of Sanjaya.

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