'The Office' relocation loses little in translation to America

First Night: The Office (US) NBC

It is NBC's bad luck that any television critic worth their salt will have watched the original BBC version of
The Office before reviewing the network's own stab at the mockumentary sitcom for US viewers which made its debut on Thursday night.

It is NBC's bad luck that any television critic worth their salt will have watched the original BBC version of The Office before reviewing the network's own stab at the mockumentary sitcom for US viewers which made its debut on Thursday night.

It was never going to be better, or even half as good, as the British series created by Ricky Gervais. But the good news is that America's version of The Office seems to be off to a decent start.

So far, no one is rushing to pan it as they did NBC's ill-starred recreation last year of another Brit hit, Coupling (and, believe me, that was awful). On the contrary, the network is getting credit for placing what can only be described as a quirky, often painful, half-hour of deadpan humour in prime time. Gervais is not the star this time, but, with his co-creator of the show, Stephen Merchant, he does appear in the credits as one of the executive producers.

And, just to be safe, the first episode was almost a carbon copy of the first half-hour of Britain's The Office, sometimes word for word. The differences are the actors, and - of course - the name of the paper company that the office drudges work for and the town it is set in. Welcome to Dunder Mifflin, a paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The Dunder may be a sly reference to the dunderheaded sensibility of the Gervais lead, this time called Michael Scott (instead of David Brent) and played by Steve Carell, familiar to US audiences as a faux reporter on the late-night hit The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Episode one sees him displaying all the awfulness of Brent, at one point pretending to sack a wan receptionist because he thinks it's funny. There is nothing brave - or original - about purloining the best from Britain's comedy larder and reworking it for US viewers. Yet, NBC is being applauded precisely for bravery. And you can see why. There is no laugh track on The Office. And it will surely take a while before NBC's audiences get the hang of the meandering camera angles and long, long pauses.

But the network has worked hard at getting it right. The Office over here has a strong stable of writers who will diverge from the original British script in ensuing episodes. First among them is Greg Daniels, who was the co-creator of King of the Hill and a former writer from Saturday Night Live.

If it compromised at all it was in casting good looking actors - much better looking than their British counterparts. And NBC knows that the shadow of its Coupling debacle hangs over The Office and the reception it will get from American critics. But the suits at NBC, who secretly hope that The Office might turn into their next Seinfeld-like sleeper hit, will be breathing more easily now.

"This time," the Philadelphia Enquirer wrote last night, "the network comes much closer to getting it right."

Similarly welcoming was New York Times' Alessandra Stanley. "Though it grates to admit, the American version of The Office is very funny," she commented before adding: "for viewers who never saw the original series". As she points out, though, while Britain's The Office has been airing on the cable channel BBC America, there aren't many households who get it.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
filmEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Account Manager / Sales Account Manager / Recruitment Account Manager

£25k Basic (DOE) – (£30k year 1 OTE) : Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright A...

Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

£20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

Trend Writer / Copywriter

£25 - 30k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Trend Writer / Copywriter: Retail, Design and...

Business Development Manager / Media Sales Exec

£28 - 32k + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering