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01.25.2007

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must-see dvd tv: the office (US), extras
by Yee-Fan Sun
| 1 2 3
continued from page 1

Although it begins as a weirdly literal adaptation of the wonderful original British sitcom of the same name, the US version soon branches out from its remake roots and becomes a thoroughly addictive pleasure in its own right. Shot in faux-documentary style, the show perfectly captures and mocks the soul-sucking boredom of 9-5 cubicle life Ė complete with annoying coworkers and petty politics, crazy boss and lame team-building events. The lighting is unflattering, the décor is gray-putty-navy bland, and everyone looks vaguely worn-down and dresses a little frumpy (although this being the American version, if you look closely, you notice that most of the cast is still fairly easy on the eyes Ė US television doesnít have as nearly as high a tolerance for ordinary, not-terribly-attractive people as UK television shows do, which is sort of a shame). Combining a very talented cast with smart, snappy writing, The Office also gives us a delightfully nutty set of characters that are laugh-out-loud weird, and totally believable. They start off as recognizable stereotypes, but as the series progresses we get more and more insight into each one. Even the ones who drive you bonkers turn out to have something kind of appealing about them, whether itís uptight weirdo Dwight (a hilariously deadpan funny Rainn Wilson) or the incredibly annoying Michael (Steve Carrell, who manages to make you genuinely feel for the character even when heís saying and doing cringingly embarrassing, horrifyingly offensive things). Meanwhile, minor characters arenít left to remain cardboard cutouts; they might not get the major storylines, but theyíre so beautifully realized that you soon discover you canít imagine the show without them.

Still, itís in two key areas that the show will really make devout fans even out of the folks who go into it with low expectations that the American interpretation will actually be able to live up to the terrific BBC original. For one thing, the US show repeatedly tackles an issue that didnít come up much in the original version: race relations. Specifically, The Office skewers the ridiculous American notion of political correctness and our collective national cultural delusion that using the right words means weíre now an enlightened, race-blind society. Some of the funniest Ė and most thought-provoking Ė jokes revolve around Michaelís racism. Itís not the ďI hate [insert minority subgroup here]Ē variety, but the kind that results from making sweeping, often incorrect assumptions about people who fall under a different census survey category than you do. In short, itís exactly the sort of subtle racism that any non-white American can tell you they face most often. Meanwhile, as brilliant as the comedy can get, The Office offers viewers a little bit of good ol-fashioned drama too, as it slowly and gracefully gets us invested in the unacknowledged romantic feelings brewing between nice, funny Jim (the very charismatic John Krasinksi), and the sweet but unfortunately engaged Pam (a lovely Jenna Fisher). The Office is one of the rare sitcoms thatís not only deeply, gut-splittingly funny, but offers wonderfully addictive drama as well.

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