When it was announced that Ricky Gervais’s breakthrough comedy series The Office was going to be remade in America you could hear the internet explode. It was expected to be just another horrid interpretation of fine British humour dumbed-down for a US market taking away all the soul and intelligence of the series.
A bold move – even starting by reshooting the original UK pilot as the US pilot, with new names and faces for the characters but the same gags. A bunch of nobodies, relatively speaking. The highest profile then was Steve Carell, cast as the new David Brent in Michael Scott, who’d had a couple of bit-part movie roles in “Bruce Almighty” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”.
It nearly didn’t make it. The series premiere was pilloried the critics and struggled to get decent ratings. It was only the iTunes traffic that gave it life for a second season and helped the series gain confidence and traction. Nine seasons later fans identify themselves with the characters and acknowledge them as old friends.
Carell’s Scott endeared himself to viewers in his constant search for love and friendship, often forcing it on his colleagues in the hope they’d return his affection and he’d never be lonely again. Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) caused chaos within the office as the Assistant (to the) Regional Manager, oblivious to other’s feelings and the only person to put Michael on a pedestal – which Michael both loved and hated. Dwight’s affair with Angela (Angela Kinsey) was as torrid as it was inexplicable.
Then there was Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer). Audiences couldn’t wait for them to get together and were rewarded with a wedding and even a birth. Through the final season the lovebirds experienced the tension every marriage sees at some point and this couple’s resolution is central to what The Office was about, with Pam’s final piece to camera explaining “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things – isn’t that kinda the point?”.
The series itself did something uncommon with a long-form sitcom in that many scenes were written but the cast were encouraged to improvise, and many of the writers – including BJ Novak (Ryan), Mindy Kaling (Kelly) & Paul Lieberstein (Toby) – all scoring on-screen roles to boot.
Fans of the series are well-rewarded with the completion of story arcs for all the characters they’ve come to love beyond the central five: Kevin, Oscar, Phyllis, Stanley, Ryan, Kelly, Erin, Andy, Meredith, Darryl, Creed… in typical Office fashion some in the most left-of-centre ways. But it couldn’t have been anything else.
The following retrospective aired in the US before part 2 of the final episode – it’s suitable preparation for the teary farewell:
The finale of The Office is suitably teary, heart-warming and a little bit strange all wrapped up with some Dunder Mifflin paper – everything it should be.
Thank you Greg Daniels & co for somehow improving on what was already a brilliant insight into all of us. That’s what she said.
The Office US 2 part finale – Wed 4/9 & Wed 11/9 10:30pm, Eleven.