Friday, September 22, 2006

David Brent is still my favorite boss

I just read this interesting article about the difference between different versions of The Office. I didn't know that in addition to the British original and American version, there are also French and German incarnations. The author, Liesl Schillinger, addresses why the British version doesn't work in other countries.

The point that workplaces are different in each country and viewers find humor in what they recognize is a valid one. Why then do I love the British Office so much?

It's because it's hilarious-- David Brent saying how awful sexism is while degrading women, Brent helping a girl in a wheelchair down the stairs during a fire drill and then leaving her halfway down because he's too tired, Tim's tricks on Garrett. It's because of the human element-- the desire for something more out of life from Tim, the sadness of a man who only wants people to think he's funny, the unsatisfying relationship that Dawn is stuck in.

I refuse to watch the American version so I know it's not fair for me to criticize it, but whenever I hear people explain to me why the American version is different from the British, I don't get it. It sounds the same to me.

According to the article, the American boss, Michael Scott, tries to maintain the appearance of a serious workplace, but David Brent does not. The example of this is Scott's "misguided motivational lecture." Brent gives motivational lectures as well and while comedy is his main goal, he also thinks he is productive.

The relationship between Dawn and Tim seems to be mirrored by Pam and Jim (couldn't they think of a name that doesn't rhyme with Tim?).

Schillinger writes, "In the British version, nobody is working, nobody has a happy relationship, everyone looks terrible, and everybody is depressed." I disagree. Tim and Dawn do not look terrible. They're not beautiful, but they look like average people and are certainly not ugly. The show is depressing, but it's in large part because the characters don't know how unhappy they are. Also, the British are not living outside of the office. They may go out to the pubs after work, but they always go with people from the office.

I will admit that I am stubborn. I am strangely protective of the British Office. I actively promoted it when I came back from England. It was hard enough to get people to watch it without the American version. I appear to be fighting a losing battle. Maybe this is just proof that I'm a Brit at heart and I'll just leave it at that and quietly take comfort in my DVDs.

I hope I didn't offend any fans of the American Office. While I don't think I'll ever watch it, the article did open up my eyes (although it's hard to tell from my rant).

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