Sunday, December 06, 2009

tv highlights of the '00s: the office (usa)

When the idea of Ricky Gervais's universally-acclaimed UK comedy was being remade for American viewers, it seemed as if the whole world let out one big, exasperated sigh. I was there. I contributed a sigh. A big one: Gervais's Office is a terrific piece of work: biting, hilarious, and just long enough not to wear out its welcome, and no longer.

As the American Office continues its sixth season (the UK Office ran for two very short batches, plus a Christmas special), it's safe to say that, all due respect to Gervais and co-creator Stephen Merchant's pioneering efforts (which was also remade in Germany, France, and Quebec), the Americans have made The Office their own. The American program follows numerous character trajectories in ways that deepen and expand the program in season after season. In spite of its "mockumentary" veneer, the show doesn't shy away from cartoonish, surrealistic behavior and situations - in fact, the un-real makes it stronger and more durable, so that, while the ship may list, it never sinks. It's a magic ship.

Having only seen through Season 5, I don't know if Season 6 continues with what seems to be its best formula for growth: using existing characters and their backstories as established through prior seasons and episodes, continue to push beyond any imaginable comfort zones but then, while there, build new structure.

Towards the end of Season 5, the program seems to pay tribute to the party scene in Tati's Playtime. Not in the destructive-elative party anarchy, but in the way the characters transform a space of failed purpose into one of community-musical pleasure. It's a magic ship.

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