In which I count down my top 10 TV shows of all time: No. 9 – The American Office

TV talk

This will be a feature in which I count down my top 10 TV shows of all time and talk about the reasons why they’re in the list and what I love about them.

The Office (US)

The Office (US)

‘The Office’ was an American made remake of the British show of the same name and ran for 9 seasons between 2005 and 2013. It was produced and developed by Greg Daniels (who would go on to produce another show in my top 8 list) and stars Steve Carell as Michael Scott, the boss of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company where the show is set.

Don’t get me wrong, The UK Office is a fantastic show. It’s funny and sad and still an immensely watchable show, but my personal sensibilities match up far better with American comedies than British ones. It’s fairly well known that the major difference between American and British humour is that whilst we Brits revel in the underdogs and wallow in failure, the Americans tend to be more positive and cheery. This is much more in tune with me as a person and my own views and opinions about TV shows. I DO love British comedy shows, I could rattle off half a dozen that I could watch again and again, but when it comes down to it I’m a sucker for sentimentality.

Whilst British shows have shorter seasons and therefore don’t tend to have dips in quality, American shows do. I understand this and embrace it. I also don’t care. If you love a show enough I believe that even during its low points you will stick with it and maybe even come out the other side with a rise in quality. This is exactly what ‘Frasier’ did. 7 seasons of great stuff followed by the low notes of its 8th season which gradually improved over 9 and 10 before a massive increase in quality in its 11th and final season. I would much rather have a favourite show with 11 season then a great show with only a couple.

So we come to The Office and the exact reason why I love it. It has 7 seasons of high quality, 1 season of sub standard stuff with a gradual increase in quality leading towards its season finale. The UK show may have a 100% hit ratio, but it has far less to enjoy. Of course amongst all this there will be exceptions to the rule and none of this is factually proven but, for me, it works. Considering all my favourite shows on this list are from America, I guess that it means the rule works for me.

Saying that the American version of The Office is better than the UK original is considered practically blasphemous to some people, but for people like me, I think that they would agree that it’s better. First of all it’s a comedy, so is it funny? Yes, yes it is. The show has a great cast of comedians and actors who all manage to find their own comedy niche whilst bring real substance and heart to their roles. Steve Carells Michael Scott is the shows MVP until his departure at the end of the 7th season, turning a completely unlikable character in the shows early days into a lonely, warm hearted, goofy, loveable man who we end up caring about in ways we frankly didn’t about David Brent.

The shows magic truly lies in its beating heart, like most US comedies, they prove to be successful because they make you care about the characters whilst you laugh at them. From the adorable love story of Jim and Pam, the crazy but caring Dwight Shrute to the large cast of people that populate the office, this is a show that will make you laugh right before sucker punching you with a moving scene.

I found this video which demonstrates the depth of Michael Scott, displaying that yes, he does some bad things, but he’s actually very lonely The video is corny, especially with the music, but just looking at the expression on Steve Carells face show us at how good a performer he is.

In S2E8 ‘Halloween’ we get one of the first instances in which we see Michael Scott being lonely, and understand that he might act the way he does because of insecurity.

Michael Scott

Michael Scott

Screenshot 2015-07-29 17.54.37

Michael Scott 2

The episode centres on Michael having to fire someone, but being unable to choose because he honestly loves his employees and doesn’t want them to hate him. In the final scene we hear a Michael voice over as he chats to the cameras where he talks about his previous ridiculous Halloween costumes and laughs at his own jokes. This is shown over images of him leaving work and going home alone. He is lonely and looks downbeat and doesn’t see the cameras watching him. When he’s home, he looks clearly sad, but the doorbell is rung by trick or treaters and he lights up when he sees them.

Michael Scott has a history of loving kids in the show, he wants to be a father more than anything and in this scene we see him interacting with them in a way that is kind and friendly and nothing like the persona he displays at work and on camera. It’s a beautifully touching scene that really changes your perception of this incredibly awkward man who until then had been practically insufferable.

The show from here registers it’s beating heart side by side with its comedy, never being afraid to put characters and story before the jokes. The Jim and Pam relationship carried its emotional weight early on in the show, alongside a number of other story lines and characters, and proved that The Office is more than just what it seems on the outside. I just wanted to display something specific about the way the show handles its more touching moments. I could talk about the great love story at the centre of The Offices early seasons (Jim and Pam) but I don’t want to get into specific plot details.

In the shows weak first season we were given a vague remake of The UK Office, with the situations pretty much copied but changed a little for American audiences. If you watched the show from the beginning you might not want to continue because of it, and the show doesn’t yet have the best qualities that the next seasons displayed. Once it it extends the number of episodes in the seasons into the 20’s region, then it has the breathing room for both comedy and, that word again, heart.

The Office wouldn’t succeed if it wasn’t very funny, and it luckily it managed to get better with each passing season. This clip below is from the opening pre-credits scene in an extended episode in Season 5 called Stress relief. To this day it is one of the shows crowning glories, flooring me with laughter when I first saw it and now having since shown it to two other people has managed to convince them to watch the show based off of it, making them laugh as much as I did.

This is the show in a nutshell. It’s at times, gutbustingly hilarious, deliciously wry, knowingly dumb, very silly and cleverly witty. I recently binged the whole show with my girlfriend (who had never seen it) and I finally got to watch the post Carell seasons 8 and 9. I was delighted by the way the show wrapped itself up in the season finale, and like most comedies that ventured past its prime, It’s heart was what kept it watchable even though it was not as funny as used to be.

A show like this needs to have a solid foundation, a story to tell and it does every step of the way. There’s drama and tension as characters’ jobs hang in the balance and relationships are met with trouble and problems. Can it be totally called a comedy if it has drama and real stakes, I think yes. If Breaking Bad can have black humour and still be called a drama then the reverse is true.

In the years since my adolescence, my love of TV and the ‘binge watch’ grew. The American Office was one of the first pioneers, if you will, of my TV viewing habits. Without this warm and heartening comedy I would have missed out on a fantastic show that proved that taking a risk (like remaking a popular show) can prove to be worth it. Which feels very much like the American way.

If you’ve read this far, thank you, leave a comment on here or on the social network you discovered it saying what you liked or didn’t like. It would be much appreciated. In the coming days and weeks I intend to carry on with the countdown, hopefully making them better as I go along. I find it difficult doing long articles like this because I want to write a lot, but find it hard to write, a lot. I try to cram in too much but don’t want to write too little and not explain myself well. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. Thanks for reading this again. I hope you continue to read the next posts I write about my top 9 favourite shows. 🙂

The Office

The Office

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