Sunday, March 27, 2005

Life on Mars

I started watching Veronica Mars in hopes of finding a one-hour show I could stomach, and now I'm into it. I had to sacrifice Scrubs to watch it, but now they're putting the American version of The Office on in that time slot too.

Sarah, I feel your pain. Honestly, why couldn't they keep that show on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday? At least I don't watch House.

The American version of The Office, incidentally, hasn't proven itself yet, but I want to give it a chance for a while longer. I've seen both seasons of the British version, though not the Christmas special. The original is brilliant, painfully awkward with an undercurrent of quiet desperation. Uncomfortable and yet full of heart, it's worth the praise people throw at it, though it does annoy me when people use it to claim that British humor is universally "better."

Lots of people online are up in arms over the remake, claiming it's a travesty. I think it has the potential to be a decent show if it can distinguish itself from the original. I saw a clip of the American one before I ever saw the British one and I thought it was funny in that awkward, uncomfortable way. That said, the American one does lack nuance in comparison to the original. It retains the long pauses but the character reactions are more on the nose. That, and you can't stop comparing the cast to the original's. No matter how good they are, they'll never match the original cast, not necessarily because the originals are more talented (though they arguably are) but because people will always cling to the image of the first person they saw in a specific role. I saw a stage production of The Sound of Music before the Julie Andrews movie and I had trouble seeing Maria as a blonde after that.

It wasn't until Mystery Science Theater 3000 moved to the Sci-Fi channel and retooled its frame story, changing a bunch of characters, that I found myself as comfortable with Mike Nelson as I had with Joel. It seemed like the show was Mike's at that point, instead of being Joel's show with a different face.

My point is that the American Office can be funny with all the talent behind it, but first it has to find its own voice, as its own show. It helps that episodes from here on will have original scripts instead of remaking the British one, but it will still take a while for it to get out from under the shadow of Ricky Gervais. You can watch a surprisingly long clip from the second episode here.

Of course, now I can't, thanks to the vagaries of scheduling. I've invested a lot of time getting caught up with Veronica Mars and I don't want to quit now. Setting a VCR in addition to TiVo makes me sad.


Sarah said...

Goddamn Tuesdays. I hate myself. I asked our group to move our D&D sessions to Wednesdays so I could stay home and watch TV. That's so pathetic, I can't even stand it. On top of that, I don't have enough recording devices to get everything, so I have to Tivo something over at my brother's house. Since all the programs this coming Tuesday are new, I'm Tivoing Veronica Mars at my house, Tivoing House at Jon's, taping The Amazing Race on my VCR, and watching Scrubs and The Office in real time. UGH.

I've watched one episode of The Office (UK), and I felt bad, because I didn't like it all that much. I felt I should like it a lot. The first episode of the US version had a few moments of the very funny, and I'm going to keep with it until it's cancelled. Which it will be. Yes, its first episode did very well in the numbers. But I can't see people coming back to it. Scrubs gets low numbers, and putting The Office after it isn't going to turn out well. (I'm just being a realist here- I love Scrubs and think The Office has potential.)

Kenny said...

The Office (UK) takes a few episodes to get into. I don't much like the second episode, as a lot of the comedy is rooted in inappropriate sexual remarks that would quickly get you sued in America, so it was hard to believe. The first season hits its stride in the staff meeting episode. In my opinion, the series as a whole really takes off in season 2, when Brent implodes with desperate neediness.