Wednesday, 3 November 2010

TV Bite: 'The Office' USA

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Having grown to love Better Off Ted and findding myself enjoying Community (so far), I've felt better disposed towards US comedy of late. Maybe it's only their studio-based sitcoms I truly hate, where the audience laugh, cheer and wolf-whistle every 10 seconds? Whatever the reason, this optimism gave me reason to watch NBC's The Office last Saturday -- as Comedy Central have started showing season 5 in weekly double-bills. I watched "Business Ethics" and "Baby Shower" (what happened to the premiere "Weight Loss"?) and while I can't deny this show has some charm, and delivers amusing moments (especially reaction shots), I still find myself rolling my eyes throughout.

For me, The American Office's mix of vérité realism with improbably foolish behaviour is awfully incongruous, and annoys the crap out of me. I just can't buy into its so-called reality because of that inappropriate style. There's always something unraveling the concept of a workplace being filmed for a documentary series. The best example from "Baby Shower" was the camera crew following Dwight out of the office (during the working day), to watch him try and demolish an expensive baby stroller in various outlandish ways. Dwight should have been committed to a mental asylum by a cameraman by now, surely.

And while Dwight's always been the worst offender when it comes to behaviour that bursts the reality bubble, nobody gets off unscathed. There's always a moment or remark from someone that flies in the face of any manufactured realism. I'd like The Office more if it was filmed like Community, basically: single-camera, no audience, ditch the pretense of there being a film crew on the premises. Beyond the "talking heads" motif, there's no discernible reason for The Office being filmed in this way, unlike the BBC version. They can't just abandon it now, but they should have stayed true to the #1 rule of great mockumentaries from the start: the truer it feels, the funnier it will be. Nobody skives work to crash-test a baby stroller.

Comedy Central, Saturdays, 7PM