In honor of the series finale of its much longer-running American cousin, I thought I’d share a look back at the original The Office.
Seeing as this one came first I’ll resist the urge to point out which British character = which American one.
A cold open, selected for the sole purpose of showing us the main character’s lack of ethics, shows an executive at his desk. With some alliterative, fast-paced business jabber, he offers to give the man across from him a job as a forklift driver without having passed a forklift-driving test. He seems quite pleased with his deception as he smooth talks someone on the other end of the phone. We never get a look at the unlicensed forklift driver, but that’s not who we’re here to meet. It’s all about the boss, David Brent (show co-creator Ricky Gervais).
After that first scene, we launch into the mockumentary style the show helped popularize, with characters exuding dramatic irony in interview segments breaking up the regular workday activity — and by regular, I mean squabbling, practical joke-pulling nonsense. (Zero days since our last nonsense).
A few key relationships are set up: Tim (a much younger-looking Martin Freeman) and Gareth (Mackenzie Crook. Hey, did you know he was the dude with the glass eye in Pirates of the Caribbean? I didn’t.) They hate each other. Lighthearted Tim torments the way-too-serious Gareth. Then there’s Tim and Dawn (Lucy Davis). It’s suggested that he likes her, but could just be that he really hates her boyfriend. I said I wouldn’t compare but this Jim and Pam aren’t as syrupy. Then there’s boss-from-corporate Jennifer (Stirling Gallacher), who’s so far at the end of her rope with David you figure they’re bound to sleep together.
The crisis du jour is that corporate is planning to combine two branches of the paper company and “eliminate redundancies.” The gravity of the situation provides fertile ground for illustrating David’s complete lack of a clue, let alone ethics. As the audience, we’re left with the possibility of characters we’ve already met exiting, or new ones starting.
The show introduces a tone that is so banal, and dialogue so tossed off, it’s dead easy to miss things. Throw in the British accents and slang, and Americans are at a further disadvantage. The monochromatic surroundings and bland, unattractive characters make it easy to lose interest entirely until David says something so off the wall as to demand attention. One can see how even an Americanized version would be an acquired taste, and for many, not acquirable with only the pilot.
As a bonus, here’s a video on how to suspend a stapler in jelly (or as we Yanks would call it by its brand name, Jell-o).
There isn’t much to explain about the premise of The Booth at the End. A weird, nameless dude sits in a booth — at the end — in a diner and gives people cryptic assignments to complete in order to obtain things they want. It’s like The Wizard telling Dorothy to kill the witch, whom she’s never met and has no beef with, in order to go home.
Booth is a Hulu original series, but the episodes run the length of an ordinary televised show. That’s probably a bit long for a series of basically all bottle episodes. Read the rest of this entry »
I did an earlier post of match-the-pilot title-to-the show, but here’s a fresh batch. Some are obvious, so are not. See if you can guess which shows’ pilots these are:
3. The Beginning
4. Boardwalk Empire
6. We Just Decided To
7. The Man Trap
8. Movin’ In
9. Death Has a Shadow
10. Help Wanted
Answers after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »
Sex on TV can be a cheap way to get attention, whether it’s in advertising or entertainment, shorthand for “look at this!” And a pilot is where, above all else, a show needs to grab attention. It’s the rare cable drama of the past ten years that doesn’t feature at least one sex scene in its premiere episode. The pilot of The Americans, which premiered on FX several weeks ago, features not one, but three of them.
It’s easy to view the ubiquitous romp in the sheets (or airport supply closet, or… wherever) with cynicism. In this case, however, the sex serves the story brilliantly, and I’ll get to why. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve always thought of this show as just okay, an amusing distraction if I happened to flip on a rerun. And, you know. Clark Gregg.
So I just saw the pilot for the first time. Structurally, it’s solid. It uses a twist on the familiar First Day of School pilot trope. The jokes are fairly predictable, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Gregg, as ex-husband Richard, carry it. Louis-Dreyfus has that dry, earnest sensibility that makes her seem oblivious that everyone’s laughing at her. By contrast, Gregg wears that omnipresent smirk that makes you think he’s in on every joke–including the ones of which he’s the butt. He exudes coolness even in a multi-camera sitcom environment. Read the rest of this entry »
Point number one about the Boy Meets World pilot: Topanga isn’t in it. So if you’re watching for Danielle Fishel, skip ahead to episode 4.
I am a little too old for this show, meaning I didn’t grow up with it. It incites great love and devotion to 90s children, and I can’t quite relate, except to suppose maybe it’s their Growing Pains. If the pilot is any indication it’s pretty cheesy, but in a lovable way that makes you want to see these characters through their first world problems. Read the rest of this entry »
Who else is on a J.J. Abrams high? I’ve been catching up on Revolution, binge-watching Fringe, and catching Star Trek whenever it’s aired on basic cable. (I do own it on DVD, but it’s always on.) And SO MANY Bad Robot/Star Wars/Star Trek mash-up memes.
We’ve come to associate Abrams with time- and universe-hopping, futuristic warfare, and badassery. All good omens for the new Star Wars. But you do know he created Felicity, right? That teeny-bopper mellow-drama from the era of Dawson’s Creek? Fanboys and girls, I think this show warrants some examination. Read the rest of this entry »