Tough day at The Office

Mixed reviews for US remake

The American version of The Office launches on NBC tonight – and the early responses from the critics have been mixed.

Aside from relocating the show from Slough to Scranton, Pennsylvania,  programme-makers led by King Of The Hill creator Greg Daniels tinkered heavily with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s scripts. Of the whole series, they are credited in the writers’ list of only tonight’s pilot episode.

Most reviewers said even though the rejig could not match the sublime peaks of the BBC original, it could still be a hit – or at least more successful than any number of flop transfers from Fawlty Towers to Coupling.

Trade paper The Hollywood Reporter said of the new show, which stars: Steve Carell as cringeworthy boss Michael Scott: “Daniels never loses sight of the human frailties that the BBC version so humorously embraced, but he tweaks the stories and characters just enough to give the show an American flavour.”

“While no one who saw the original will forget the character created by Gervais, Carell is nothing short of superb in crafting his own version of a boss who is utterly unaware of how he is perceived by others.

“It is ironic that this series, though an adaptation, is one of the most unique and creative new comedies on NBC in years.”

The Chicago Sun-Times agreed: “NBC has Americanised the beloved, brilliant BBC comedy, complete with a better-looking cast and an Oprah reference. Astoundingly, it works.

“The new version isn't as painfully, profoundly funny as the original. But that's as it should be. American audiences don't necessarily want to cringe when they sit down for a sitcom. This is why Curb Your Enthusiasm is a cult hit, and not a hit hit.”

While The Washington Post said Carell was "no match for the wonderful Ricky Gervais" it said:  "Yet there are a few reasons to give this show a chance. At times, it nails the banality and ridiculousness of office culture, and the supporting cast is top-notch."

But other critics thought the loss of subtlety too high a price to pay.

The Los Angeles Times said:"There's a menace to Carell's character that I didn't want to feel, a sociopathic, beady-eyed quality that's too cartoon, and that gives the show a colder edge."

New York Daily News reviewer David Bianculli, who admits to ‘adoring’ the Gervais original was perhaps the harshest critic.

He wrote: “NBC's The Office is different, but it is neither daring nor funny; it's hard to imagine people taking enough of a liking to the characters to keep returning. And compared to the BBC version, in which every portrayal is utterly perfect, NBC's version is so diluted there's little left but muddy water.”

The series – which has been brought by BBC Three for later screening in Britain – continues in the States on Tuesday.

Official site >>


Published: 24 Mar 2005

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.