The Office is hands-down a popular, ubiquitous show. Even I, who hadn’t watched the show yet, was familiar with Michael Scott and his delightful antics and his quirky insights (thanks to a plethora of memes). After months of waiting, I finally watched this American rendition of Ricky Gervais’s British sitcom, which depicted the events unfolding at a dull branch office of a paper company. And it was worth the wait. In a year that is still showering unexpected surprises, The Office was a delightful, joyous one.
Most of us in the Indian audience consider shows like Friends, Big Bang Theory, and How I Met Your Mother as must-watch shows in the sitcom world. For me, The Office was a revelation. It is surprising how the creators, Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, managed to turn the mundane life in an office into an interwoven and eventful tale of relationships, conflicts, romance and tension. Each episode packs in different events and happenings, whilst managing to retain gripping arcs of romances, relationships, and humorous running gags.
Many who have watched the series will agree with me that the first season of The Office is a bad one, if not terrible. The relevant character arcs begin to grow, but it fails to grip the viewer. None of the characters are written to be likeable, the result of the attempt of the writers to directly adapt the plot of the British counterpart. That wasn’t wholly the writers’ fault; it was simply how British comedy shows are made. A stark difference between the narrative formats of the two countries’ comedies is that Americans find humour in hilarious and amusing situations and in personal relationships, while British shows bank mainly on the unfortunate plight of the characters and derive humour from the fact that the lives of the characters are doomed to fail (shows like Lovesick, Fleabag, and Peep Show). And Steve Carell’s Michael Scott is particularly irritating and wears all the trappings of a mean boss.
But with so much vitriol aimed towards the pilot season of a comedy show, the writers definitely got a grasp of what the sitcom-viewing audience needed and managed to rectify their mistakes. In the end, what we get is a fun-filled, emotionally touching, and hilariously funny eight seasons. From the second season, the arcs are cemented and thence we become witness to the twists and turns that happen in the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company and in the lives of the employees who work there. The writers of the show intelligently spawn humor in the most unexpected situations, and with the help of an exceptionally able cast, they hit bull’s-eye. There is the “will-they-won’t-they” romance of John Krasinki’s Jim Halpert and Jenna Fischer’s Pam Beesly, Michael Scott’s various romantic dalliances, Dwight Schrute’s agriculture enterprise, Andy Bernard’s (Ed Helms) frequent musings on his alma mater… the list goes on. The Office becomes so engrossing that you can’t help but invest yourself in bingeing the show.
What makes The Office such a memorable watch is its well-written characters, all of whom never seem to fail to make their presence felt in the show. Be it Steve Carrell’s iconic boss character Michael Scott or Rainn Wilson’s distinguished portrayal of the dutiful Dwight Schrute or Ellie Kemper’s naïve yet sweet receptionist rookie Erin Hannon, this show’s stellar set of characters stands out. Even the characters brought in for comic relief have something to say in the larger scheme of things, and this is one of the reasons why these people become such favourites among fans of this show.
The Office’s filmmaking style, modelled after the making of a documentary with talking heads and voyeuristic shots, is unique and surprisingly laughter-inducing. There are these momentary glances that Steve Carell throws into the camera when he is about to say something that is either innovative, funny, or occasionally offensive. The making seems to be particularly helpful in allowing the actors more space in order to improvise; this advantage manifests itself in the form of some comical and heart-touching moments. There are other shows that were shot in a similar style: Parks and Recreation, Modern Family, and What we do in The Shadows.
Watching The Office made me realize that it isn’t difficult to find fun, joy and happiness even in the most mundane moments that life throws at us. It may be a bit idealistic, but for those who are looking to embark on a light-hearted ride in their binge-watching sojourn, The Office is highly recommended. In the humdrum of a year that was 2020, this sitcom was a whiff of freshness.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.