Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Leap Across The Pond

As I noted in Monday's posting, this is a word about British TV programs that are remade into U.S. shows.

Most of the time, it just doesn't work. For every "Sanford & Son" ("Steptoe & Son" in the U.K.) that enjoys its share of success among the Yanks, you get many more abject failures, a' la "Coupling" and "Cracker."

"Cracker," for me, was the worst. It's perhaps my all-time favorite TV show from any country, and Robbie Coltrane's tour-de-force performance as Fitz, the lead character, is simply a marvel to behold. I gave the U.S. version, starring the late Robert Pastorelli, one chance. After watching that single episode, I was resolved to never, ever watch a re-imagined U.K. show made by a U.S. production company again. I'm already dreading the David Kelley remake of "Life on Mars," the best show this summer. It can be seen in its good form on Mondays on BBC America.

Happily, one of the few exceptions proving the rule airs on Thursdays. Some don't like the U.S. version of "The Office," but I think it's not only the best sitcom on TV (which is saying something since the equally brilliant "Scrubs" runs on the same network), but it's also one of the few U.S. versions to equal the original.

The U.S. version started off a bit slowly when it first aired, trying to stick a bit too closely to creator Ricky Gervais' U.K. version. But the U.S. writers started to flesh out the supporting characters more and develop their own storylines, creating a similar, yet unique, show of its own. Coupled with star Steve Carell's rise to superstardom following "The 40-year-old Virgin" last summer, the show has really moved into its own.

Tonight's rerun, in which office annoyance Dwight (Rainn Wilson) is honored as salesman of the year and forced to give a speech despite his fear of public speaking, contains probably the single-funniest scene broadcast on the airwaves this year when he finally does give the speech.

But perhaps what makes "The Office" truly great is that we really end up caring about the characters. Jim and Pam create the best unrequited couple on TV. I think Wilson deserved an Emmy nomination this year, and even the minor characters who may only get a few lines per episode -- Phyllis, Stanley, et. al. -- are note-perfect.

PICK OF THE NIGHT: After you've hopefully caught "The Office" at 8:30 p.m., hopefully you will flip to FX at 10 p.m. for "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." With the exception of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," this is the closest to having "Seinfeld" back on the air since it left.

If you like how "South Park" pushes the envelope for bad taste, you will love "Sunny." It's a riot.


This Girl said...

Okay, never saw "Cracker" and don't get BBC America, but I'm sure I'll get the british version of Life on Mars before I see the American one.

Everything is exactly right, what you said about the office. My husband loved the American one, but couldn't get into the British one and unfortunately, I saw the American version first. I watched the first two episodes in the british version ready to quit, but then I got to the third one and got it. And i loved it all the way through. And what I loved the most is how the writers and actors made us care about the characters.

That's what I love about this one. I think the writing is top notch. Every character contributes to the hilarity. Every character. I care about them, feel sad for them, even the jerks. I can't wait to see this one tonight because it definitely has the most hilarious scene to date... and scrubs is good - darn good, but the office is funnier.

It's Always Sunny... started watching it by downloading the free episodes on iTunes and loved it immediately. I think it does some very hilarious things with very little. I love how the characters are portrayed and I love how "un put together" the show is, you know. Danny Devito brought so much comedy to it, as well. I'm loving it!

Zodin2008 said...

I am not as into the Brit shows but I did love "The Office" and Gervais in particular.

I would also love to see Gareth show up and annoy Pam and Jim and then bond with Dwight!