Carell shoots, scores with NBC’s American ‘Office’

Steve Schirra

It’s your typical American workplace: paperclips, fax machines, Post-it notes, file cabinets, manila envelopes and staplers covered in Jell-O. So, it’s not exactly typical, but the Dunder Mifflin paper supply company is the crux of the new NBC mockumentary “The Office.”

“The Daily Show”’s Steve Carell stars as Michael Scott, the regional manager and self-proclaimed “entertainer” of the small paper outfit in Scranton, Pa. Scott honestly believes that he offers the best work environment possible since he is “a friend first and a boss second.”

But this lax atmosphere leads to in-fighting among some of the staff members including secretary Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer), sales rep Jim Halpert (John Krasinski), and Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson), the office dork and assistant to the regional manager (which he claims makes him “assistant regional manager”).

The storyline unfolds as Scott is informed that there will be some down-sizing within the company — which he denies for as long as possible. The staff has to deal with the impending merger as well as their boss’ showboat antics and not-so politically correct outlook on life.

“The Office” has it all: co-worker rivalries, a budding love interest and copy machines galore.

The show is shot in true documentary style, complete with behind-the-scenes interviews in which staff members divulge their darkest secrets. In one interview, Scott shows the camera his “world’s best boss” mug — which he purchased himself — to demonstrate his impressive managerial abilities.

“The Office” had its beginnings on the BBC, running for two seasons before its final episode in December 2004. In England, the show’s creator, Ricky Gervais, played Michael Scott’s British counterpart, David Brent.

Though purists who enjoyed the quaint, awkward humor of the British cast may be turned off by some of the slapstick comedy in the American version, this new show is a must-see. Gervais is executive producer of the NBC show, so not all of its endearing subtleties have been lost.

After watching the pilot episodes of both shows — which were nearly identical in content — one can see the obvious differences in the dynamics of the casts. While the British cast was more reserved in their acting, the American troupe is more in-your-face with its comedy. Though they are two different styles, each has its own individual charm.

What makes the American version of “The Office” one of the most biting social commentaries on prime-time television today is the fact that the producers aren’t afraid to tackle difficult topics such as racism.

In one episode, Scott gets in trouble with the corporate office for reciting racial slurs he heard in a Chris Rock routine. To help take the blame off of himself, he makes his staff undergo his own form of racial diversity training which includes a role-reversal game where staff members are encouraged to like the ethnicity given to them on a note card. This overtly satirical scene is something American television has needed for a long time.

So if you’re into shows that are politically correct, this isn’t the show for you. If you aren’t, then this is definitely a must-see.

Contact assistant forum editor Steve Schirra at [email protected].