'The Office' First Episode: THR's 2005 Review
On March 24, 2005, America met Michael Scott (and Dwight Schrute). NBC's The Office, an adaptation of the U.K. series created by Ricky Gervais, grew into a network staple for nine seasons. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below:
Come to think of it, maybe Dan Rather's last word as a news anchor was intended for NBC. After the peacock network's failure last season to adapt British comedy Coupling for an American audience, it certainly took courage to try again with exec producer Ben Silverman and Golden Globe winner The Office.
For some, any attempt to replicate the ingenious comedy by Ricky Gervais and Stephan Merchant might be heresy. And, perhaps, if Silverman and writer/exec producer Greg Daniels had taken the same approach as was taken with Coupling, the result might be similarly disappointing. This time around, though, things were done differently. Where Coupling hired American actors to read the original scripts, the new Office incorporates significant changes in the pilot and new scripts for subsequent episodes. Even so, it still captures the universally dispiriting experience of office life.
Over the course of two seasons, each with six episodes, Gervais was marvelous as the well-intentioned but incredibly sensitive David Brent, manager of a paper supply branch office. The humor came as much from the inspired satire of office hierarchy as it did from the documentary style in which stories were told. Time and time again, The Office tapped into the minds of the characters, much the way slices of interviews are woven into reality shows.
Director Ken Kwapis effectively preserves the documentary style and, thus, stays true to the tone and style of the original. Daniels never loses sight of the human frailties that the BBC version so humorously embraced, but, just as Norman Lear did with All in the Family and Sanford & Son, he tweaks the stories and characters just enough to give the show an American flavor.
Steve Carell plays Michael Scott, the obnoxious boss who rose to his level of incompetence. 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.
Given the limited reach of The Office on BBC America, Carell will set the American standard for administrative pomposity and pretension.
He is surrounded by a versatile cast chosen, in part, for their skill at improvisation. Jenna Fischer is delightful as the sweet but frustrated receptionist, Pam. John Krasinski smartly portrays Jim, the bored practical joker of the office. Rainn Wilson is hilarious as Dwight, the tightly wound office geek and toady and the character most altered from the BBC show.
It is ironic that this series, though an adaptation, is one of the most unique and creative new comedies on NBC in years.
Following the premiere Thursday, it moves to its regular time period at 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays with a laugh-out-loud episode on diversity training — Barry Garron.