Revenge of the Remakes: The Office vs. The Office

They say that there are no original ideas left in Hollywood, that everything is either a sequel, remake, or based on a book. But sometimes, an idea is so good that you just have to have your own go at it. There are countless instances of it happening.

So many, in fact, that I decided I needed to do something about it.

In a time of quarantine and social distancing, television and movies are becoming central to my existence and sense of self. So I decided to take a deep dive and start on a new project: each week, I’m going to watch the pilot of a popular show and then pit it against its remake in a head-to-head battle royale. I’ll have opinions. I may even continue with some of the shows. And what’s a better place to start than with the show that everyone still seems to be obsessed with, years after the finale? That’s right, it’s time to talk about The Office.

I’ve watched The Office (US) on and off over the years. There was a time in high school where, for whatever reason, my math teacher would put on an episode at the end of class for us to watch during unstructured homework time. I liked it, but as someone with major secondhand embarrassment issues, I couldn’t watch too much of it. I never even tried the British original. Until now.

The Office premiered in the UK on July 9, 2001, and ran for two seasons along with two Christmas specials. It’s now regarded as one of the greatest British sitcoms of all time. The (other) Office premiered in the US on March 24, 2005, and ran for nine seasons. Both shows launched the careers of their stars, including Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, Steve Carrell, and John Krasinski, among others. You can’t deny the impact either show has had on pop culture and media.

The Faceoff

Just a warning (spoiler alert) to all you diehard Office fans: I have lukewarm at best feelings towards both versions of the show. AKA I didn’t really like either. Please don’t hate me!

Well, The Office (UK) didn’t exactly open on a high note for me. The opening credits seem like the beginning of one of those terrible 80s/90s instructional videos. It didn’t give me high hopes, even with me offering a little wiggle room since it was made in 2001. Everything felt slow and oddly paced – though I guess you could excuse it as an attempt at realism and emulating a real office environment. But if that’s the case, so much of the stuff that happened wouldn’t fly. No one actually acts like that in a real workplace. The US version seemed to have a similar pacing issue but it wasn’t quite as stilted – maybe that’s because both episodes have nearly identical scripts but the American show clocks in at 23 minutes as opposed to the 29-minute British pilot.

Assuming that the silences and odd pace are an attempt at realism, that does transport me back to some of my previous offices. But that’s also where my biggest complaint arises: why do people want to watch a show about people just like them if they’re not redeemable at least? Sure, some of the characters seem nice, but with how awful Michael and David are, why do you keep going back to this show? Why not just go to work instead?

I will give both pilots a win in the lighting and set decoration department when it comes to realism. The lighting is perfectly harsh and unforgiving and the color scheme just screams “boring.” The characters – especially Jim/Tim – have the exact appropriate level of enthusiasm for paper.

Now, I’m not completely immune to the humor of these shows. I legitimately laughed out loud at some of the Jim/Dwight and Tim/Keenan antics. But a few laughs interspersed throughout just isn’t enough to convince me that I’d love the rest of either show.

And the winner is…

Well, I’m not going to be watching the rest of either of these shows anytime soon. Sure, they were entertaining enough, but there wasn’t anything that really drew me in. I guess that’s why you have to really love this exact sense of humor, since it’s a show about normal people doing normal things. There’s nothing sexy or supernatural about it. And unfortunately the comedy style of both versions of The Office is really not my thing.

If I had to declare one of these pilots the winner? I’d probably choose the American remake, but it’s close – since I wouldn’t actually choose either.

So, readers, did I get this all wrong? Am I a heathen for not immediately falling in love with The Office? Is there another remake that I need to watch next? Let me know in the comments below!

Check back soon for my review of Broadchurch and Gracepoint to see if our opinions align.