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TV Review: The Office (US) – “Pilot”

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When the American version of The Office was released, many critics hated the first episode. Many detractors have argued that because “Pilot” serves as a shot-for-shot and almost line-for-line remake of the original British pilot, it is entirely redundant. This is a fallacy. Although very similar to the original, the reason the American pilot, and ultimately series as a whole, works is because the characters have been made more relatable to the audience.

Ricky Gervais portrayed the ultimate idiot boss. David Brent was uncouth, racist, sexist, and cruel. Even if you happened to like his character, you hated his character at the same time. Enter Michael Scott. Scott – played by the wonderfully talented Steve Carell – has a different aura about him. Instead of constantly exuding cruelty (which, to be fair, he does at times), Scott exudes idiocy. To be blunt, he’s a well-meaning moron and the epitome of the higher management.

Michael Scott holds up his World's Best Boss Mug

The series main “lovers,” Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Jim (John Krasinski), are much more lovable and relatable when compared to the original Dawn and Tim. In the British version, Tim’s character was dull, uncreative, and a loser. Jim, on the other hand, is clever and intelligent. His position at Dunder Mifflin is one of necessity, best summarized by his quote, “If this were my job, I’d have to throw myself in front of a train.” In order to deal with the monotony of his daily life, he playfully picks on his desk mate, Dwight K. Schrute.

If it were not for Dwight, I’m not sure if the American version of The Office would have survived beyond a single season. While the UK’s Gareth was socially awkward and creepy, Dwight is, as writer/actress Mindy Kaling described, “a fascist nerd,” and a lovably daft one at that. Authoritarian to a laughable degree, Dwight demands respect from his “inferiors” (after all, he IS Assistant (to the) Regional Manager). Although Dwight later grew into a border-line sociopath, in the pilot episode, his craziness is just believable enough to be cringingly humorous.

As for the story: Dunder Mifflin is introduced to a camera crew that wishes to film a documentary. The audience, in the meantime, is introduced to the main characters. Not a very interesting premise, but a necessary one at that. Although The Office could have gone the route of Arrested Development and given the show a documentary-esque feel, sans the actual “documenters,” the decision to present the show as a real documentary makes it much more enjoyable. In later seasons, the show would slowly lose this sense of realism, and so the first few seasons truly stand out as comic gold.

Overall, “Pilot” is a good start to a great show. Despite being very similar, both in terms of filming and dialogue, to the original British version, the episode brings a warmer, more relatable, and ultimately funnier feel to the original conceit. “Pilot” is by no means one of the best episodes of The Office, but it is a decent one at that.

Final Rating: 8.0 out of 10

(Great)

Best Quote: “You can’t do that […] Safety violation. I could fall and pierce… an organ” — Dwight Scrute

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About Paul Thomas

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/the-other-chad/ The Other Chad

    I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with many of your points here. I realize these “A is better/worse than B” discussions are highly subjective, so I appreciate your personal take on this.

    For me, despite some obvious cultural differences between the US and UK (mainly very superficial), I consider the original UK version considerably more relatable and realistic than the US. I actually feel David Brent is far more representative of typical a middle management jerk. For me, Michael Scott (though funny) is too much of a softie to be effective. Much of this warm and fuzziness gradually crept in as they distinguished Scott from Brent over the seasons. By the last few Steve Carrell seasons, they could’ve changed the show’s title to “Everyone Loves Michael.”

    I really disagree with your take on Tim from the UK version. A loser, really? I don’t see it that way. It always bothered me how much Jim in the US version seems to really love his job – he’s a man entirely devoid of ambition. I always get the sense that Tim (UK) is an super sharp and witty guy who has grown weary with his dead end job. He also takes pleasure in tormenting his co-worker, but Tim’s underlying sadness is always a reminder that he would rather be doing something else. Jim’s enthusiasm for his work is at odds with his claims that he doesn’t consider Dunder-Miflin to be his career. By the end of the UK Office Christmas special, one really gets the feeling that neither Tim nor Dawn will ever continue working at Werner-Hogg.

    As for Gareth vs Dwight… I agree with you that much of the US show’s success was due to Dwight. I think that clearly from the outset, this was the character that the US version made the most deliberate, drastic departure from the UK version. I think they’re equally effective. Until they got carried away with the Dwight character over the seasons, but that’s indicative of the staleness that crept into a show that should’ve really been put to bed a while ago.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/the-other-chad/ The Other Chad

    By the way Paul, I meant to say – good article. I hadn’t thought back to the US pilot episode in a while. Got me thinking again about what I love about both versions of the show.

  • http://www.RosesSpanishBoots.com Christopher Rose

    Apart from his US award show hosting, I hate everything Ricky Gervais does so I’ll have to go with the US version, which has actually made me laugh rather than cringe.

  • Paul Thomas

    Glad you guys liked the review. The Other Chad, I understand, and you’re right, it really is all about subjectivity. I just never thought the characters from the British version were very accurate to life (probably because I’m from the States). The show was far too nihilistic for my tastes, for lack of a better word. I’ve worked for some totally bad bosses, but, in my experience, they were never as bad as David Brent was. They were all more Michael Scotts.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    Tim and Dawn, a couple of people that form a bond they can’t act upon, seem accurate to life, and I am from the States so not sure how that’s a qualifier.

    I don’t understand how anyone can find Tim dull and uncreative (Chad does a good job above explaining why), and other then living with his parents, what makes Tim a loser?

  • Paul Thomas

    Pam and Jim have the same bond that they can’t act upon. That part of the original is very much alive in the US version. As for Tim being a loser and uncreative, indeed , he did live with his parents and he never finished college. The main points, however, that I want to stress is that he wasn’t very clever; remember when he threw Gareth’s stapler out of a window as a “prank”? Oh yeah, epitome of clever. Also, although it’s not in the pilot, when Tim and Ricky won the trivia contest, instead of just ignoring David and Finchy, they gave into the tossing contest. Why? Because they apparently had no sense of when to NOT listen to someone. In addition, Tim continuously mentions his intentions to quit, but it takes him awhile to actually get around to do it. He’s even talked out of it the first time around.

    JIm, on the other hand, is ridiculously clever and much more stead-fast. Pam even says “The thing about Jim is… when he’s excited about something […] he gets really into it and he does a really great job. But the problem with Jim is that he works here so… that hardly ever happens.” Jim is a case of someone stuck in a dead-end job, but a job he is doomed to keep. At this point in the series, Jim wants to move on, but he doesn’t want to lose Pam, so he has no intentions of quitting. Even when he’s told he can’t have her, he moves on, not by threatening to quit, but by transferring to a different branch. Plus, we know he lives on his own and his pranks on Dwight show his intelligence. He’s just an smart, cool guy.

    Jim > Tim

  • Sherry

    Good review, but I have to disagree on Jim and Tim. I don’t think Tim is a loser. Not finishing college does not make someone a loser. There are a lot of reasons someone might not finish college (I have so I’m not just being defensively). I also disagree with your interpretation of the pub quiz outcome.

    You are lucky to have never had a David Brent boss. I have had a few.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    I didn’t see where anyone said the stapler out the window was proof that Tim was clever, but then is it really that different than Jim popping Dwight’s fitness orb?

    And Sherry is right about how you misinterpreted what was going on with the trivia contest. Tim and Ricky obviously didn’t care since it pathetically meant so much to Brent and Finchy, but Tim was held and had his shoes taken off, so not sure how that’s giving in.

  • Paul Thomas

    I guess I disagree with the Pub contest as well. The way Brent and Finchy took Tim and Ricky’s winnings was down-right wrong, but Tim was very reserved about it and walked away very dejected. And I’m not really dogging on him for not finishing college, I’m dogging on him for continuously blowing about it but never really taking the initiative. And for living with his parents. That too. Jim always tried new things and always told Pam to take a chance. And eventually, both of them do.

    And the fitness orb, big difference here is, that was funny. Throwing a stapler out a window is not that funny, nor was the stapler that obnoxious. The orb, on the other hand, was ridiculous and loud, and Dwight’s reaction was much more enjoyable then seeing someone cast a stapler out a window. Hee Hee.

    I appreciate all this discussion though!

  • Sherry

    I like Jim as a character, but I don’t see him the same way you do. To me he completely lacks ambition. He has been working for Dunder Mifflin for a long time, with no aspirations to do anything else. He got a promotion and then accepted a demotion with no complaints.

    He doesn’t encourage Pam to do anything. She used to have aspirations, but ever since her and Jim got married he’s happy keeping things status quo. He doesn’t need to stay at Dunder Mifflin to keep her and she doesn’t need to stay there either.

    The treatment of Pam on the show has been a big disappointment to me. She used to be much more interesting. I guess getting married and having kids ended all her other interests, and that is sad to me. There are plenty of people who get married, have kids, and still pursue there goals.

    The funny thing is, I always thought of Jim as a bit of a loser, because he so content at a dead end job. At least Tim knows his life is stagnant. He also encourages Dawn to pursue her art. Jim didn’t care any more about it once he got Pam.

    It’s an interesting discussion though.

  • Paul Thomas

    Jim always encouraged Pam to do what made her happy. When she failed art school, Jim said he’s do whatever she wanted to do. It turned out her idea of success was to drop out. Go figure.

    I do agree with your point that Jim became sort of a loser, but at this point in the series, I feel he has no where to really go and is thus a more relatable character than Tim, not most Americans, at least.