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The Office: TV Series Retrospective

VO: Rebecca Brayton
This American mockumentary series debuted on NBC in 2005, originating from a British show of the same name that was co-created by Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais. Unlike the UK series, the NBC show took place in Scranton, Pennsylvania at the branch of the fictitious paper company Dunder Mifflin. Packed with an ensemble cast of interesting characters, it takled the idiosyncrasies of American culture and starred Steve Carell as the regional manager Michael Scott, a bumbling man-child. Join as we explore the “The Office.”

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The Office: TV Series Retrospective

It's awkwardly hilarious. Welcome to and today we’ll be
exploring the “The Office.”

This American mockumentary series debuted on NBC in 2005, but it originated
years earlier as a British show created by Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais.

The UK “Office” ran between 2001-2003, and followed the antics of the
Slough branch of the fictitious Wernham Hogg Paper Company.

During its short run, Gervais portrayed the branch’s inept general
manager David Brent, who gained a reputation as a hypocritical,
pompous, delusional and self-promoting character.

The series chose a unique plot device: true to the mockumentary
format, the show’s characters were followed by a camera crew that
candidly recorded their eventful 9-5 workdays.

One-directional interviews with the workforce became a major storytelling
mechanism, and emphasized the remarkable level of inefficiency, questionable
behavior and misconduct going on at the company.

The overall sense of unpolished realism was highlighted by the lack of a musical score
for the show.

The UK “Office” never strayed too far from reality: it cleverly accentuated authentic
perceptions of work life, and included the sexual tension, racial and sexist intolerance,
workplace confrontations and backward policies seen in many offices.

To give the series an even more tangible sense of drama, writers incorporated the
threat of branch downsizing as a plot point.

Following its award-winning run, this British series spawned a
remarkably successful and long-running American counterpart in 2005.

The NBC series took place in Scranton, Pennsylvania at the branch of
another fictitious paper company, Dunder Mifflin.

Leading the ensemble cast in examining the idiosyncrasies of American
culture was Steve Carell as regional manager Michael Scott. Carell
portrayed him as a bumbling, dim-witted, lonely man-child who hoped to
make friends as the office comedian. This daring and energetic role
won Carell a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Comedy or
Musical in 2006.

His castmates depicted equally colorful characters. These included
Rainn Wilson’s bizarre and egomaniacal assistant manager Dwight
Schrute, John Krasinski’s everyman character Jim Halpert, the office’s
sale rep and prankster, and Jenna Fischer’s shy receptionist, Pam

Other central office employees included the insecure salesman Andy,
uptight and hypocritical accountant Angela, the burned-out veteran
sales representative Stanley, the overweight and clueless accountant
Kevin, openly gay Hispanic accountant Oscar, creepy quality assurance
rep Creed, caring saleswoman Phyllis, awkward human resources rep
Toby, bubbly customer service rep Kelly, sexually promiscuous supplier
relations rep Meredith, and humorless warehouse foreman Darryl.

NBC’s version of “The Office” remained successful throughout its long
run thanks to its cringe-worthy blend of awkward comedy and effective
character development. Actors were given the freedom to improvise,
which helped them land Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding
Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. The show was also
honored as the Best TV Series by the American Film Institute on more
than one occasion.

In many ways, the American version of “The Office” surpassed its
predecessor. However, it's safe to say that both resonated brilliantly
with their respective audiences, and became hip symbols of the working
class and the towns in which they took place.

Are you a fan of “The Office”? Which version do you prefer? For more
great television primers and retrospectives, be sure to subscribe to

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