Hurrah for the sales! Before Xmas I was able to pick up the first three seasons of The Office (US) for a tenner at Asda… that works out at roughly a pound per disc! Madness! The trade-off is that they’re stuffed into crappy cardboard sleeves, but I’m trying to be more Zen and rise above my anxiety about scratches. As the American-accented remake of a much-loved and obsessed-over Britcom, it didn’t get much of a push over here, and the pilot episode is extremely off-putting as an almost line-for-line recreation of the original script. But after the first season the show really starts to stand on its own two feet, and spiral off in strange new directions. There are still echoes of the original story arc in the star-crossed romance of ‘Jim’ (John Krasinski) and ‘Pam’ (Jenna Fischer), but almost everything else seems shiny and new.
Adding even greater value to the boxset is the fact that for every five episodes, there’s about an hour’s worth of deleted scenes. Sometimes they’re simply extended version of things we’ve already seen, but often they contain entirely separate subplots! Apparently the show was cast with improvisation in mind, and all of the writers had a “performance” clause in their contracts too, which really leads to a blurring of the lines between the two camps, and easily explains the excess of hilarity. Overall, I’d say my favourite character is probably ‘Dwight’, simply because some of the things he says and does are so insane… especially in the excised material. I’d seen Rainn Wilson in Six Feet Under before, where he was also very good, but his work as Dwight will surely earn him a coveted “lifetime pass”. I especially enjoy the scenes where he exchanges secret looks with Angela, or meets with her in the break room for clandestine conferences, backs turned and faces blank. There’s something rather sweet about their relationship, even when they’re maliciously plotting the downfall of everyone around them. Actually, ‘Angela’ (played by Angela Kinsey) would also be a strong contender for favourite character, if only because it’s fun to see such a petite and sweet-looking woman being so utterly ruthless and destructive. She provides a great contrast to the more exuberant characters… especially her arch-nemesis, the ditzy, motor-mouthed, celeb-obsessed ‘Kelly Kapoor’.
The first time I saw Mindy Kaling on-screen was as Paul Rudd‘s disgruntled ex in The 40-Year Old Virgin… which is a very funny film, and that extended “speed dating” segment works brilliantly as a skit in itself, even if it isn’t a great showcase for her comic talents. Meanwhile, she had already written tons of episodes for The Office, where she also serves as a producer and script editor, on top of appearing as a regular cast member! If I worked in the Scranton branch, I’d probably be most smitten with Pam, because she’s so darn adorable, but Kelly is the cutest character f’sure (especially when she does her Bridget Jones impression). She’d be a serious headache to actually date, and if ‘Ryan’ (B. J. Novak) weren’t such a dick I might even sympathise with him… but I think she’d be a fun friend to hang out with. Thanks to Mindy/Kelly, we were also treated to a Diwali episode in season three, which made for a nice change of pace from all the Xmas stuff that was on TV. I was particularly bemused by ‘Michael’s’ (Steve Carell) ignorance of Indian food since pretty much every supermarket in this country has a selection of pakoras, bhajis and samosas in its “deli” section, and curry has quickly become one of our favourite “national dishes”… which seems to really annoy the bigots who see it as an erosion of our native cultural identity (as if such a thing were immutable, and inherently tied to how bland our food tastes). Michael’s adaptation of Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song” was also a nice way to round it all off, I thought… “Don’t invite any zombies to a celebration of Diwali!”
Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can witness the birth (and inevitable rise to stardom) of Kelly’s girl group Subtle Sexuality!