MOVIE: The Office: Season Three (2006-2007)

I watched the first season of the British version of The Office many years ago, and while I thought it was pretty funny, I burned out on it fairly quickly, mostly because I seem to have a low tolerance for humor that is extremely mean-spirited. The boss character, David Brent (Ricky Gervais), wasn’t just oblivious and dumb — he was oblivious and dumb in really hurtful and harmful ways. I found him pretty unlikeable, pretty irredeemable. So, when the American version came out, I didn’t pay much attention to it, figuring it would most likely be the same thing, only worse, since we don’t tend to have much of a track record in this country when it comes to trying to adapt Brit TV for our own nefarious purposes.

But sometime last year, my sister made me watch an episode of the American version. And then I saw another one. And then I saw the casino episode (which I think is the finale from season two), in which Jim and Pam finally get their smooch on. And, of course, it’s utterly impossible for me to resist any show that features painfully unrequited love as a theme, especially if the unrequited-underdog is a cute guy with extremely messy hair. So, I was pretty much instantly and completely hooked from that point forward. I gobbled up the first two seasons shortly thereafter, and have been eagerly awaiting the third season’s release to DVD ever since.

Long story short, this show just keeps getting better and better! But, as it turns out, it’s not unrequited love and messy-haired cute boys that have kept me watching. Instead, the thing that makes the American version so engaging for me, as opposed to the British version which I just didn’t want to continue with, is the character of Michael (Steve Carell). Michael is the American boss character and while he has a lot in common with Ricky Gervais’s British counterpart — that is, he’s also pretty oblivious and dumb — he has one extremely vital difference, and that is that he just really does care about his people.

Sure, his caring manifests itself in oblivious and dumb ways (Fun Run for Rabies, anyone?). But every now and then, Michael’s gentleness and caring has quite literally brought a tear to my eye. Like in the episode when Pam finally gets a real art show and nobody comes, and just as she’s starting in with the self-loathing, Michael shows up and demands that she name a price for the watercolor of their office building. Or the episode in which Michael takes all the women to the mall to shop (his misguided attempt at making his female employees feel more valued in the workplace) and ends up opening up to them about his mixed feelings for Jan.

I mean, seriously, people, he may be an oblivious, dumb butthead a lot of the time, but deep down inside Michael is an extremely lovable sweetheart. I just adore him, I really, really do. And, of course, all the other characters on the show are unique, funny, goofy, and a serious blast to hang out with. Yes, sometimes the humor is mean-spirited. But it feels different this time because I really do get a sense that all the characters care quite a bit about each other. And maybe this is true of the British version too — maybe I just didn’t give it enough time. Nevertheless, now that I’m mad about the American version, I can’t really see myself returning to the British one. For a Ricky fix, I think I’ll try Extras next instead.

This is a truly brilliant series — one of the only sit-coms I have felt that way about since M*A*S*H, to be honest. The writing is great, the storylines are hilarious, and the characters are people you actually want to know. If you haven’t discovered this show yet, I really urge you to give Season 1 a try on DVD. And that goes double for anyone who has ONLY seen the British version and wasn’t so sure it was really for them. I hear ya but trust me, this is one of the few times a British show didn’t get totally lost in translation when it crossed the pond. It’s worth a rental for sure.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Comedy (TV)

Cast: Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, B. J. Novak


5 Responses to “MOVIE: The Office: Season Three (2006-2007)”

  1. Lorraine Says:

    I had almost the same reaction to The Office. I tried the US version when it first came on and was turned off by the “mean-spritedness”. I tried one or two episodes of the UK version and felt the same way. Then someone took the time to put together all the Jim & Pam scenes on YouTube (they are still there – I think there are now 28 entries, just search on “the story of Pam and Jim”) and I watched all of them in a weekend. Then I was hooked! Now it is one of my favorite shows. Sometime the writing is spectacular!

    Even the entire supporting cast is great – Phyllis, Stanley, Oscar, Angela, Kelly, etc. Sometimes they go too far with Michael and he makes me squirm but there are so many great moments also. And I must admit to having a huge crush on Jim. I’m glad his messy hair is back, I didn’t like his “school photo” hair when he went for his interview 😉

  2. carolyn Says:

    i’m right there with you. it’s madly hilarious and very sweet at the same time.

  3. Trip Says:

    Totally concur on the differences between the UK and the US versions of The Office. The UK version featured humor that was not only mean-spirited, but seemed to go out of its way to explicitly humiliate its characters and make everything awkward or embarrassing. It left me cold after a while, so I gave up on it after two or three episodes. The American version is much more positive and goofy, plus the writing is sharper and more clever.

  4. Marni Says:

    Hooray for your sister for making you watch! What a smart lady! Well captured discussion of the show. Steve Carrell really plays Michael perfectly…so he’s just a wreck and still you root for him.

  5. megwood Says:

    Full disclosure: this “Marni” person IS my sister (hey, dorkus!). However, she is actually very smart (valedictorian in our high school, and now both an amazing mother AND the brain behind the brilliant math questions on Princeton Review’s standardized tests).

    And also, as you can see, she’s quite extraordinarily humble.

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