Come friendly bombs

Late as usual, various comings and goings and being-without-TV-ness during the past couple of years meant that I’d not been able to see the entirety of The Office yet, so it’s been great to sit down with the DVDs during the past week and have a bit of a Slough-fest.

Much fun was had. And, not for the first time, I find myself aligning with the British television preference for short, pithy, finite series controlled by one or two writers/directors, rather than the US hunger for endless, rough-edge-free, syndicatable marathons, packaged by committee into a sugared treat. Especially this week, during the death-throes of the insipid Friends.

The Office is both gleefully juvenile, and blazingly true about wasted lives, miscommunication, the realities of fucked-up relationships. I was surprised it won the Golden Globes, but it deserved them. It bears repeated viewing extremely well. It’ll last a very long time. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the final two episodes that were shown in Britain last Christmas.

And about Ricky Gervais. Conventional wisdom has it that there’s enough of David Brent (or at least Brent-isms) in him that what he’s doing isn’t much of an acting job. Don’t believe it. The climactic scene at the end of the last episode of the second series — if you’ve seen it, you’ll know which I mean — is the work of real bravery and talent.

Not so long ago, US sitcoms made great play of the fact that they were ‘taped in front of a live studio audience’, or somesuch, in order to make it completely clear that they weren’t using the canned laughter that previously blighted sitcoms. I’m not sure that’s something to be boasted about any more. It restricts far more than it enables. It doesn’t need to be so bad as the Fonz getting a five-minute ovation by just entering the Cunninghams’ living room to be intrusive. Sitcom actors are tempted too often to play to the audience, rather than to each other. Their delivery is often mis-timed by needing to fit around raucous laughter. It’s closer to a British Christmas pantomime than it might realise.

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