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The Office US: A Rare Success For a UK Comedy Remake

The Office US: A Rare Success For a UK Comedy Remake

As productive and prolific as American TV studios have been over the years, there has still often been the temptation to look across the Atlantic to see what was working on British TV. And then copy it. Unfortunately, British comedy hasn’t always done well when translated for an American audience, with no less than three attempts at Fawlty Towers remakes as well as failed versions of Absolutely Fabulous, Red Dwarf, One Foot In The Grave, Dad’s Army and The Young Ones, amongst others.

The Office is one of the few UK comedies to have not only been successfully remade in the US, but to take on a life of its own over the pond. While the original show only ran for two short seasons and a two-part Christmas special, its remake lasted 201 episodes and was hugely popular and successful, winning four Emmy awards and launching the careers of several stars as well as having a clear influence on other successful US comedies.

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It also achieved the almost unique achievement of going on to be hugely popular in the UK, possibly helped by the lack of new episodes of the original show, but demonstrating that America really could sell British comedy back to Britain.

The show was a huge success in the US with the best episodes as good or even better than the original. So how did this show succeed where so many others had failed? Some of it has to be down to the talents involved in bringing it to life, including creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, along with US showrunner Greg Daniels.

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Adapting The Comedic Element For a US Audience

Another element of its success is that Daniels wasn’t afraid to take the premise of the show and tweak its humour to better fit the American audience, so while the pilot episode stuck very closely to the original Office’s pilot (and was credited to Gervais and Merchant), this version only really came into its stride when it gained in confidence of both its own writers and actors, while the documentary-style filming was also loosened at times as the show went on, to avoid it becoming restrictive.

Character Differences

The main characters in The Office US are based on those in the British show, but all with tweaks that made them able to not only appeal to a different audience but also last in a show that went on to have 9 seasons. It’s fair to say that the more acerbic elements of the humour were given softer edges for the US market, and so Ricky Gervais’s David Brent became Steve Carell’s Michael Scott, still not a boss you’d want to work for, but given a more gentle portrayal than his British counterpart.

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Gareth Keenan shifted from Mackenzie Crook’s angular and anxious portrayal to the more contained but no less socially adept Dwight Schrute, launching the career of Rainn Wilson, while John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer certainly had chemistry as Jim and Pam, the US versions of Tim and Dawn. With a lot more episodes to fill, it’s no surprise that more of the ensemble cast got to shine at Dundler Mifflin, including Angela from Accounting and Oscar the gay Hispanic character so often the victim of Michael’s attempts at humour.

Becoming A Success

The Office US survived a patchy first season of just six episodes with mediocre reviews but good enough ratings to earn another chance and flourished in its second season when it began to properly gain its own identity. That identity and brand of humour became so popular that it inspired the creation of Parks And Recreation, a show with a very similar style that went on to be a huge success in its own right, with Daniels and Michael Schur from The Office writing staff involved in its creation.

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Schur’s success at Parks And Rec led to him creating Brooklyn Nine-Nine, while fellow writer Mindy Kaling was able to build on her success on and off-screen in The Office by creating The Mindy Project. So that’s three very popular shows that all owe their creation to a US remake of a UK show, demonstrating exactly what can be achieved if remakes are done with both affection and respect for what has gone before but also confidence and inspiration to be very much its own thing.

That’s what The Office US achieved, helping to cement Steve Carell’s status as a star of the small and big screens, as well as keeping a nation (and beyond) enthralled by the romance between Pam and Jim, and highlighting some uniquely American office traditions to go with the very British antics that Ricky Gervais had turned the comedy spotlight on. Not many remakes stand on their own as classics alongside the originals, but this one does.

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Richard Hammond

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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