Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Death Before Drone-dom!

My current DVD-watching is series 2 of the UK version of The Office. And, man, it really bemuses me... Lots of my all-time favorite TV shows (or, for that matter, books, movies, and other forms of storytelling) are chock-full of death, destruction, abject failure, moral compromise, and grand-scale tragedy. If a television show can actually make me cry, it's hooked me in for life. The angstier, the better! I'll happily tune in to watch main characters get killed every week while the survivors wallow in misery. I really, really will.

But the UK's Office I find so incredibly depressing, even while it makes me laugh, that I almost can't bear to keep watching. There are reasons why it's been well over two years since I rented season 1.

What I can't quite figure out is whether this says something profound about the differing emotional resonances of various kinds of fiction, or just something strange about me.


  1. Well, a lot of the humor in The Office (especially the UK version, which is the only one I've seen a whole lot of so far) is built on uncomfortable situations. You laugh at David Brent and the people who have to put up with him, but you also feel sorry for them. It's incredibly funny...if not always fun.

  2. I dunno... I find it sporadically very funny, but pretty much uniformly uncomfortable, not just for the characters, but for me. I think the familiarity of the situation -- we've all been in places like that and known people like David, god help us -- combined with the way it's filmed, which makes you feel very, very much like you're standing right there in an actual office, make it really easy to over-identify. I'm not just sitting there laughing at these people for spending their lives trapped in that room with that guy; it feels, viscerally, very much like I'm trapped there with them. Which, in RL, would make me seriously consider gnawing my own leg off if I thought it would help me escape.

    And no matter how invested I get in characters from other shows, watching people tie tragically at the helms of spaceships, as affecting as it might be, doesn't hit home in quite the same awful way as watching some guy's dreams being slowly crushed by a dead-end job.

    I've only seen a handful of episodes of the American version, but, interestingly, even when they were based very closely on the UK episodes, they didn't have remotely the same effect on me. They were simply funny, in a safely TV-like way.

  3. My capacity for schadenfreude doesn't seem to really kick in for that show. :)

  4. I find the UK version to be unbearable.