Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lost In Translation

What is funnier - American comedy or British?

I think those with a sense of humour would say British.

But the only objective way to tell is to get both sides to perform the same routine and judge based on that.

You can do that with The Office.

This was a smash hit British series which they then tried to adapt for the Americans. After a few early teething problems where it appeared as though it might get axed, it looks as though it has found its feet and a following. It won the Emmy for Best Comedy Series beating off Curb Your Enthusiasm, Scrubs, Two and a Half Men and Arrested Development for the award.

Try as they might though, the American version of the show doesn't hold a candle to the British one. Steve Carell is no Ricky Gervais. The way he played David Brant was sheer genius. And forget about finding an equivalent Gareth - you just can't do that.

There have already been 38 episodes of the American version. The British one only had 14. This instantly draws a connection to Fawlty Towers which only had 12 episodes but whose legacy is larger than many series which last 10 times longer.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post!
American humor is ok but most of their good ones are actually Canadian like Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Jim Carrey, Mike Myers and Martin Short

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Kim said...

I love the British version of the Office - "Move away from the cookie jar"

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw Monty Python but never really liked it. Ben Elton is funny. Don't see what the fuss is about the rest.

1:04 PM  
Blogger marissa said...

The Office was really funny, but did you ever watch Teachers? I thought that was one of the best British comedies in the last decade.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

There was also the attempt to do an American version of the hit British comedy "Coupling", which is absolutely hysterical. The American version doesn't hold a candle to the original, and I understand that it didn't succeed at all with the American audiences.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Dot Co Dot Il said...

Anon I - Good point about the Canadian comics. Many do go South to ply their trade.

Kim - One of the best lines from the series!

Anon II - Monty Python is like that. You either love them or hate them.

Marissa - Never saw Teachers. Would you be surprised to know they made an American version of it as well?

Liza - You can add Men Behaving Badly and One Foot in the Grave to the list as well.

9:34 AM  
Blogger marissa said...

Dot- You should know by now the Americans take all our good stuff and try to make them better: TV Shows, language, tea, some may even say our prime minister!

5:49 PM  
Blogger Resident Traveller said...

I'll be the first to agree that British humor is by and large vastly superior to American, but here I think the series' are equally as good, just different.

I was the biggest fan of the British Office.. I was floored when I first saw it, thought it was the single most important, thought-provoking comedy (which would ordinarily be a contradiction in terms) there was. I wasn't willing to even watch the American version for years.

But now that I have, I have to say I find the American one every bit as funny as its equivalent, assuming you accept it on it's own graces. Michael Schott clearly isn't meant to be anything like David Brent. Gareth was a brilliant character, but then so is Dwight Schrute, in a completely different way. For most of the characters, in fact, I was very impressed at the flexibility of changing them without losing anything to American cheeziness. Beyond the basic opening settings and some parallel scenes, I just don't think that the US Office was meant to mirror the British version, and so shouldn't be judged as such.

Most importantly though, the US version doesn't lose a bit of the British version's heavy criticism of the modern workplace nor its basic romanticism. I never thought that would translate.

9:23 PM  
Blogger Dot Co Dot Il said...

Marissa - LOL

Resident Traveller - Excellent comment and I hope to see many more from you. I also like your blog :)

9:31 AM  

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