ICYMI: Gabriel Featherstone on The Office (US)
Glasgow-based comedian and TinselGuts Cabaret co-founder Gabriel Featherstone watches The Office (US)
Here’s everything I knew about The Office (US) before I started watching it for the first time an hour and forty minutes ago: Steve Carell plays an annoying boss named Michael, there’s some kind of love story in it that loads of people allude to in their Tinder bios, and there’s an episode where someone burns their foot on a grill.
Knowing almost nothing about the show and its history, I thought it would be a good idea to watch the first season for this article, but a friend of mine, who loves The Office with the same intensity of feeling that another man might have for his spouse or his religion, informed me that the first series is basically a Gus Van Sant’s Psycho-style remake of the first series of The Office (UK): the narrative of which the US version immediately deviates from at the start of Season 2.
According to my friend, the difference between Season 1 and Seasons 2-9 of The Office (US) is as vast as the difference between a mouldy satsuma and a freshly baked apple pie, and making conclusions about one based on your experience of the other would make as much sense as watching Hobo With A Shotgun to write an article about Smurfs: The Lost Village.
Taking this into account, I decided that the best (and quickest) way to properly absorb the true essence of the show would be to watch the best five episodes, as determined by Troy L. Smith in an article on Cleveland.com: a website that seems to be mainly devoted to reporting the news in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.
According to Troy L. Smith of Cleveland.com, the fifth best episode of The US Office is the season finale of the final season, so that was the first episode I watched. Inevitably, I didn’t understand the full significance of a lot of the stuff that happened. Dwight said that Creed did a bunch of crimes, but I don’t know why that’s funny because I don’t know who Creed is. Dwight’s friend kidnaps his fiancee and stuffs her into the boot of his car, and I feel like I’m missing some kind of vital context that would explain why she doesn’t immediately call off the wedding when she finds out that the kidnapping was some kind of weird family tradition that Dwight didn’t warn her about.
At one point, the kidnapper gives a knowing glance to a solitary scarecrow in a field. Does he have some kind of relationship with this scarecrow? Are they friends? Lovers? Business partners? (Tantalisingly, in one of the other episodes I watched, Dwight mentions a farm that’s hiring people to be human scarecrows. Maybe that scarecrow in the field was a person and there’s an episode I’ve not seen that explains the kidnapper’s pregnant gaze?)
Despite the obvious gaps in my understanding, I still thought the episode was funny, and I enjoyed finding out that loads of people I like who I didn’t know were in The Office were in The Office (Catherine Tate! Ellie Kemper! Craig Robinson! It was very nice to see you all).
I also enjoyed the show’s winning mixture of sweet sincerity and absurd darkness, which prevents it from being overwhelmed by either, but also makes both forces stronger by contrasting them against each other. It is epitomised by the scene where a deeply moved Michael sentimentally remarks at Dwight’s wedding: “I feel like all my kids grew up and then they married each other. It’s every parent's dream!”
Of the other episodes I watched (Murder, Threat Level Midnight, The Injury and Dinner Party), Threat Level Midnight was my favourite. Focusing on Michael’s endearingly silly and frequently bizarre homemade action movie of the same name, it reminded me a lot of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace – a show that is objectively one of humankind’s greatest achievements – and gave Michael a very charming emotional arc that genuinely brought me close to tears.
Bottom line: I like the jokes, I like the characters, but I’ll mainly keep watching to find out what the deal is with that mysterious scarecrow.
The Office (US) is currently available to stream on Netflix
You can see Gabriel Featherstone in TinselGuts Cabaret, McChuills, Glasgow, 20 Jun and 18 Jul 7.30pm, £5
Featherstone & Co.:Laughter O’Clock, Pilgrim’s Bar, Edinburgh, 6-28 Aug, 4.15pm, PWYW