New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Office

I'm now sitting at my desk in the office, but, fortunately, my office doesn't very much resemble *the* office, of the popular BBC comedy.

Last night the American version of The Office debuted on NBC after the Apprentice. It stars Steve Carell, formerly of The Daily Show, who is a really funny guy. And the show itself wouldn't be bad if you had never seen the BBC's version, starring the hilarious Ricky Gervais. But, sadly, I've seen several great episodes of the BBC version, and there's just no comparison. If you have access to BBC America, check it out. (If you have access to the regular old BBC, you've already seen it, right?)

Two things make the BBC version of The Office so funny. First of all, it's exactly like an office that you either work in now, or have worked in in the past. (For me it was a job in the Norfolk, Virginia-based corporate headquarters of Camellia Foods, owner of such grocery stores as Meatland and Farm Fresh, as well as a stint at Columbia House music here in NYC.) It's the same inane meetings, stupid memos, theft of office supplies, and lame attempts at practical jokes to keep yourself from dying of boredom.

Second, it's such a bleak-looking set, there's no laugh track (thank goodness), and it's kept in a pseudo-documentary format, such an un-funny setup that the jokes are amplified until they echo. It really is a belly-laughing show, whose closest relative on the U.S. airwaves is Curb Your Enthusiasm.

The American version might do okay, better, probably, than the Yank version of Coupling. Again, the British version of Coupling was superior, but nowhere near as good as The Office. Coupling was the British Friends, more or less, and much better, but that's not saying much.

My friend Seth would like to remind you all that today is the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, a watershed moment in the history of worker's rights (and fire codes, too). I figure most of you know about the fire, which occured on March 25, 1911, but if you don't there's a good explanation here.

Most of what I know about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire is from the excellent New York: A Documentary Film by Rick Burns. If you can't afford it they do broadcast it from time to time on PBS so keep your eyes open. I was also taught about the fire in a Business and Society class I took in business school at Baruch College.

While I'm plugging things, I'd like to give a ringing endorsement to the poetry of my karate friend Hugh Seidman. He has a new book out entitled Somebody Stand Up And Sing. If you like poetry you should buy it. His poetry has a power and poignance that you can really feel.

Well, I've spend enough time blogging, and I need to get back to work on this Good Friday.

But before I go, I'd like to say that the subway was swift and smooth today. Thanks, New York City Transit!


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