TV critic Alan Sepinwall discusses what it takes to make foreign TV show sensations successful here in the U.S. The Office is used as a prime example.
Where Ricky Gervais’ David Brent in the original was a sweaty, incompetent clod, Steve Carell’s Michael Scott is presented as a pathetically lonely man who wants everyone to be his friend. It doesn’t make him easier to work for, but it does make us — and, on occasion, the other characters — understand his behavior.
In the second-season premiere, Michael dragged the entire staff to Chili’s for his unbearable annual tradition of “The Dundies,” a gag award show. Everyone complained about having to sit through Michael’s lame, borderline-offensive jokes, but when a bunch of drunks at the bar began to heckle and shame him, the staff rose to his defense — a feel-good moment that never would have happened on the British show but didn’t feel false here.