Why season two of The US Office is a triumph in comedic television

Why season two of The US Office is a triumph in comedic television

The re-make of Ricky Gervais' original lit up the screens for nine seasons, but what made it such a good show?

Charlie Brownf

Not many television shows have quite amassed the same level of cult success as The Office, British or American, they both stand the test of time.

David Brent's character to this day is still being used by Ricky Gervais to garner attention, while quotes and scenes from Steve Carrell's fantastic portrayal of Michael Scott will forever be echoed: "I declare BANKRUPTCY!".

But with season one of the US version came a backlash of criticism and Greg Daniels - the man behind the show - nearly had to pull the plug.

Thankfully this wasn't the case, as we were all blessed with 22 more episodes of the re-make for season two - the one that defines The US Office. 

Identity Finding

For Gervais and Stephen Merchant (creators of the original) The Office was a genius showcase of the day-to-day lives of a workplace, and its people. 

Rarely did it build thickened plots, we simply followed the lives of Brent, Tim Canterbury (played by Martin Freeman), Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis) and Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook) -- everyone else acts as an extra, a sub-point to the main-plot. 

The UK version finds humour in reality; we've all had to deal with odd managers, annoying colleges and awkward working romances.

But also, the directing was always perfectly timed to put us, the viewer, in the shoes of the characters - as if we are part of events and our reactions are mirrored through those turns to the camera that Freeman would always provide.

For Daniels' first season, his perhaps cautiousness in re-creating a cult-classic was visible; the first "Pilot" episode is a complete rehash of "Downsize".

While "Diversity Day" is somewhat relatable to "Training Day", as is "Health Care" in comparison with "Work Experience"

Although the first season isn't a complete copy, it doesn't create its own identity -- season two does.

Straight from the first episode "The Dundies" - which usually makes fans' top ten lists - we get an insight to the history of this particular work environment.

Scott's childlike behaviour and love for his team are truly born, as he hands out personalised awards such as "Whitest Trainers" to "The Spicy Curry Award".

We're now part of the group's world; almost as embarrassed as them to see Scott sing his rendition of Elton John's 'Tiny Dancer'.

There's finally a sense of the impatience shown from the employees towards Michael, while we get a glimpse of Pam Beesly's (Jenna Fischer) true character. 

Something that resonates most with fans of both shows is a clear ability to position ourselves in the minds of people like Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) - the whole episode is a testament to that.

Other moments in the season that really set the groundworks for identity include "Office Olympics", "Booze Cruise" and "The Injury".

Character Building

Along with building an identity, season two really builds on so many character's arcs; Dwight K. Schrute (Rainn Wilson) goes from being a simple nerd to someone we actually love; Angela Martin (Angela Kinsey) is shown to be infatuated with Dwight - his opposite number never had much of a love-life beyond playing buckaroo with older women.

There's a feeling that the body of actors as a whole are a family, since most have lines and their own niches. Gervais and Merchant never built on smaller characters too far, as to not lead us away from the comedic timing and plot build of their stars. 

The relationship between Scott and his boss, Jan Levinson (Melora Hardin) becomes another focal point, another plot branch of the paper company's story. 

For the UK's Christmas special Dawn finally trades Lee (Joel Beckett) for Tim, whereas in the US version they build their rollercoaster of an equivalent relationship over years.

Season two's ending sees Jim try desperately to win Pam over, but the makers impressively never show us the outcome - one of the biggest cliffhanger's in the show.

It's almost as if this season was the real execution of what the creators laid out in planning; great characters, brilliant writing and interesting plots - some of which we have to come back for more of in season three.

One of the key differences in the two shows - since they are barely comparable - is how Daniels makes each and every character important, and the unique way they interact with each other.

In all of its nine seasons the American version never sways away from the important of characters; some episodes are in fact dedicated to just a handful of them.

Even when Carrell chose to leave the show, it carried on - a sign of a good cast. 

Daniels choice to go all in on the foundations of character building is one of the many reasons why the show ran for many years, the longest-running series' in America all have memorable people in them: The entire gang in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory and of course Homer in The Simpsons.

Fantastic Writing

It's undeniable that this season has unlimited funny and iconic moments, especially in comparison to its predecessor. 

One of the many brillIantly written scripts and an example of an Office classic is episode twelve - The Injury - where Mindy Kalling's (who plays Kelly Kapoor) expertise shines through.

The episode contrasts the severity of injuries in Michael and Dwight, while also making the latter out to be a warm-hearted guy underneath the dark-green trench coat.

Giving us a brief look into the future of Dwight's full character; a guy devoted to his friends and family - also, beets, bears and Battlestar Galactica.

Kalling herself once described it as her favourite episode to write, and when Dwight crashes his car into a pole in an attempt to save Michael from burning his foot on a Foreman grill, who are we to argue?

Michael has so many quotable lines in The Injury and his seminar on famous handicapped people is full of them: "Why is Tom Hanks on the wall? Twice. -- Good question, Forrest Gump, mentally challenged".

Importance in History 

There's definitely a case that this season has its place in history as far as The US Office goes, but taking it one step further, it's firmly in place as one of the pillars of modern comedy.

Shows are now inspired to dare and take that next step to become culturally loved for originality, not just for being 'a good alternative to'.

Many Brits hate the fact that their beloved creation of an office-based mockumentary was taken and re-imagined. But the key word there is 'imagined', Daniels and his team's imagination set alight the road to success for their individual show. 

Their drive to create something that was totally different to its inspiration is the reason why the show ran for nearly 10 years and will forever be remembered. 

That same intention was shown by Gervais and Merchant -- no-one had ever thought of filming in such a bland environment using weird camera-work and instant character reaction.

But that's what we all know of now, in the UK there's Made in Chelsea and Geordie Shore, America has their alternatives. Not to compare them, but to point out where it all started.

Back on point, The US Office is not just a hugely-funny programme, it's an example of thinking outside of the box on television.

Not just re-making, but challenging themselves by challenging us to re-think our opinion of the product on show - something that's quite possibly sorely missed in today's world of sequels and carbon-copies.