The Office: Season One

The best way to enjoy the American version of The Office is to have never seen the British original. The producers of the remake make that a little tough, since the pilot episode is a nearly word-for-word remake of the first episode of England's surprise hit, starring Ricky Gervais (with his writing partner Stephen Merchant, Gervais serves as an executive producer here). Luckily, it's the talented Steve Carell (The Daily Show, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) as Michael Scott, the worst office boss since Gervais's David Brent. But if you can get beyond an instinctive tendency to compare the two, the American Office is actually quite solid, unlike almost every other recent Brit-to-U.S. TV transfer. It takes the essential DNA — obnoxious boss of a dreary paper products office annoys his unhappy or power-hungry drones — and actually retains its documentary feel and awkward, silent pauses. Awkward isn't something American comedy does well, but the British excel at it; fortunately, The Office gets it right. (For that, it almost got cancelled, but will return for a full slate this fall.) In just six episodes, the first season manages to put its own stamp on the proceedings, helped by an excellent cast of mostly unknowns, just as the original was. Since the British original won't be coming back, this Office will just have to carry the torch for the soul-killing daily grind of mock doc hilarity. That there's almost a solid hour of good deleted scenes here goes to show that there's plenty more where this came from. Plus: select episode commentary. (Universal)